Perhaps what made Akita dogs so famous to the world is a tragic story of one Akita dog named Hachi. The story is often called Chuken Hachiko Monogatari(忠犬ハチ公物語), “A faithful dog Hachi” and is known as the true story of friendship between a dog and his master.
The story takes place in Tokyo in 1920s to 30s. Professor Ueno, who works at Tokyo Imperial University, long wanted an Akita puppy. One day, Ueno’s former student offered one and sent the puppy from Akita prefecture to Tokyo. After 20 hours of journey on freight train, the puppy was very weak when he arrived at Ueno’s house. The professor took a great care of the puppy, naming him Hachi, which means No.8, a lucky number in Japanese culture. At first, Ueno’s wife opposed the idea of keeping Hachi, saying she cannot forget her former pet which died a few years before. Seeing how close they were becoming to each other, however, she eventually agreed to raise Hachi with her husband. Professor Ueno loved his new puppy so much that he ate, slept and bathed with him, which made his wife feel like she is competing for her husband’s love with Hachi.Hachi grew up to be a large, fine-looking Akita dog. His daily routine was going to the train station with professor Ueno every morning to send him to work then return home, and going to the same station in the afternoon in order to greet his master when he comes back from work. They continued this routine for about a year. One day, as professor Ueno gets ready for work as usual, Hachi started barking at him and tried not to let him go by biting Ueno’s clothes. Ueno was surprised to see Hachi acting not normal and wondered why, but rushed to the train station so that he won’t be late. Later on that day, professor Ueno suffered a sudden heart attack and dies while teaching the course at the university: he never appeared at the train station where Hachi waited for him. Ueno’s wife decided to sell their house and live with her daughter’s family, so Hachi was given to Mr. Kobayashi, Ueno’s friend who helped raising Hachi when he was a little puppy. Although the new master took a good care of Hachi, he kept running away. When Kobayashi chased Hachi running away from his house, he discovered that Hachi was heading to the train station, where he used to greet professor Ueno. Japanese media reported this story as a symbol of loyalty and strong friendship between a man and a dog. Hachi captured a large attention from people in Japan, and received warm hospitality from people at the station while he waits for his master.
Hachi had continued waiting for his master at the train station for more than nine years until he died of cancer and infection. He was found dead on the street near the station, covered with snow. The train station held a large funeral for Hachi after he was found dead. The train station received 200 flowers, 180 letters and telegrams and a lot of condolence money for Hachi. 16 priests was gathered to chant a sutra, and many citizens visited station to say goodbye to the dog. Hachi’s body was buried next to professor Ueno’s grave, in the people’s hope that they can meet again.
The movie based on this story of Hachi was published in 1987 in Japan. The plot largely followed the true story, and became increasingly famous in Japan. Also in 2009, an American movie titled “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” was published based on the same story. In this movie, the famous actor Richard Gere plays the character of Ueno. Both of the movie were popular among all generations, indicating the universal affection towards Akita dog’s unconditional loyalty and affection for his master.
Today, a statue of Hachi stands in Shibuya, Tokyo, where he used to wait for his master. The statue shows Hachi waiting alone, showing Hachi’s loyalty and patience. On March 8, 2015, the memorable 80th anniversary after Hachi’s death, University of Tokyo (then called Tokyo Imperial University) created a bronze statue of Ueno and Hachi reuniting after 80 years. The new statue shows Hachi happily jumping onto his owner with joy.
Strong loyalty and affection toward owners is typical characteristic of Akita dog breed. Their pure faithfulness will keep attracting people from both inside and outside the country.