In 1924, Hachikō was brought to Tokyo by his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo. During his owner's life Hachikō saw him off from the front door and greeted him at the end of the day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return on the usual train one evening. The professor had suffered a stroke at the university that day. He died and never returned to the train station where his friend was waiting.
Hachikō was given away after his master's death, but he routinely escaped, showing up again and again at his old home. Eventually, Hachikō apparently realized that Professor Ueno no longer lived at the house. So he went to look for his master at the train station where he had accompanied him so many times before. Each day, Hachikō waited for Professor Ueno to return. And each day he did not see his friend among the commuters at the station.
The permanent fixture at the train station that was Hachikō attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachikō and Professor Ueno together each day. They brought Hachikō treats and food to nourish him during his wait.
This continued for 10 years, with Hachikō appearing only in the evening time, precisely when the train was due at the station.
That same year, another of Ueno's faithful students (who had become something of an expert on the Akita breed) saw the dog at the station and followed him to the Kobayashi home where he learned the history of Hachikō's life. Shortly after this meeting, the former student published a documented census of Akitas in Japan. His research found only 30 purebred Akitas remaining, including Hachikō from Shibuya Station.
Professor Ueno's former student returned frequently to visit the dog and over the years published several articles about Hachikō's remarkable loyalty. In 1932 one of these articles, published in Tokyo's largest newspaper, threw the dog into the national spotlight. Hachikō became a national sensation. His faithfulness to his master's memory impressed the people of Japan as a spirit of family loyalty all should strive to achieve. Teachers and parents used Hachikō's vigil as an example for children to follow. A well-known Japanese artist rendered a sculpture of the dog, and throughout the country a new awareness of the Akita breed grew.
Eventually, Hachikō's legendary faithfulness became a national symbol of loyalty.
Hachikō died on March 8, 1935. He was found on a street in Shibuya. His heart was infected with filarial worms and 3–4 yakitori sticks were found in his stomach. His stuffed and mounted remains are kept at the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno, Tokyo
In April 1934, a bronze statue in his likeness was erected at Shibuya Station, and Hachikō himself was present at its unveiling. The statue was recycled for the war effort during World War II. In 1948 The Society for Recreating the Hachikō Statue commissioned Takeshi Ando, son of the original artist who had since died, to make a second statue. The new statue, which was erected in August 1948, still stands and is an extremely popular meeting spot. The station entrance near this statue is named "Hachikō-guchi", meaning "The Hachikō Exit", and is one of Shibuya Station's five exits.
The Japan Times played a practical joke on readers by reporting that the bronze statue was stolen a little before 2AM on April 1, 2007, by "suspected metal thieves". The false story told a very detailed account of an elaborate theft by men wearing khaki workers' uniforms who secured the area with orange safety cones and obscured the theft with blue vinyl tarps. The "crime" was allegedly recorded on security cameras.
A similar statue stands in Hachikō's hometown, in front of Ōdate Station. In 2004, a new statue of Hachikō was erected on the original stone pedestal from Shibuya in front of the Akita Dog Museum in Odate.
Each year on April 8, Hachikō's devotion is honored with a solemn ceremony of remembrance at Tokyo's Shibuya railroad station. Hundreds of dog lovers often turn out to honor his memory and loyalty.
Hachikō in the media
Hachikō was the subject of the 1987 movie Hachikō Monogatari (ハチ公物語), which told the story of his life from his birth up until his death and imagined spiritual reunion with his master. Considered a blockbuster success, the film was the last big hit for Japanese film studio Shochiku Kinema Kenkyû-jo.
Hachiko: A Dog's Story, to be released in August 2009, is an American movie starring actor Richard Gere, directed by Lasse Hallström, about Hachikō and his relationship with the professor. The movie is being filmed in Rhode Island, and will also feature Joan Allen and Jason Alexander
Books / Anime
Hachikō is also the subject of a 2004 children's book named Hachikō: The True Story of a Loyal Dog, written by Pamela S. Turner and illustrated by Yan Nascimbene. Another children's book, a short novel for readers of all ages called Hachiko Waits, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Machiyo Kodaira, was published by Henry Holt & Co. in 2004. Hachiko Waits received many literary awards including:
- Winner, Dog Writer's Association of America Best Book of Fiction, 2005;
- Winner, Alabama Emphasis on Reading Children's Choice Book Award, 2005–2006;
- Third Place Winner, Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award of Illinois, 2007–2008;
- Honor Book, National Christian Schools Association Children's Crown Award, 2007–2008;
- Honor Book, ASPCA Henry Bergh Award, 2005;
- Honor Book, Kiriyama Prize, 2005;
- Finalist, Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award, 2007–2008;
- Finalist, Iowa Children's Choice Award 2007–2008.
Hachiko Waits was released in paperback by Square Fish (an imprint of MacMillan) in 2009.
Hachikō is featured prominently in the 2008 novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.The novel revolves around the extraordinary relationship between the title character, his family and the dogs they raise.
In episode 33 of Digimon Adventure, Patamon, having just left Takeru, overhears that Hachikō's statue is a popular meeting spot, and decides to wait at the statue until Takeru arrives. (The English dub does not specify the statue being of Hachikō, and instead simply refers to the area as "the park").
In the manga and anime Gals!, Kotobuki Ran is commonly shown hugging and talking to the Hachikō statue in Shibuya, where her and her friends commonly hang out.