Hachiko: the most loyal dog in the world celebrates its 100th birthday

  • By Nicolas Yong
  • BBC News, Singapore

Image source, Getty Images

Legend,

A statue of Hachiko has stood in front of Shibuya Station in Tokyo since 1948.

The Chinese slogan on the film’s poster says it all: “I will wait for you, no matter how long it takes.” »

It tells the true story of Hachiko, the faithful dog who continued to wait for his master at a train station in Japan long after his death.

The creamy white Akita Inu, born 100 years ago, has been memorialized in everything from books to films to the cult sci-fi sitcom Futurama. And the Chinese iteration – the third after a Japanese version in 1987 and Richard Gere’s in 2009 – is a box office success.

There have been stories of other devoted dogs such as Bobby Greyfriarsbut none with Hachiko’s global impact.

A bronze statue of him stands outside Shibuya Station in Tokyo, where he waited in vain for a decade, since 1948. The statue was first erected in 1934 before being recycled for the effort. war during World War II. Japanese schoolchildren learn the story of Chuken Hachiko – or the faithful dog Hachiko – as an example of dedication and loyalty.

Hachiko represents the “ideal Japanese citizen” with his “unconditional devotion,” says Professor Christine Yano of the University of Hawaii – “loyal, reliable, obedient to a master, understanding, without relying on rationality, his place in the larger scheme of things.” “.

Hachiko’s story

Hachiko was born in November 1923 in the town of Odate, Akita Prefecture, the place of origin of the Akitas.

A large Japanese dog, the Akita is one of the country’s oldest and most popular breeds. Designated by the Japanese government as a national icon in 1931, they were once trained to hunt animals like wild boar and elk.

“Akita dogs are calm, sincere, intelligent and courageous (and) obedient to their owners,” said book author Eietsu Sakuraba. Children’s book in English about Hachiko. “On the other hand, he also has a stubborn personality and is wary of anyone other than his master.”

The year Hachiko was born, Hidesaburo Ueno, a renowned agriculture professor and dog lover, asked a student to find him an Akita puppy.

Image source, Getty Images

Legend,

Hachiko became known in Japan after a newspaper article in 1932.

After a grueling train journey, the puppy arrived at Ueno’s residence in Shibuya District on January 15, 1924, where he was initially considered dead. According to Hachiko’s biographer Professor Mayumi Itoh, Ueno and his wife Yae nursed him over the next six months.

Ueno named it Hachi, or eight in Japanese. Ko is an honorary title awarded by Ueno students.

The long wait

Ueno took the train to work several times a week. He was accompanied to Shibuya Station by his three dogs, including Hachiko. The trio would then wait there for their return in the evening.

On May 21, 1925, Ueno, then aged 53, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Hachiko had only been with him for 16 months.

“While people were attending the wake, Hachi smelled Dr. Ueno from the house and entered the living room. He crawled under the coffin and refused to move,” writes Professor Itoh.

Hachiko spent the next few months with different families outside of Shibuya but finally, in the summer of 1925, he found himself with Ueno’s gardener, Kikusaburo Kobayashi.

Returning to the region where his late master lived, Hachiko soon resumed his daily journey to the station, rain or shine.

“In the evening, Hachi stood on all fours in front of the ticket counter and looked at each passenger as if looking for someone,” writes Professor Itoh. Station employees initially considered him a nuisance. Yakitori sellers poured water on him and little boys harassed and hit him.

However, he gained national fame after the Japanese daily newspaper Tokyo Asahi Shimbun wrote about him in October 1932.

The station received food donations for Hachiko every day, while visitors came from all over to see him. Poems and haikus have been written about him. A 1934 fundraising event to make a statue of him reportedly attracted a crowd of 3,000 people.

Hachiko’s eventual death on March 8, 1935 made the front pages of many newspapers. At his funeral, Buddhist monks offered prayers for him and dignitaries read eulogies. Thousands of people visited his statue in the following days.

Image source, Getty Images

Legend,

The Hachiko statue is a popular spot and often a venue for political protests

In poor post-war Japan, a fundraising campaign for a new statue of Hachiko even managed to raise 800,000 yen, a huge sum at the time, worth around 4 billion yen (22 million yen) today. of pounds sterling; 28 million dollars).

“In retrospect, I feel like he knew Dr. Ueno wouldn’t come back, but he continued to wait. Hachiko taught us the importance of keeping faith in someone,” wrote Takeshi Okamoto in a newspaper article in 1982. As a high school student, he had seen Hachiko daily at the train station.

In memory of Hachiko

Every year on April 8, a memorial service for Hachiko is held in front of Shibuya Station. His statue is often decorated with scarves, Santa hats and, more recently, a surgical mask.

His mount is on display at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. Some of his remains are buried in Aoyama Cemetery, alongside Ueno and Yae. Statues of him have also been cast in Odate, Ueno’s hometown of Hisai, the University of Tokyo and Rhode Island, the American setting of the 2009 film.

Will the world’s most loyal dog still be celebrated a century from now? Professor Yano says yes because she thinks that “Hachiko’s heroism” is not defined by a particular time period – rather, it is timeless.

Mr. Sakuraba is equally optimistic. “Even 100 years from now, this unconditional and devoted love will remain unchanged and Hachiko’s story will live forever.”


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