Hachiko was born in Odate, Japan in November 1923. He was an Akita, a breed of dog revered in Japan for over 3,000 years. In 1924, at two months old, Hachiko was bought by Eisaburo Ueno, a professor of agriculture at the University of Tokyo. Akitas are known for their fierce devotion to their masters, and Hachiko followed Professor Ueno everywhere he went. When Ueno left for work in the morning, Hachiko saw him to the door. When Ueno’s train arrived back at nearby Shibuya Station at the end of the work day, Hachiko was waiting there to greet him.
Professor Ueno suffered a stroke and died on May 21, 1925. Hachiko was not yet two years old, and had seen his master off to work that morning, never to see him again. Following Ueno’s death, his wife left their house and gave Hachiko to family friends who lived nearby. His master gone, Hachiko still kept his vigil. He returned every morning to his old house when he would have seen Ueno off to work, and was seen at Shibuya Station every day awaiting Ueno’s return from work. Local residents and commuters soon took notice of Hachiko, and he became well known to the people of Tokyo. He was given the nickname Chu-ken, which literally translates as “faithful dog.” A new station master came to work at Shibuya in 1928 and was so impressed with Hachiko that he gave him his own room to sleep in during the day, setting aside a closet just for the dog.
In 1933 the newspaper Asahi Shinbun published an article telling Hachiko’s story and celebrating his undying fidelity. Hachiko became a nationwide celebrity as a result, and in April 1934 a life-size bronze likeness of Hachiko, designed by the great artist Ando Teru, was erected outside Shibuya Station. Hachiko was present at the unveiling.
It was part of Hachiko’s daily routine to return in the morning to the house he had once shared with Professor Ueno. On the morning of March 8, 1935, Hachiko returned to this spot, where he had seen his owner off to work for the final time almost ten years before, and died. Hachiko’s statue was melted down for scrap during World War II, but a replica was sculpted by Ando Takeshi, Teru’s son, and put in place of the old one in 1948. That statue remains at Shibuya Station today. A second statue of Hachiko now stands in his birthplace, Odate. The remains of Hachiko himself were stuffed and can be seen on display at the National Science Museum in Tokyo, which at first struck me as gruesome, but I doubt Hachiko much cares. Now he sits with his master.