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The incredible story of Hachiko, the dog who waited for his master for years

Author: Marièke

Hachiko’s story leaves no one indifferent. It led to a movie with Richard Gere, and a statue, certainly one of the best known in Tokyo, in the lively and touristic district of Shibuya.

You don’t know the extraordinary story of this dog yet? We share it with you in this article.

8 years of waiting

In 1924, the university professor Hidesaburō Ueno adopts a young male puppy from a kennel in the Akita province in northern Japan. He is of the Akita Inu breed, a large Japanese primitive dog. He named him Hachiko – because he was the eighth puppy of the litter (“Hachi” meaning “Eight” in Japanese and the suffix “Ko” is affective).

The teacher and the dog quickly adopt a routine. In the morning, Hidesaburō Ueno leaves for Tokyo University where he teaches and Hachiko accompanies him to Shibuya station. In the evening, the man always comes back at the same time, by the same train: his dog goes to the station alone and waits for him every day.

However, on May 21, 1925, Hidesaburō Ueno, then 53 years old, dies of an intracerebral hemorrhage at the university during one of his lectures. Hachiko comes to meet his master at the train station but the master does not return.

He comes back the next day, and then the next few days. The teacher’s family tried to take care of Hachiko by placing him with another family, but the dog always ran away. He always returned to his master’s former home – near the headquarters of the Tokyu Department Store Co., Ltd. – and most importantly, always returned to Shibuya Station at the usual time of his master’s return.

For more than ten years, until his death in 1935, he made and re-made the journey and waited for Hidesaburō at the station. He was fed by passers-by and neighbours, touched by his presence and his story. He finally died at the age of 12, near the Inari Bridge on the Shibuya River, from filariasis and cancer of the lungs and heart.

Part of his remains (his fur) is stuffed and kept at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. The rest of his remains are buried in Aoyama Cemetery, next to his master’s grave.

Hachiko: Posterity

Hachiko’s loyalty was recognized during his lifetime, thanks to an article entitled The moving story of an old dog: seven years waiting for his deceased master, written by one of the former students of Professor Hidesaburō Ueno and published on October 4, 1932 in the Asahi Shinbun (one of Japan’s largest daily newspapers). But the aura of this faithful dog continued long afterwards.

The statue of Hachiko in Shibuya

Thus, the statue of Hachiko was erected in 1934 at the foot of Shibuya Station, opposite the famous Shibuya Crossing (the place where crosswalks intersect). This is where Hachiko waited for his master.

Since, the statue has changed location several times: melted down during the Second World War, relocated in 1948, then moved during the station’s expansion in 1989. To find oneself “Under the statue of Hachiko” is a meeting point known to all Tokyoïtes.

Several books, films and manga mention the incredible story of Hachiko. The best known film is Hachi, released in 2008, with Richard Gere in the role of Hachiko’s master.

The dog that saved the Akita Inu breed?

It is important to know that the Akita Inu race, from which Hachiko is descended, almost became extinct. Originating from Odate, in the Akita province, like Hachiko, the Akita Inu was already threatened at the time of Hachiko.

During the Second World War, which leads the Japanese to use the fur of Akita Inu dogs to make their clothes, the dog was even more threatened. The only dogs spared then are German Shepherds who are reserved for military tasks.

Akita owners crossed their dogs with German Shepherds, allowing them to survive. Americans then brought these German Shepherd Akitas with them, creating the American Akita.

Hachiko, by shedding light on his breed, helped to rekindle interest in the breed after the Second World War.

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