The Amazing Story of Hachiko the Dog

by Flora Baker

The Amazing Story of Hachiko the Dog 

There’s no denying that dogs are the goodest of boys – but have you ever heard of the most loyal dog in the world? If you haven’t, get ready to meet Hachiko. This Japanese dog has inspired movies, books, art and poetry, and there are several Hachiko statues across Japan – all because he loved his owner. Interested? Let’s learn more about Hachiko! 

Who is Hachiko The Dog?

Hachiko, born on a farm in Odate in 1923, was a white Akita Inu dog. One of the oldest and most loved Japanese dog breeds for a good reason, Akitas are well known for being excellent guard dogs, fearless and faithful to their owners, and used to guard Japanese royals over generations. 

An Akita Inu dog.

Our favorite Akita, Hachiko, lived in the Shibuya area of Tokyo with his owner,  Dr. Hidesaburō Ueno, who was a professor of agricultural engineering at Tokyo University. Each morning, the two would walk to Shibuya train station together so Dr. Ueno could take the train to work. Hachiko would return to the station at 3pm each afternoon and wait for Ueno’s return so they could walk home together.

Sadly, when he was about 50 years old, Dr. Ueno died of a cerebral hemorrhage while teaching in May 1925, just two years after he and Hachiko met. Because Professor Ueno died at work, he never came home via Shibuya station to reunite with his faithful pet. Hachiko was left waiting, but visited the next day hoping to find his owner. And the next day, and the next. 

Because Ueno’s grieving widow couldn’t care for him, Hachiko was given away to different owners. Eventually Ueno’s former gardener, Kikuzaburo Kobayashi, gave Hachiko a place to live. His new home was several miles away from Shibuya, but this made little difference to Hachiko’s behavior. Every day he diligently continued his daily walk to Shibuya train station (about six miles away!), where he waited patiently for Ueno to come home. And so Hachiko continued to wait every day for the next nine years. 

 As you might expect, the commuters who rushed through Shibuya Station noticed the distinctive white dog who never seemed to lose patience or hope. He soon became known as ‘the faithful dog’ by the local community, the train station staff, and eventually the entire country when an article was published in the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s most respected daily newspapers. 

On March 8th, 1935, Hachiko himself died from natural causes outside the station (although a disproved legend claims he died from a stomach rupture after swallowing a yakitori skewer). The rail staff – who knew Hachiko well – took his body into the baggage room and prayed with him, and the entire country mourned his passing, with newspaper headlines reporting the story. 

Hachiko’s fur was preserved and stuffed, and you can still visit him on permanent display at the National Science Museum in Ueno, Tokyo. However, Hachiko’s bones were cremated, allowing his ashes to be buried alongside his much-loved master at Aoyama Cemetery, and the pair finally reunited. 

Why Hachiko Became a National Sensation in Japan 

Beautiful and heartbreaking all at once, Hachiko’s story is just as impactful now as it was 80 years ago. His faithfulness is highly emblematic of the positive traits Japanese people want to aspire to: devotion, loyalty and unconditional love.  

Dogs have long been popular in Japan, and are particularly well known for the staunch defensiveness of their owners. Depictions of dogs in Japanese folklore often show the animals with a magical ability to resist evil, which means they’re seen as good luck. Japan’s national dog is the Shiba Inu – which looks similar to Hachiko! – but there are plenty of smaller dog breeds accompanying the Japanese in daily life too. If you’re visiting Japan and want to bring your dog along for the ride, you’re in luck: the country is really dog-friendly, and there are plenty of guides explaining how to bring dogs to Japan

Where is the Hachiko Statue in Shibuya?

A year before his death, a bronze statue of Hachiko sitting on his haunches was installed nearby Shibuya station, but it was sadly destroyed in World War II. A new statue took its place in 1948 and it’s still extremely popular with visitors and tourists, many of whom use it as a meeting spot when navigating the famous and perpetually busy Shibuya Crossing. 

 Hachiko the dog statue with a cat.

On March 8th 2015, exactly 80 years after Hachiko’s death, another Hachiko memorial statue appeared outside the main gates of the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Agriculture – Ueno’s department. This Hachiko statue appears to be excitedly standing on his back legs as he greets his long-lost owner with his front paws. The project was funded by donations of over 10 million yen (almost $70,000 USD), much of which came from grad students from the university’s agricultural department. Many have found this newer Hachiko statue, which represents the joyful reunion between the two and appears much more lifelike than the Shibuya statue, as a more fitting image for the beloved story. 

There’s also a Hachiko memorial statue at Odate Station, close to the Akita Dog Museum in Odate city where Hachiko was born. Founded by the Akita Dog Preservation Society, the museum holds a wealth of knowledge about this wonderful dog breed. And for those wanting to visit the man who Hachiko loved so dearly, there’s a statue of a sleeping dog resting at the base of Ueno’s stone tomb in Aoyama Cemetery too. 

Hachiko in Media

An American movie was made in 2009 called ‘Hachi: A Dog’s Tale’, which starred Richard Gere and was based on the plot of the 1987 Japanese film ‘ Hachikō Monogatari’. The story was relocated to a university in Providence, Rhode Island, with Bedridge railway station taking the place of Shibuya Station. Three different Akita dogs also starred alongside Gere, all of whom received star treatment throughout filming.

As you may imagine, Hachiko’s story of unwavering loyalty has become a popular tale perfect for children’s books. His cultural influence is so widespread that the Hachiko story has also been featured in video games, anime, street art, poetry and even the name of a regional railway line – the Hachiko Line in Tokyo!

Where to Find Hachiko For Yourself

If the Hachiko story makes you love dogs more than ever, why not try out the Dog Lover’s Box at our Bokksu Japanese snack boutique? Inside you’ll find dog paw-shaped chocolates and maple-flavored cookies, dog toys and tote bags – and there’s even some Hachiko Shoyu Ramen with the nation’s favorite dog on the packaging! 

Author Bio

Flora Baker is a writer, blogger and author based in London, UK. She runs the award-winning travel website Flora The Explorer and has written for Coastal Living, Telegraph, and National Geographic Traveler.