Japanese Akita Inu: The Story of Hachiko, the Loyal Dog

Updated on June 3, 2017

Statue of Hachiko at Shibuya Station

Brief History of the Japanese Akita Inu

Dogs are famously known for their devotion and loyalty to their owners. To describe a dog as "man's best friend" is cliché, but still well deserved. Among dogs that are known for their fierce and steadfast loyalty, Hachiko, a Japanese Akita Inu, is the most famous and known to most everyone in Japan.

Hachiko was an Akita Inu ("inu" means "dog" in Japanese), a breed of dog that originates in the Akita prefecture in northwestern Japan. Originally, Akita dogs were known as Odate dogs — Odate being the name of a specific region within Akita prefecture (now the largest city in the prefecture). Recent DNA analysis has discovered that the Akita Inu is one of fourteen breeds of ancient dogs (others include, for example, Afghan Hounds, Chow Chows and Siberian Huskies) possessing the fewest genetic deviations from wolves. With the average height of 26 inches and weight of 90 pounds, Akitas are the largest dogs in Japan and were used to hunt big game, such as elks, boars and bears. Together with other native Japanese dogs, Akitas share distinctive characteristics such as small, erect ears, short coats and curved tails. These features have been found on ancient Japanese relics, potteries, and scrolls, as well as mentioned in ancient documents.

There were a couple of times when purebred Akitas faced the danger of dying out. During the Meiji era, dogfights were popular in Japan and Akitas were commonly crossbred with Tosa fighting dogs. It was in 1917 that the mayor of Odate established the Akita Dog Preservation Society to ensure the survival of purebred Akitas. Despite being declared as natural monuments in 1931, Akitas faced a second round of near extinction when during the time of the Second World War, all dogs except for German Shepherds, were killed for meat and for fur to line military uniforms. Currently, many efforts are being made to preserve this breed.

A Photo of Hachiko

A tattered Hachiko
A tattered Hachiko

The Story of Hachiko

The story of Hachiko took place prior to WWII. Hachiko was born in 1923 in Akita and was brought to Tokyo in 1924 by his owner, Professor Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor in the Agriculture department of University of Tokyo. They lived in Shibuya, a district in Tokyo, where Hachiko would walk with his master to the train station each morning to see him off to work. Every evening, at the precise time Professor Ueno was due to return, Hachiko would go over to the station to welcome his master and return home together. This went on, day in and day out, for 1 year and 4 months, when one day Professor Ueno didn't make it back home. Professor Ueno had died from a sudden cerebral hemorrhage while in a meeting at the university. Hachiko was thereafter given away, but would manage to continually escape and went back to his master's house. After a while, Hachiko apparently realized that his master didn't live there anymore, so he would go to wait for his master at Shibuya station everyday. As months and years went by, commuters at the Shibuya station took note of Hachiko and would bring him food and drinks. Stories of Hachiko faithfully waiting for his master began circulating and one former student of Professor Ueno started publishing articles about Hachiko. In 1932, one of the articles ran in Japan's largest newspaper, which instantly threw Hachiko into the national limelight. In 1934, a bronze statue of the dog was erected at Shibuya station. The statue remains a famous landmark today, especially as a rendezvous spot. Hachiko passed away a year later in 1935 at Shibuya station, still waiting for his master's return till his very last breath. Hachiko's remains are kept at the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno, Tokyo.

We do not know for sure how Hachiko and Professor Ueno spent their time in the span of 1 year and 4 months that they were together. It is obvious, however, that a strong, unbreakable bond had developed between them that the dog would spend everyday of his life - nine years total (something like six decades in human years?) - waiting for his master to come back. Hachiko's undying devotion, love and faithfulness is absolutely heart wrenching.

In 1937, two years after the passing of Hachiko, an Akita inu was given to Helen Keller while she was touring Japan. That was the first Akita to America. Sadly, the dog (named Kamikaze-go) died shortly after, but the Minister of Foreign Affairs did arrange to present Helen Keller with another Akita, little brother to Kamikaze-go, named Kenzan-go. The Second World War broke out after that and it wasn't until the end of the war when many US servicemen took Akita dogs home with them that the Akita inu became a familiar dog breed in America.

