Hachikō 忠犬ハチ公: A Story of Loyalty, Loss, and Finally, a Happy Ending

March 8th of this year will mark the
80-year anniversary of the passing of one of the most loyal dogs in all of
history, and will give rise to a new statue in honor of the bond between a remarkable dog, and his beloved human.
Hachikō 忠犬ハチ公: A Story of Loyalty, Loss, and Finally, a Happy Ending
Hachikō was born at the end of 1923, the eighth
pup in a litter of Akita Inus. When Hachikō was 8 weeks old, Hidesaburō Ueno, who
worked as an agricultural professor at the University of Tokyo, brought the
young puppy home. He named him Hachikō, a play off of the number eight (hachi means
eight in Japanese), after his place in the litter.
The two developed a deep bond, and when
Hachikō was about six months old, he began joining Dr. Ueno’s other two dogs in
their daily routine: at rush hour, the three dogs would trot over to the Shibuya train station
to greet Dr. Ueno as he returned from work.
One day the following year, the
professor did not return on the train. He had suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage
while at work. Hidesaburō Ueno was only in his mid-fifties when he died on May 21, 1925. After Mr. Ueno’s passing, his wife and
their other two smaller dogs moved in with their adult daughter, who was a new mother. Hachikō went to live with their long time gardener, who was able to
accommodate the very large dog – Hachikō weighed around 90 pounds!
Hachikō continued walking to the train
station on his own every single day after Mr. Ueno’s death. He was undeterred by the
initial irritation of many commuters and local vendors. Eventually, he became a
well-loved fixture of the station, and people began bringing him food and
treats. Some kind people even took him for medical care throughout the years. He was also visited frequently with great affection by Mrs. Ueno.

Seven years into his daily vigil at the train station, Hachikō became a media sensation. A few years later, in the last year of his life, he was present at the unveiling ceremony of a statue in his likeness at the station.

Hachikō 忠犬ハチ公: A Story of Loyalty, Loss, and Finally, a Happy Ending
{  Photograph of of Hachikō, taken shortly before his death in 1935  }
Hachikō passed away in 1935, of terminal cancer and a heartworm infection. Hachikō’s death was met with great sadness all across Japan. Hachikō’s story of loyalty and perseverance has been an honored national symbol ever since, and his statue at Shibuya Station in Tokyo attracts countless visitors every year. Every year in Japan since 1936, a ceremony is held at the station to honor Hachikō’s memory.

Hachikō spent nine years, nine months, and fifteen days in total waiting for his beloved professor to return. 

Hachikō 忠犬ハチ公: A Story of Loyalty, Loss, and Finally, a Happy Ending

In 1987, a movie was made about Hachikō, entitled ハチ公物語, The Tale of Hachikō.  The film was a great success in Japan. In 2009, an American remake of the film was also made, called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, starring Richard Gere. Although both movies are good fictional tales, I personally believe the real story of Hachikō is the very best one. There are a few interesting non-fiction books about Hachikō, and even more children’s books about his story. Many parents appreciate the lessons these special children’s books teach children – from demonstrating the power of loyalty and friendship, to instilling the importance of respect and affection for other animals.

This year, on the 80th anniversary of Hachikō’s
death, a very special new statue will be unveiled at The University of Tokyo. The
recently revealed clay prototype shows a joyous Dr. Ueno and Hachikō reuiniting. The statue is the purest visual of the deep bond between dog and human. Dr.
Ueno is bent to greet Hachikō, and Hachikō is jumping up to
his friend. The statue’s theme is a great contrast from many previous sculptures of Hachikō, which usually show him sitting still, upright, and dignified – alone and stoic. The new statue is full of warmth and love, and will finally allow Hidesaburō Ueno and Hachikō to be together again, after 90 long years.
Hachikō 忠犬ハチ公: A Story of Loyalty, Loss, and Finally, a Happy Ending
Hachikō 忠犬ハチ公: A Story of Loyalty, Loss, and Finally, a Happy Ending
{  Photos of clay prototype courtesy of The University of Japan  }

Interesting fact:

A former student of Mr. Ueno ended up becoming an expert in Akitas. In a survey that he conducted of the Akita breed, he discovered that Hachikō was one of the remaining 30 or so purebred Akitas left in Japan. Japanese Akitas are one of the most ancient domesticated dogs still in existence, making Hachikō one of the most famous dogs of all time to come from an ancient bloodline.

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