The University of Tokyo revealed a new statue on its campus today honoring Hachiko, widely known as the “world’s most loyal dog,” who waited for his owner, University of Tokyo professor Hidesaburo Ueno, at his home train stop for a decade after the professor’s death.
Hachiko, an Akita Inu, is best known in the West as the protagonist of the film Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, starring Richard Gere as a Vermont professor modeled after Ueno. His story is widely recognized to be true, however, and Hachiko himself has been preserved and memorialized in a Japanese museum.
Hachiko is believed to have only been one or two years old when Ueno died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage. For all his life before Ueno’s death, the legend goes, Hachiko left the house to go to the Shibuya train station and escort Ueno from the train station home. Possibly believing that Ueno was merely staying late at work, Hachiko continued to make his journey from his home to the train station every day until he succumbed to cancer in 1935. He was believed to be more than ten years old.
Many photos exist of Hachiko in life and death, and rare photographs show Shibuya station regulars in deep mourning over and praying for the dog.
Hachiko was so beloved by those who lived and worked near the Shibuya train station, and his story grew so famous, that a statue was erected at the entrance to the train station in 1948 in his honor. The 1948 statue replaced one erected in 1934, which was destroyed during the Second World War.
To celebrate the 80th anniversary of Hachiko’s death– and the 90th of Ueno’s– the University of Tokyo is reuniting the Akita Inu with his owner in a new statue to be displayed on campus. Unlike the Shibuya station statue, Hachiko appears not stoic and determined, but with a wide dog smile, greeting Ueno. The unveiling of the statue, which can already be seen in publicity photos, will occur on March 8.
The Philippine Star reports that the statue will cost an estimated 100 million yen ($98,000), and that a crowdfunding initiative has yielded half of the money necessary so far.
While the most famous of history’s loyal dogs, Hachiko’s loyalty is far from uncommon in dog breed’s around the world. Among those dogs for whom humans have erected statues in honor of their loyalty are the Scottish Greyfriar’s Bobby, who is said to guarded his owner’s grave for 14 years; Fido, an adopted Italian street dog who, like Hachiko, went to greet his dead owner at a train station for 14 years; and, most recently, Masha, a small Siberian mutt who waited at the door of the hospital room her owner died in for one year. Families attempted to adopt Masha three times, but every time she escaped to return to the hospital. The hospital, in Koltsovo, Siberia, then officially adopted her and built a canine home within the facility.