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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Hachiko The Beloved Dog And The Savior Of The Akita-Inu Breed


In many circles, the mention of Japan evokes an image of stoicism, respect, and undying loyalty. Whilst it may be argued that these purported characteristics are too much of a generalization of Japanese culture, perhaps one of the most renowned examples of this Oriental ideal is the life of Hachiko — a canine unwavering in his devotion to his master and whose pursuits led to the preservation of the Akita-Inu breed.Born on November 10, 1923, Hachiko was cared for by one Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University who resided at a farm near Odate City, in the prefecture of Akita, Another “parent” of his was Mr. Hidesaburo’s partner, Yaeko Sakano. 

Hachiko, Dog, Japanese
Image: Tuul.Tv

In 1924, they moved to Shibuya, Tokyo, and everyday the professor would take the train at Shibuya Station to the T.I.U., and every-time he arrived back in Shibuya, without fail Hachiko would be there, waiting for him. This continued up until Mr. Hidesaburo’s untimely death from a cerebral hemorrhage in May, 1925.


Not knowing of his master’s death, Hachiko continued walking to Shibuya Station, waiting for the deceased professor. As he was of Akita blood, he was larger than the average dog, and in such a densely-populated city as Tokyo, he naturally stood out —people were either scared of him or annoyed at his presence, and so they treated him accordingly. This brutish treatment went on for a bit until he had an article written about him in the paper Asahi Shimbun by one of Mr. Hidesaburo’s students, Hirokichi Saito. From then on, commuters started providing hachiko with treats and sustenance as he waited in the train station.

Hachiko, Dog, Statue
Image: Matcha

His newfound stardom saw him being recognized by the Japanese as a symbol of the so-called “Nihonggo spirit” of familial loyalty, much akin to the immortalization of the 47 Ronin as paragons of neo-Confucian virtues. The Imperial administration even honored him with a breeding program of the Akita breed, undoubtedly saving it from extinction. Several bronze statues were built in the dog’s likeness, the most well-known of which currently stands at Shibuya Station.



At the time of his death from cancer on March 8, 1935, he was beloved throughout all four of Japan’s four major isles — Honshu, Ezo (Hokkaido), Kyushu, and Shikoku — and so his carcass was stuffed and preserved at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno. Hachiko was so famous that decades after perishing, in 1994 millions tuned in just to listen to his bark on national television, and to this day Japan celebrates his devotion every 8th of March — truly what one may call a “good dog”.

Hachiko's fame is also evident because of his portrayals in film, literature, and documentaries. One of the most famous works attributed to him is Hachikō Monogatari, a film released back in 1987 and remade in 2009 with a new title(Hachi: A Dog's Tale). He is also the protagonist of a book titled Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog written by Pamela S. Turner.

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