Hachiko Statue

The Hachiko Statue has sat outside the Shibuya train station since 1934. This bronze statue in Shibuya is of a real life Akita dog, and the actual dog was taxidermed in 1935 and now sits in the National Science Museum, one of the prestigious museums located in Ueno Park. Hachiko himself attended the unveiling of the statue in 1934 a year before his death. The spot where the statue sits is often referred to as the Shibuya Meeting Place and commemorates the spot where the faithful dog waited patiently to meet his master coming home on the train every day for ten years after the owner died.

The Hachiko Statue is still used as a landmark and Shibuya meeting place both by locals and visitors alike. It sits in a small square outside the train station and is fairly easy to find, which is important because the little square is surrounded by skyscrapers and is very busy as this is one of the best shopping areas in the city. The dog Hachiko (meaning eighth puppy) was born in 1923 in Akita on the northwest coast of Honshu Island and about 450 miles north of Nagoya. He and his owner, a professor at the Imperial Museum, moved to Tokyo in 1925. Every morning for a year, the faithful dog accompanied his owner to the train station, and was always there when he returned in the evening. In 1925, the professor died while at work. Hachiko continued to wait at the train station every day for ten more years.

While he was alive, the faithful dog became a familiar fixture to commuters who brought him treats and broadcast his story, most notably in a series of articles by one of the professor’s students. The articles and the dog’s loyalty were used as lessons from parents to children and from teachers to students. A byproduct of this publicity was the rescue of the Akita dog breed. By the time the articles were published, only 30 purebred Akitas (including Hachiko himself) remained in the country. This is important in the world of dog lovers, as the Akita is one of the most ancient breeds in the world and one of only four native to the islands of Japan. Thus, this statue in Shibuya was erected before the old boy himself went to meet his master. Even today, local people make a special trip to pay their respects to the qualities of loyalty and friendship, and those who are simply passing by while shopping will stop at the Hachiko Statue for a moment before continuing on their journey. One of the special events in the district occurs on March 8 when the loyalty of the Akita is remembered in a reverent ceremony.

The statue in Shibuya was the subject of a very successful Japanese film in 1987. The story of the faithful dog was featured in a 2002 episode of the Futurama television series. In 2009, actor Richard Gere starred in an American film update of the story, called Hachiko: A Dog’s Story. Although the movie was filmed in Rhode Island and was about an American dog and his master, Richard Gere made his own pilgrimage to the Shibuya Meeting Place to pay his respects to the original Hachiko in July of 2009.

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