Tale of loyalty

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

TOKYO – There’s a bronze statue of a dog standing near one of the Shibuya train station’s five exits and it’s a popular attraction among tourists who line up endlessly to take a photograph with a hand on Hachiko.

It’s a tribute to an Akita dog that actually lived until succumbing to cancer and heartworm at the age of 11 in 1935. The dog was called Hachiko. In Japanese, “hachi” means eight which is the numerical symbol of good fortune and “ko” means affection.

The story of Hachiko has been told repeatedly and was immortalized in the 2009 movie “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” which starred Richard Gere and grossed over $46 Million in ticket sales around the world. The film was an adaptation but kept true to what really happened to Hachiko in Japan before World War II. An earlier movie was made on Hachiko in 1987 and the Japanese film was entitled “Hachiko Manogatari” or “Tale of Hachiko.”

The real Hachiko was an Akita dog, a large breed found in the northern Japanese mountains resembling a Siberian Husky. The dog was owned by a University of Tokyo agriculture professor Hidesaburo Ueno. Hachiko would accompany Ueno to the Shibuya train station every morning as the professor made his daily commute to school and would wait for him to return at the end of the day. They were inseparable for two years until Ueno died of a cerebral hemorrhage on campus in 1925. On the day of Ueno’s death, Hachiko waited at the station for the professor who never arrived. For the next nine years and 15 days, Hachiko would wait at the station for Ueno. Commuters would feed the dog who was a permanent fixture at the busy terminal and in 1932, a story was published in the Japanese newspapers about the loyal Akita Inu (Japanese for dog).

* * * *

Hachiko became a symbol of loyalty, a revered value and tradition in the Japanese way of life. In 1934, a bronze statue of Hachiko was dedicated at the station and the dog was the guest of honor, probably wondering what the fuss was all about. A year later, Hachiko died and was cremated. The dog was buried beside Ueno’s grave at the Aoyama Cemetery, reunited once more in the after-life.

When World War II broke out, Hachiko’s bronze statue was dismantled and recycled for the war effort. In 1948, a new bronze statue was erected at the train station to revive Hachiko’s legend. In 1994, a recording of Hachiko’s bark was used for a nationwide advertising campaign that became a huge hit. In 2004, a new statue was made in front of the Akita Dog Museum in Odate. This year, the University of Tokyo unveiled yet another statue of Hachiko reunited with Ueno on campus. Today, the exact spot where Hachiko waited at the train station is marked by bronze paw-prints. And only last month, a never-before-published photo of Hachiko – taken by a bank employee in 1934 – was all over Japanese media in a refreshing reminder of the nation’s love for the dog.

In the Richard Gere movie, the actor portrays professor Parker Wilson who finds the Akita dog in the train station at Rhode Island. The dog was sent from Japan to the US and escaped from the cage which fell at the station. Wilson takes the unclaimed dog home and they become “best friends.” The dog was named Hachi by Wilson’s friend, a Japanese professor. Hachi would walk with Wilson to the train station every morning for his ride to school and wait for his return at the end of the day just like Hachiko did for Ueno.

* * * *

One day, Wilson suffers a heart attack in class and dies. Hachi waits at the station for his return at the end of that day but Wilson never shows up. Wilson’s daughter Andy takes Hachi home but the dog manages to get away to go to the station, waiting for the professor to come. A hot dog vendor at the station Jasjeet notices and admires Hachi and feeds and takes care of the dog. Hachi would religiously wait at the station every day without fail and sleep in the railway yard at night.

On the 10th anniversary of Wilson’s death, the professor’s widow Cate walks by the train station and is shocked to find Hachi still waiting, still hoping, still keeping vigil. In a tearful scene, Cate and Hachi wait for the next train together. The movie ends with Hachi dying and showing a reunion with Wilson in heaven, happy together again.

Hachi’s tale isn’t just heartwarming. It’s also thought-provoking. The story makes you think about the meaning of love and life, how life is so short and how wasteful it is to live without love, without friends and without loyalty. Hachiko and Ueno were together for only two years but their bond was timeless because they found the true meaning of life, love and friendship. It’s not often that humans learn from a dog but Hachiko was more than a dog. Hachiko was a reflection of love, care and concern.


vuukle comment












  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with