Hachiko—the faithful dog that continued to wait for his owner for more than nine years following his death—has inspired numerous movies, books, and works of art over the years.
Born on November 10, 1923, in the city of Odate, the cream-colored Akita Inu was purchased by Hidesaburo Ueno, a dog lover and renowned agricultural professor. He made the journey to his new home in the Shibuya district when he was just two months old.
Due to the grueling train ride, however, he collapsed and was thought to be dead. Fortunately, Ueno and his wife were able to nurse him back to health over the next several months, according to Professor Mayumi Itoh, Hachiko’s biographer.
Ueno and his family named the puppy Hachi, which means ‘eight’ in Japanese.
Waiting at the Train Station
Ueno was a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University, a job that required him to commute by train several times a week. On days when he had to work, he would be accompanied to the train station by Hachiko. After Ueno went on the train, the loyal pup would return home for a few hours, before leaving for the station again at the end of the day to greet his master.
The pair continued the routine for over a year.
On May 21, 1925, Ueno died of a cerebral hemorrhage while giving a lecture at the university and never returned to the train station, where his fateful companion was waiting.
During the wake, Hachi crawled under Ueno’s coffin in the living room and refused to move. For the next several months, he was taken care of by various families outside the Shibuya area. Then in the summer of 1925, he was taken in by Kakusaburo Kobayashi, Ueno’s former gardener.
Despite his new home, Hachi regularly returned to the area where his late owner lived. And soon, he resumed his daily commute to Shibuya station, despite the weather. Every evening, he would stand by the ticket gate, where he would look at the passengers getting off the train as if he was searching for someone.
Initially, the employees at the station found him to be a nuisance. Nearby vendors would pour water on him and children would hit and bully him.
However, he later gained fame after the Japanese daily newspaper Tokyo Asahi Shimbun wrote about him in 1932.
Following that, the station received huge amounts of food donations for Hachiko each day. Visitors also came from across the country to see him. In 1934, a bronze statue of the loyal canine was also erected at the statue.
Hachiko ultimately continued his routine until his death on March 8, 1935. He was eleven years old. According to reports, he was found by residents on a Shibuya Street. Scientists have since confirmed that he died from terminal cancer.
Every year, a memorial service for Hachiko is held outside the station on April 8. His statue is also often decorated with hats and scarves.
At the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, his taxidermy mount is on permanent display. Some of his remains are also interred alongside Ueno at the Aoyama Cemetary. Statues of him have also been erected in his hometown, as well as at the University of Tokyo (formerly Tokyo Imperial University).
In 1994, a recording of his bark from an old record was also recovered and restored by Nippon Cultural Broadcasting. This allowed millions of radio listeners to listen to his bark for the first time since his death.
Odate, the city where Hachiko was born, also has a series of events, including a summer festival, lined up for his 100th birthday anniversary.