This touching tale of Hachiko has inspired a movie to be made about his life with Professor Ueno in 1987. The Japanese film is called "Hachiko Monogatari". The Hollywood version of the movie called "Hachiko: A Dog's Story" was released in August 2009. There are also several children's books written about Hachiko. The movie and the books are especially recommended to dog lovers everywhere or for someone who wants an affirmation or reminder of the beauty of love and devotion.

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    • profile image

      Prasanna 6 weeks ago

      I have read this hachiko story but I like to read again and again

    • profile image

      Kendyl 2 months ago

      This book is 1,000% my favorite and that's not even a number.Thanks.

    • profile image

      Jenesis 2 months ago

      This article helped me a lot learning about Hachiko.

    • profile image

      derose 7 months ago

      There are six volumes o fHatchi-ko's daily activity that are kep at the railway station masters office according to other authors that were written by the employee who took care of him that are not available to the public . Wh?

    • profile image

      Blackford 3 years ago

      I know that my beloved Bo and Hachiko are enjoying Heaven together. How do I know? Because if they aren't there, it's not Heaven.

    • profile image

      Sleet 4 years ago

      I've seen the original movie and the American movie. Touching and just...heartwarming. Hachiko will never be forgotten. I heard that recently, within the last few years, a clip of him barking was found and they made a big thing of it in Japan. They played it and thousands tuned in to listen. They also go every year and leave offerings for him.

    • Samurott2001 profile image

      Samurott2001 6 years ago

      I really love this story every time i read it i cry because it is so touching

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      I love this hub and have to vote up up and away.

      Take care


    • profile image

      bobby love 6 years ago

      I brought our family a japanesse akitia and was reading up on them and came across hachiko story I've read it five or six times each time I get tears in my eyes carnt wait to get the films god bless a wounderfull dog xxxx

    • HomerMCho profile image

      HomerMCho 6 years ago

      Very entertaining hub, Anolinde. Glad to know about the story of Hachiko.Thanks.

    • quester.ltd profile image

      quester.ltd 6 years ago

      The story is known to all who love the Akita - I fell in love with this breed when I was in Japan 1965-72. We had a great beauty of an Akita but her life was way too short.

      Thank you for sharing this great story about a loyal breed.


    • Helengi profile image

      Helengi 6 years ago from London, England

      What a well written and accurate hub. Thank you - I really enjoyed reading it.

      I've heard differing opinions on whether Akitas are good with children - do you have an opinion on this that you could share with me please?

    • profile image

      Dog Training Portland 6 years ago

      I always like to read on all things dogs.

    • profile image

      Angela 6 years ago

      Nice info! Keep up the great work on posts like this.

    • profile image

      Barry 7 years ago

      A moved and meaningful film you should see in your life

    • Mrs. J. B. profile image

      Mrs. J. B. 7 years ago from Southern California

      I have always loved this story

    • profile image

      7 years ago

      i love you hachiko u will always remain in my heart and you inspire me and will always remind me that dogs are loyal compain

      I LOVE YOU HACHIKO!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Savior 7 years ago

      hachiko u will always being remember...

    • Anolinde profile image

      Anolinde 7 years ago

      Hi, Suny. No, we don't have a dog right now, but will definitely have one when our daughter is a bit bigger. I did have 5 or 6 dogs growing up, though. Our house was quite like a zoo! :P

    • suny51 profile image

      suny51 7 years ago

      Do you have a 'inu' Anolinde?I had a small puppy years before.

    • Anolinde profile image

      Anolinde 7 years ago

      Thanks, Prasetio. Best thing about it is that it's a true story! I'm a dog lover myself, so I'm personally touched by this story :)

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Nice dog story from you. I am glad to know that. Good hub.