Oftentimes referred to as man’s best friend, dogs hold a very special place in our hearts. Many stories tell of their undying devotion to, and kindness for their “owners”. Yes, I put that in quotation marks because the concept of “owning” another living thing seems downright disrespectful to me. Our furry four-legged companions are every bit as capable of the same emotions we hold so dear, and thus are equally a part of the family as their human counterparts.
One dog in particular has risen to legendary status in Japan, and if you’ve ever been to Shibuya, you’ve surely seen many people waiting for their friends, family members and loved ones near his commemorative statue.
You know the name, and you may have been to the statue, but have you ever asked yourself how this one particular dog gained such fame? Prepare to get your tissues out – unless you’re made out of stone, this story will move you.
Hachiko, an Akita breed, was born on November 10, 1923 on a farm near Odate City. When he was less than a year old, a professor of agriculture at the University of Tokyo by the name of Hidesaburo Ueno adopted him as his pet.
The pup grew up with the The professor, who traveled by train from Shibuya Station to work every day. Hachiko patiently waited every evening at the station, waiting for his “owner’s” return and to pick him up for the walk home.
This routine continued for many years until one day the professor did not return. He’d had a stroke and never made it back. Hachiko kept waiting for him.
Now it is at this point in the story where we will give you a quick quiz… if you haven’t heard the story yet (and without using Google or any other search engine), how long do you think Hachiko kept waiting? A week? A month? Longer?
In what is arguably one of the most impressive displays of loyalty, devotion, and love, Hachiko returned to the station every day and patiently waited each and every day for NINE years, NINE months, and FiFTEEN days – eventually meeting his own end at the ripe age of 11, on March 8th, 1935.
This utter devotion touched the hearts of many commuters who had seen the dog together with Professor Ueno previously, and many of them started bringing treats for the waiting Hachiko. Eventually, one of the professor’s previous students, Hirokichi Saito, who had extensive knowledge of the Akita breeds, recognised the dog, and followed him back to the professor’s former gardner’s house where the dog now lived. This is where he learned the whole story of the dog’s life. Turns out that Hachiko was one of only 30 Akita dogs left in Japan.
Hirokichi visited Hachiko at Shibuya Station many times over the next several years, and began publishing articles about the dog’s loyalty.
Eventually, this brought Hachiko’s plight to national attention, and more people started noticing. Like a viral post these days, the story spread like wildfire throughout the nation, and Hachiko’s vigil became an exemplary tale throughout all of Japan.
While still alive, Hachiko was honoured with a bronze statue in April 1934 at Shibuya Station, while he was actually present.
What most people don’t know, is there is actually a 2nd Hachiko Statue in Japan – in Odate – Hachiko’s hometown.
In a bit of a macabre twist, you can also still see stuffed and mounted remains of Hachiko at the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno.
While the more famous Shibuya statue is not in the exact same spot he used to wait for the professor, there are bronze paw prints and a text at the exact spot where this legend was born and the dog waited every day.
Nevermind, said Hachiko each day. Here I wait for my friend who’s late. I will stay, just to walk beside you for one more day. ~Jess C. Scott
Beautiful story, isn’t it? If you’re still reading with dry eyes at this point, you may have inadvertently wondered what the name Hachiko actually means…
“Hachi” is the Japanese word for the number 8. So we can surmise that he was the 8th puppy born in that litter. The “Ko” simply means affection.
Hachiko – a dog so loyal and affectionate that he became a national hero and has since been honoured in various books, movies, mangas, and anime. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Japan who doesn’t know the story of the dog who waited.
If you want more information about this incredible dog, check out the link below, courtesy of our friends at Japan Insides.