In an age where relationships are increasingly transient, and connections seem more disposable than ever, one story about the relationship between a man and his dog continues to tug at the heartstrings of humanity, and reverberate through the corridors of time. One such story is the enduring tale of Hachiko (or Hachi), an extraordinary Akita dog from Japan who won hearts worldwide with his steadfast loyalty. This year marks the centennial of Hachiko's birth, a commemoration that not only reflects the immortal bond we share with our own dogs, but also reinforces our human longing for devotion in its purest form.
A Story of Unwavering Loyalty
Born on November 10th, 1923, in the bustling city of Odate, Japan, Hachiko's life became an emblem of undying loyalty after he was adopted by Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor at Tokyo Imperial University. The Akita's life turned into a testament of pure love and dedication within the brief span of the 16 months they shared together. Every morning, Hachiko accompanied Ueno to the train station, watching him board his train to work, only to faithfully return in the evening, eagerly awaiting his owner's arrival at the Shibuya station.
A sudden, poignant turn of events in 1925 left Hachiko waiting indefinitely. Ueno passed away unexpectedly due to a cerebral hemorrhage while lecturing, leaving his loyal companion in a perpetual wait. "While people were attending the wake, Hachi smelled Dr. Ueno from the house and went inside the living room. He crawled under the coffin and refused to move," penned Prof Mayumi Itoh, Hachiko's biographer, highlighting the depth of the bond shared by the two.
After spending months with different families, Hachiko was adopted by Professor Ueno's gardener, Kikusaburo Kobayashi, in the summer of 1925, and returned to his familiar territory. Blissfully unaware of his master's fate, Hachiko resumed his daily ritual of waiting at the station. For almost a decade, Hachiko would return faithfully to the same spot, peering into the sea of faces, hoping to find his friend.
Hachi stood on four legs at the ticket gate and looked at each passenger as if he were looking for someone.
"In the evening, Hachi stood on four legs at the ticket gate and looked at each passenger as if he were looking for someone," wrote Professor Itoh. Initially, Hachiko was regarded more as a nuisance than a symbol of faithfulness. Poor Hachi was often bullied by children and completely ignored by passersby, but his fortunes changed, however, when a Tokyo newspaper narrated his touching story in October 1932, Hachi's story quickly spread and won the heart of the nation.
A Timeless Legacy of Devotion
Hachiko's tale of unyielding loyalty captured the imagination of the public, morphing him into a cultural symbol of fidelity in Japan. His story resonated deeply with people from all walks of life, earning him the honorific title "Chuken Hachiko" or "faithful dog Hachiko". His story transcended national borders, inspiring global audiences with his unwavering dedication.
A bronze statue was unveiled near Shibuya station in 1934, commemerating Hachi's story and his essence. The statue quickly became a popular rendezvous point, symbolizing friendship for the locals, and over the decades the monument has become an iconic landmark drawing tourists from around the world.
Hachiko's tale ended on March 8, 1935, a decade after his master's death, at the age of 11. His passing was met with a public outpouring of grief, attracting thousands to his statue at Shibuya Station. Each year on April 8th, Hachiko's unwavering faith is celebrated with a memorial service outside the station.
Hachiko's story is a lesson taught to Japanese schoolchildren used to teach them about loyalty and fidelity. As Professor Christine Yano from the University of Hawaii puts it "Hachiko personifies the essence of the ideal Japanese citizen, unwaveringly loyal, utterly reliable, obedient to a master, and imbued with a keen sense of their role within the greater societal fabric".
Hachi's tale continues to inspire countless books, films, and adaptations, spreading his message of dedication and love far and wide, if you haven't seen it yet watch Hachi: A Dog's Tale with Richard Gere, its a great movie and retelling of the orignal story that will have anyone who loves dogs in tears!