Hachiko - The Spirit Of Japan
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
To many he was simply a loving pet but to millions he became a symbol of Japan, the personification of those most Japanese of qualities – loyalty and fidelity.
Hachiko is probably Asia’s most famous dog, and although he came into this world nearly a century ago, he is now more famous than he’s ever been, immortalised in bronze to one side of Tokyo’s famous Shibuya Crossing, where his master, Professor Hidesaburo Ueno, a lecturer at the city’s Imperial University, first brought the loyal Akita to live in the early 1920’s.
“What’s all the fuss?” I asked my travelling companion, as we struggled to cut our way through swathes of people.
We had been on our way to Shibuya and had been confused by the number of exits emanating from the nearby underground station.
“Can I help you?” asked a Japanese man. “You speak good English,” I said, attempting to pay him a compliment. “Thanks,” came the reply, “I worked in Australia for long enough so it’s nice to blow the cobwebs off with tourists,” he grinned.
We said we were looking for the Shibuya Crossing.
“I’m going that way. Come on, I’ll walk you.” After a few minutes he deposited us in a large, busy area and pointed at the five zebra crossings that converge to make up the famous Shibuya Crossing, where pedestrians have just 11 seconds to make their way to the other side before traffic reclaims the highway in a daily tennis match that happens thousands of times a day.
But it was the crowd to our right that was more intriguing, arced, three deep round the bronze statue of a dog. Fortunately wi-fi in the area was good and I was able to unravel the story of Hachiko, the Akita dog who famously waited for his master outside the local Metro station every day, and continued to do so for nine years after his master died tragically from a heart attack whilst giving a lecture.
Reading the story of the unshakeable bond between Hachiko and Professor Ueno genuinely brought a lump to my throat.
And in a country where millions of people stay with the same company for their entire careers, it is not hard to understand why the Hachiko story has been adopted by the Japanese nation so comprehensively and become central to its culture, symbolising much of what the country stands for; integrity, loyalty, fidelity and respect.
Hachiko, whose cremated remains now lie alongside his master’s in Tokyo’s Aoyama Cemetery in the Minato district, would meet Professor Ueno at Shibuya Station every day after his commute home, a ritual that continued until May 21st, 1925, when Ueno died of a cerebral haemorrhage in the middle of one of his lectures.
From then until his death on March 8, 1935, Hachikō continued to return to Shibuya Station at exactly the same time every day to await Ueno's return. But his master never came.
As news of the dog spread and he was featured in Japan’s national newspaper, Asahi Shimbun in 1932, commuters adopted the friendly Akita, feeding him treats and food as he waited for his ghost master to arrive. For the rest of his lifetime, Hachiko was held up in Japanese culture as the perfect example of loyalty and fidelity.
He eventually died of terminal cancer on March 8, 1935 and man and pet were reunited once more in Aoyama Cemetery.
Hachikō's fur, which was preserved after his death, was stuffed and mounted and is now on permanent display at the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno, Tokyo.
Since then, his fame has grown, immortalised in books, Japanese folklore and even on film.
I posed for my photo and then began my 11 second journey over the Shibuya Crossing, humbled by the dog’s unstinting loyalty, knowing that most people would kill for a mere fraction of this dog’s amazing qualities.
Land of the Rising Sun Tour. Saga Holidays.
Prices start from £3699pp.
Flights available from both London Heathrow and Manchester with departures throughout 2019 and 2020.
Exploring high-tech Tokyo, ancient Kyoto the historic village of Shirakawago, serene temples, shrines, castles and more as you learn about the fascinating cultures and traditions of Japan.
Includes VIP door-to-door travel service from home to airport and back from anywhere on the UK mainland.
Also includes 10 nights in hotels and two in-flight with 13 meals: 10 breakfasts / and three dinners.
Return flights & transfers included; Saga tour manager; Porterage at all hotels. Optional travel insurance plus excursions and visits.
Hiroshima is an optional extra and includes a journey on the famous Bullet Train.
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Hachiko - The Spirit Of Japan, 6th May 2019, 12:25 PM