For anyone who has set foot in Tokyo’s Shibuya area, Hachiko or “Hachi” as he is affectionately known to many, is a name that will likely hold some meaning. Whether it’s the signs directing people to the Hachiko Gate exit from within the train station, or the statue of this famous Japanese Akita dog near the famous scramble crossing, Hachiko’s story is a heartbreaking and inspirational tale of one dog’s loyalty to his master.
A Dog and His Master
The world renowned Shibuya Scramble Crossing, which is today home to the Hachiko Memorial Statue. © Tokyo Convention＆Visitors Bureau
The legend of Hachiko begins with his birth on November 10th, 1923, at a farm in Odate, located in Japan’s Akita Prefecture.
It was here that Hachiko, a white Akita, spend the first months of his life, until he was met by a man named Hidesaburo Ueno in 1924. Ueno, who was a professor working in the agricultural department of the Tokyo Imperial University, adopted Hachiko and brought him back to Tokyo to live with him in Shibuya.
A breed native to Japan, the Akita has long been a popular breed amongst Japanese dog owners. Wesl90, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
As Ueno commuted to work on a daily basis via train, Hachiko soon learnt that his master would return home through Shibuya station after work and began waiting for him there each afternoon. So clever was Hachiko that he would not only meet Ueno at the correct place, but also the correct time, appearing right around when his master’s train was due to pull into Shibuya station.
This daily routine continued until May 21st, 1925, when Hachiko was left waiting at Shibuya station for Ueno, who after suffering a fatal cerebral haemorrhage while delivering a lecture to his class at the university, sadly never returned home.
For almost 10 years following Ueno’s death, Hachiko continued to display his unwavering loyalty, turning up to Shibuya station each day at the time his master’s train was due to arrive, hopeful that he would appear.
The Ueno family dressed up for a commemorative photograph with Hachiko, who became something of a tourist attraction as his story spread across Japan. Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
While people who frequented Shibuya station recognised Hachiko, having seen him with Ueno in the past, there were some that were not so welcoming of his presence, seeing him essentially as a stray.
That was, until 1932 when an article about Hachiko and his story was published in one of Japan’s largest newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun. Following the story, people not only began bringing Hachiko food while he waited for Ueno, but the Akita also became a national sensation.
Hachiko, affectionately known as “Hachi” by those that knew him, rests with a woman and Shibuya’s Station Master. Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
As people learnt of his faithful commitment to a master who would never return, Hachiko’s story was told by teachers and parents as an example for their children to strive towards. While on a national scale, he became a symbol of hope and loyalty throughout Japan, which resulted in a bronze sculpture of his likeness by Teru Ando being erected outside Shibuya station.
As a canine celebrity, Hachiko continued his daily commute to the train station until on March 8th, 1935, he passed away in Shibuya, still having never given up hope of Ueno’s return home.
Following his death, Hachiko was cremated and his ashes were buried in Aoyama Cemetery, in Tokyo’s Minato ward. Here, he rests with his master, Professor Ueno, who is buried right beside him.
Teru Ando’s Hachiko statue outside Shibuya Station on the first anniversary of Hachiko’s passing. Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
A Lasting Legacy
Although Teru Ando’s sculpture was unfortunately recycled as contribution to Japanese war effort in World War II, his son, Takeshi Ando, went on to create a new statue of Hachiko that was erected in 1948 and still remains outside Shibuya station to this day. Since then, the statue has become not only a lasting memorial to Hachiko and his loyalty, but is often seen as the place to meet when in Shibuya.
In an area now known as Hachiko Square, the statue of the faithful Akita serves as a place for people to sit and relax while waiting for friends to arrive. In spring, cherry blossom trees overhead also add a layer of beauty to the scene, inviting visitors to pose for photos with Hachiko and perhaps give him a friendly pat.
The Hachiko Memorial Statue located outside Shibuya Station is popular with both tourists and locals alike. © Tokyo Convention＆Visitors Bureau
Similar statues have since sprung up across Japan, with one similar to the Shibuya iteration also standing in Hachiko’s hometown of Odate in front of the train station, as well as a more recent version inclusive of Professor Ueno outside the University of Tokyo. This particular sculpture depicts Ueno in his suit, hat and trench coat, being greeted by an excited Hachiko. Just as they would have met at the station after a day apart while both were alive.
Today, Hachiko and his loyalty to Ueda is a story still told and referenced throughout not only Japan, but much of the world. Visitors to Shibuya can spot his likeness and name on the side of local buses, while on April 8th each year, a ceremony is held at Shibuya Station to honour the memory of this faithful Akita who decades after his passing, still holds a place in everyone’s heart.
A local bus in Shibuya featuring both Hachiko’s name and his likeness. Stéfan, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Hachiko Square, home to the Hachiko Memorial Statue, is located directly outside Shibuya station beside the Shibuya Scramble Crossing. To reach the stature from within Shibuya station, follow the signs for the Hachiko Exit.
Address: 2 Chome-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0043