Near the busy Shibuya Station in Tokyo is this monument to Hachikō, a dog who for years has been an enduring symbol of loyalty and perseverance to the Japanese people, and once you hear his amazing story, you’ll understand why.
Hachikō, a golden brown pure-bred Akita, was adopted in 1924 by Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor of agriculture at the University of Tokyo. At the end of each day, Hachikō would greet Professor Ueno at the Shibuya Station, and the two soon became a familiar sight at the station. But one day in 1925, Professor Ueno suffered a fatal stroke while at work, and would never again return to the station. Each day for the next nine years, at exactly when the train was due, Hachikō would arrive at the station to await his master’s return.
One day in 1932 a former student of Professor Ueno’s followed the dog to the Ueno home, where he learned the story of Hachikō. Deeply impressed by what he heard, he published several articles about the dog’s loyalty. A 1932 story published in the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun caught the public’s attention and made Hachikō a national sensation and he soon became a symbol of family loyalty, especially for children.
Hachikō died on March 8, 1935, and a small monument stands next to the grave of his beloved Professor Ueno in the Aoyama Cemetery, Minato, Tokyo. Hachikō’s preserved remains are on display at the National Museum of Science and Nature in Ueno, Tokyo.
As is fitting for national heroes, in April of 1934 a bronze statue of Hachikō was erected at Shibuya Station, with Hachikō present for the ceremony. The original statue was recycled during World War II and a second monument, designed by the son of the original artist, was installed in 1948. A similar monument was erected in Hachikō’s hometown, in front of Ōdate Station in Akita Prefecture, Japan. The exact spot where Hachikō waited in the train station is permanently marked with bronze paw-prints and text in Japanese explaining his loyalty.
Love for Hachikō has not faded over the years, and he remains a beloved figure in Japan. His life was the subject of the popular 1987 movie Hachi-kō (Hachikō Monogatari) (“The Tale of Hachiko”), which concluded with an imagined spiritual reunion with Professor Ueno.
In 1994, the Nippon Cultural Broadcasting in Japan was able to lift a recording of Hachikō barking from an old record that had been broken into several pieces. After a massive advertising campaign, on Saturday, May 28, 1994, 59 years after his death, millions of radio listeners tuned in to hear Hachikō bark.
Public admiration for Hachikō is also credited with making the Akira breed of dogs the most popular in Japan.
Hachikō’s monument remains a popular Tokyo meeting spot and is found near the “Hachikō-guchi” (“The Hachikō Entrance/Exit”), one of the station five exits. Gone but never forgotten, Hachikō is honored each April 8 with a remembrance ceremony at the Shibuya railroad station where his monument stands. Hundreds of dog lovers attend the annual event to honor this abiding symbol of loyalty.
Man’s best friend, indeed!