20 February 2014




      I have spent the last couple of days thinking quite a bit about my childhood dog. I believe that growing up with a pet helps you learn about trust, love, and loyalty. Many people develop intense bonds with their pets that could rival any human friendship. With this in mind, I decided to feature a world famous dog rather than a historical person! 

My dog, Sheena. (1994-2006) Courtesy of Jaime Clifton-Ross

      His name was Hachiko. He was born 1923 in Ōdate, in the Akita Prefecture of Japan. He is a beloved Japanese icon as he is revered for his undying loyalty to his owner. He was of the popular Akita breed that originated in the mountainous regions of Japan, that are known for their independent yet loving nature towards family. Dr. Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor and agricultural scientist at the University of Japan, adopted Hachiko as a puppy in early 1924. Everyday, Hachiko would dutifully accompany his human to and from the Shibuya train station in Tokyo. This tradition continued for over year. One fateful day however, Dr. Ueno suffered a brain hemorrhage during his return home and sadly passed away. Unbeknownst to Hackiko, he waited for his master that evening, and for every evening for over nine years.  


      Early on, travellers and workers who frequented the station were not welcoming of Hachiko. When they began to realize who he was waiting for and noticed how often he frequented the station, they slowly began to love him. Eventually Hachiko became a staple and a symbol of the Shibuya train station. His unique story spread across Japan and he became the star of many news stories. In 1934, a bronze statue was erected in his honour and placed in front of the train station. While the original was melted down during the Second World War, another statue was erected in 1948. The surface of his sculpture is noticeably worn, as people lovingly pet it in passing. Sadly, he passed away (click here for a detailed account) in 1935 however his body was preserved and eventually taxidermied. He is displayed in the National Museum of Science in Ueno, Japan. 

Newspaper clipping of his world-famous story.
Hatchiko at the National Museum of Science

      During a turbulent period in world history, it is no surprise that a pure and loyal being, such as Hachiko, would become an iconic figure. Perhaps he inspired people through his selflessness and faithful character. Or maybe his simple acts of unconditional love and loyalty gave comfort to his community. While I have not located any concrete sources that consider his social impact, I can only assume that his existence is evocative of family fidelity and honour. For these reasons, he made a tremendous impact on Japan. So much so, that every year on April 8th, he is honoured in a ceremony at the Shibuya train station. People pray for his soul and hope he has found love and content in the afterlife. He even has a monument located next to Dr. Ueno’s grave. I can’t help but wonder what makes a seemingly modest figure so powerful and iconic. Can you think of other animals that are highly revered in other countries? Please share their stories in the comments! Also, please share pictures of your pets!

Read more about Hachiko here and here.

Hachiko's 89th Birthday Google Doodle


  1. This is such a great story and a story that could easily go unnoticed. Animals have a such a grand role in the cultural history of most cultures so it is refreshing to read about this specific dog and his story. Now, I do hope that my cat does not read this, because she will demand her own monument :)

  2. Haha! I'm glad you enjoyed this story! I agree with you entirely Irina. Animals have a very important presence in society and are not talked about enough. :-)

  3. I love your point about how Hachiko is so loved because he is considered a pure, loyal being by those who know his story. Isn't that why we all love our pets (especially dogs)? They love us unconditionally and are there for us in ways that humans cannot match. These unique types of relationships humans share with animals make for some very interesting interpretations and representations of them in other aspects of life, like art. Animals are a part of our everyday lives, whether we have a pet or not, animals and humans always coexist. As such, I think this is certainly a subject/theme that deserves exploration by artists, sociologists, biologists, etc. in order to inspire us to think about the ways in which we interact (often very closely!) with the other creatures on this planet and how these interactions shape us as human beings.
    Great post!