Hachiko: Japan’s Most Famous Dog (and His Statues)

Hachiko: Japan’s Most Famous Dog (and His Statues)

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Who's a good boy? For many in Japan, the answer is Hachiko. Learn about the dog who touched a nation's heart.

He might be Japan’s most famous dog. Hachi, popularly known as Hachiko, has been a beloved figure for decades. A statue of him is one of Tokyo’s most well-known meeting spots. But did you know there are several other homages to Hachiko? Read on to learn more about Japan’s most faithful human friend.

Hachiko: The most loyal boi

A picture of Hachiko later in life. (Source: Wikipedia)

If you’ve ever met people at Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, you’ve likely been told at some point “let’s meet near Hachiko”. The statue is the station’s most famous rendezvous point. In the sheer chaos of Shibuya, which serves two million people a day, it’s an island of discoverability amidst a sea of people. (That’s particularly true if you’re going at a horrendous time such as Halloween.)

So who was Hachiko? Hachi was a male Akita breed who belonged to Ueno Eisaburo (上野英三郎), a doctor of agriculture from Mie Prefecture who lived from 1872 to 1925. (Note: Some English sources spell his first name as “Hidesaburo”. That’s incorrect according to Japanese sources[2].)

Known as one of the top experts in his time on agriculture and public works, Ueno joined Tokyo University (then Tokyo Imperial University) in 1900. In 1924, he received the Akita-born Hachi from his previous owner, Yomase.

While Ueno was alive, Hachi would often accompany his owner to the Shibuya station, where Ueno caught the train to Tokyo University. Unfortunately, their time together wasn’t long. In 1925, Ueno Eisaburo died suddenly at the age of 53 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Hachiko the Faithful

Hachiko in Arupusu Taishou
Hachiko in the movie Arupusu Taisho. (Photo via Twitter)

Hachi went on to live a nice long life for a dog. However, he never truly adjusted to the absence of his owner.

He stayed for a while with Ueno’s wife’s relative’s store in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi. But his love of people meant he was always jumping on customers. Then he spent time in Asakusa. However, whenever he was taken on walks, he always tried to escape to Shibuya.


Eventually, Hachi returned to the Ueno home in Shibuya. He was subsequently taken in by a gardener in the area who’d known Hachi for years and was fond of him.

Old habits die hard – especially when you’re the best boi. Accustomed to waiting for his owner at Shibuya, Hachi returned to the station and waited for him there every day. An article in the Tokyo Shimbun by the head of Japan’s Dog Preservation Society in 1932 about Hachi’s faithful mission touched the hearts of readers. Hachi became known thereafter as Hachiko the Faithful (忠犬ハチ公).

A star is born…and fades

Hachiko’s life wasn’t without incident. In Japan, dogs are a symbol of a safe birth. So multiple people, who assumed Hachi was a stray, attempted to “rescue” him and treat him as their own dog. The police intervened multiple times, returning Hachi to his rightful home.

By 1934, Hachiko was a star. He even appeared in a movie, Arupusu Taisho. In the same year, Shibuya erected a statue in his honor at the same entrance where Hachiko waited for his owner every day. Hachiko himself attended the unveiling ceremony.

On March 8th, 1935, passersby found Hachi lying on the street opposite Shibuya Station, where he had silently passed away just shy of 11 years old. Residents held a public funeral for him at Shibuya Station, attended by Ueno’s widow Yae.

To this day, the gate at Shibuya Station is known as the Hachiko Gate[1].

The world’s other Hachikos

Hachiko’s story isn’t unique. A number of other countries have dogs known for their loyalty. There’s Greyfriars Bobby in Scotland, who remained by his master’s grave after his death[3]. America has Shep, the dog who waited at a Fort Benton, Montana train station for his dead master’s train to arrive[5].

This fierce loyalty towards humans has even inspired fictional accounts. Hachiko’s story no doubt reminds Futurama fans of the episode “Jurassic Bark” in which a loyal Seymour Asses (hey, it’s Fry’s dog, whatcha gonna do) waits on his master who, unbeknownst to him, has been whisked off to the future[5].

Of course, that doesn’t take anything away from the touching story of Hachiko. If his faithful devotion to his owner of just a year doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, it’s likely your heart’s composed of stone. (Mine watered up repeatedly while writing this.)

Hachiko Around Tokyo

Hachiko greeting Ueno Eisaburo eternally on the campus of Tokyo University (Todai). Picture: cowardlion / Shutterstock

You can tell how much Hachiko is beloved in Japan by the multiple homages that exist to him. While the Shibuya statue is the most well-known monument to Hachiko, it isn’t the only one.

It’s safe to say that Hachiko was not only famous in his own right but also helped to make his owner famous. There’s no better evidence of this than the Ueno and Hachiko statue erected on the Todai campus, where Ueno worked up until his untimely death. The statue was erected in 2015 on the 80th anniversary of Hachiko’s passing. It depicts Hachiko finally getting the reunion with Eisaburo that he always wanted.

Perhaps more notably, you can see Hachiko himself in the flesh. Er, um…a preserved version of the flesh, at least.

Shortly after his death, Hachiko underwent an autopsy at Tokyo Imperial University. After that, his body was entrusted to Sakamoto Kiichi, the son of the man regarded as the founder of modern taxidermy in Japan. Sakamoto and his assistant set about using Sakamoto’s father’s methods to preserve Hachiko for all eternity.

The result is an impressive example of taxidermy that seems to imbue Hachiko with a second life. Curious visitors can see him on exhibit at the Natural Museum of Nature and Science near Ueno Park in Tokyo. He’s on the second floor as part of an exhibit of dogs whose fame spread to the big screen.

Hachiko taxidermy at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Japan
Picture: cowardlion / Shutterstock

Hachiko Around Japan

Hachiko’s presence isn’t limited to Tokyo, however. As the magazine Bunshun Online recently discussed, you can find him in some more far-flung places as well[6]. One is Mie Prefecture, the birthplace of his master, Ueno. There, a large statue of Ueno and Hachiko greets visitors to Hisai Station in the city of Tsu.

You would also have been able to find a tribute to Hachiko in Odate in Akita Prefecture, where Hachiko was born, right outside of Odate Station.

Hachiko in Mie Prefecture, Tsu City
The Hachiko statue in front of Odate Station before it was moved. Picture: Vassamon Anansukkasem / Shutterstock

However, you won’t be able to find Hachiko there any longer as he’s been moved. You’ll now find him outside of the Akita Dog Visitor Center (秋田犬の里) in Odate. The Center is a tourist attraction that pays tribute to Akita’s fame as the birthplace of the Akita breed. Hachiko was moved to the Center’s entrance in 2019 as part of its grand opening[7].

Hachiko statue at Akita Inu no Sato
Picture: Kurohara / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Hachiko passed away almost 90 years ago as of this writing. But it’s clear that his memory will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of many in Japan for decades to come.

What to read next


[1] 忠犬ハチ公. Wikipedia JP

[2] 上野英三郎. Kotobank

[3] Greyfriars Bobby. Historic UK

[4] Remembering Shep, Montana’s Faithful Dog. KBZK

[5] “Jurassic Bark”. Futurama Wiki

[6] 東京から約半日…JR奥羽本線“ナゾのハチ公の駅”「大館」には何がある?Bunshun Online

[7] 秋田犬の里

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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