Hachiko the Dog: a WANnderful story of loyalty

WANderful? Get it? Wan-wan! Okay, enough with the terrible puns and let’s get down to talking about Japan’s most famous dog. 

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The story of Hachiko

The story starts in 1924 when a professor at the Japanese Imperial University brought home a two-month-old Akita puppy. Akita dogs are known for above all for their loyalty to their owners. 

Dr. Ueno named the little pup Hachiko. “Hachi” means 8 in Japanese, and refers to the fact that he was the 8th puppy to be born from his litter. “Ko” means duke or prince. So in English, his name could be translated as “The 8th Prince”! 

Hachiko enjoyed his life with his new owner. Akitas are large dogs, and it is said Hachiko grew to be over ninety pounds. This beautiful white dog accompanied Dr. Ueno to the Shibuya train station every morning, where Dr. Ueno would say goodbye to Hachiko and head to the university.

Every day when Dr. Ueno returned home Hachiko would be waiting for him at the train station and the two would go home together. Who wouldn’t want to have such an amazing bond with their dog? 

If things had continued like this, the story would still be one of admirable faithfulness from a dog to its master. But that was not the fate of Dr. Ueno and his loyal Akita puppy.

This is where the story turns from a tale of friendship to one of tragedy. May 21, 1925 – the day started out like any other day for the pair. In the morning, Professor Ueno left Hachiko at Shibuya Station. 

However, when Hachiko returned to Shibuya Station in the evening, his master was nowhere to be found. Though Hachiko patiently waited, Dr. Ueno never showed up.

Dr. Ueno had died from a stroke earlier that day.
Akitas are very loyal dogs and do not bond easily with new people. Hachiko was sent away to another area of Japan where there were relatives of Dr. Ueno’s who could take care of him. Because Hachiko had only belonged to Dr. Ueno for a little over a year, they probably hoped that the Akita would make a new family with them. However, the faithful dog ran away from the family and returned to the train station to wait for his master. The family realized that they couldn’t keep the big Akita dog from heading to Shibuya Station each day, so they gave Hachiko to Dr. Ueno’s old gardener who still lived in the area.

Every evening Hachiko would return to Shibuya Station and wait for Dr. Ueno to get off the six-o’clock train. And every day, Hachiko was disappointed. Still, he never missed a day of hoping that his master would return to him.

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A major Japanese newspaper reporter picked up the story of the loyal dog in 1932 and published it, which led to Hachiko becoming a celebrity all over Japan, and a symbol of loyalty.

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People started calling him “Chuken-Hachiko”, which means “Hachiko – the faithful dog”.

The story of the dog that never gave up gained a lot of attention also in national media, inspiring many people from all over the world to visit Hachiko at Shibuya Train Station. He even made it to Hollywood in “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale“. 

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