Hachiko (はちこう/ハチ公) was an Akita owned by a professor from the University of Tokyo in the 1920s. Every day, Hachiko would wait at Shibuya Station (渋谷駅) in order to meet the Professor on his return home from the University. Even when the Professor died unexpectedly while at work, and did not return to Shibuya Station, Hachiko carried on going to the station to wait for his master’s return. He did this for 9 years after the Professor’s death. Other commuters recognised him, and fed him snacks while he waited. One of the Professor’s former students was studying the Akita breed and one day saw Hachiko waiting at the station. The student followed Hachiko back to his home with the Professor’s former gardener and learned the tale of the Professor’s death and Hachiko’s daily vigil. In the following years, the student published papers about the Akita breed, and about Hachiko’s loyalty. One paper appeared as an article in the Tokyo Asahi Shinbun (東京朝日新聞) and Hachiko became a national star and symbol of loyalty.
When Hachiko died, almost ten years after the Professor’s death, his body was preserved at the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno Park. The year before his death, Hachiko had attended the unveiling of a bronze statue in his honour, sited at Shibuya Station. The first statue was melted down to help meet Japan’s need for weaponry during the Second World War, but a second statue was created by the original sculptor’s son in 1948. This statue still stands at Shibuya Station. It is a meeting point, a landmark, and a tourist attraction rolled into one.
On the evening that we went to pay our respects to the little dog who waited for his master, we had to wait in line for an opportunity to take each other’s photographs alongside the statue. There were people doing the same as us who had come from all around the world: Russia, America, Australia to name just three.
Surprisingly, considering the number of people who were there either having their photo taken or waiting to meet up with friends, and given that the Hachiko statue is famous worldwide, it took us a while to find it. We had to consult a couple of different maps before we worked it out! You could put that down to our general and ongoing bewilderment during our stay in Tokyo, though. This map is similar to one of those we consulted. What you need to know is that Hachiko is behind a hedge close to Shibuya Crossing as you face the Q-Front building.
Apparently, inside the train station, there are also bronze paw prints marking the exact spot where Hachiko waited for the Professor, but we didn’t see them. Maybe next time.