The Chinese motto on the movie poster says it all: “I will wait for you, no matter how long it takes.”
The film tells the true story of Hachiko, a loyal dog who continued to wait for his master at a train station in Japan long after his death.
The creamy white Akita Inu, born 100 years ago, has been memorialized in everything from books to movies to the sci-fi sitcom Futurama. The Chinese iteration – the third after the Japanese version in 1987 and Richard Gere Star in 2009 – was also a box office success.
There have been stories of other loyal dogs like Greyfriars Bobby but none of Hishiko’s universal impact.
This bronze statue is now dressed in Shibuya Gare in Tokyo, when it was in vain since 1948. The statue was original for its premiere in 1934 because it was recycled for the benefit of the guerre. during World War II. Japanese schoolchildren learn the story of Chuken Hachiko – or loyal dog Hachiko – as an example of devotion and devotion.
Hachiko represents the “ideal Japanese citizen” with his “total dedication,” says Professor Christine Yano of the University of Hawaii: “Loyal, reliable, obedient to masters and understanding, without relying on rationality, have their place in the larger scheme of things.”
Hachiko was born in November 1923 in the town of Odate, Akita Prefecture, the original home of the Akitas family.
A large Japanese dog, the Akita is one of the oldest and most popular breeds in the country. Designated by the Japanese government as a national icon in 1931, they were once trained to hunt animals such as wild boar and elk.
Akita dogs are calm, honest, intelligent and courageous [and] “Obey their masters,” said Itsu Sakuraba, the author of the English-language children’s book about Hachiko. On the other hand, she also has a stubborn personality and is suspicious of anyone other than her master.
In the year Hachiko was born, Hidesaburo Ueno, a famous farming teacher and dog lover, asked a student to find him an Akita puppy.
After an arduous train journey, the puppy arrived at the Ueno residence in the Shibuya district on January 15, 1924, where it was initially believed dead. According to Hachiko’s biographer Professor Mayumi Itoh, Ueno and his wife Yai cared for him for the next six months.
Ueno called her Hachi, or eight in Japanese. Ko is the privilege given to Yuno’s students.
The long wait
Ueno took a train to work several times a week. He was accompanied to Shibuya Station by his three dogs, including Hachiko. Then the trio await his return in the evening.
On May 21, 1925, Ueno, aged 53, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Hachiko was only with him for 16 months.
Professor Ito wrote, “While people were attending the party, Hachi felt Dr. Ueno walk out of the house and enter the living room. He crawled under the coffin and refused to move.”
Hachiko spent the next few months with various families outside of Shibuya, but eventually, in the summer of 1925, found himself with Ueno’s gardener, Kikusaburo Kobayashi.
After returning to the area where his late master lived, Hachiko quickly resumed his daily commute to the train station, rain or shine.
Professor Ito writes: “In the evenings, Hachi would stand on all fours at the ticket gate and stare at each passenger as if looking for someone. The station staff at first considered him a nuisance.
However, he gained national prominence after the Japanese daily Tokyo Asahi Shimbun wrote about him in October 1932.
The station received daily food donations for Hachiko, while visitors from all over the world came to see him. I wrote poems about him and haikos. A fundraising event in 1934 for the making of his statue reportedly drew a crowd of 3,000.
Hachiko’s eventual death on March 8, 1935 made headlines in several newspapers. At his funeral, Buddhist monks offered prayers over him and dignitaries read eulogies. Thousands of people visited his statue in the following days.
In impoverished post-war Japan, a fundraiser for a new statue of Hachiko managed to raise 800,000 yen, a huge sum at the time, worth about 4 billion yen (£22m; $28m) today.
Takeshi Okamoto wrote in a 1982 newspaper article, “In retrospect, I feel like he knew Dr. Ueno wouldn’t come back, but he kept waiting – Hachiko taught us the value of maintaining faith in someone. He would see Hachiko at the station every day.”
Every year on April 8, a memorial service for Hachiko is held outside Shibuya Station. His statue is often adorned with scarves, Santa Claus hats, and, most recently, a surgical mask.
His mountain is on display at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. Some of his remains are buried at Aoyama Cemetery, along with Ueno and Yai. His statues have also been cast at Odate, the birthplace of Ueno Hisae, and at the University of Tokyo and Rhode Island, the American setting for the 2009 film.
Odate also has a series of events this year lined up to celebrate its centenary.
Will the world’s most faithful dogs still be celebrated in a century? Professor Yano says yes because she believes Hachiko’s “heroism” isn’t time-bound—in a sense, it’s timeless.
Sakuraba is equally optimistic. “Even 100 years from now, this loyal and unconditional love will remain the same, and Hachiko’s story will continue forever.”