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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Dog Gone Devotion


Travel often means leaving your pets behind, but there are places all over the world where you can indulge your passion for pooches even when your miles away from home. Start a global tour of inspiring dog stories at Tokyo's Shibuya Train Station and the statue of Hachiko is a favorite meeting spot.

TOKYO, JAPAN - Loyalty, faithfulness and unconditional love are qualities that have earned dogs the title of "man's best friend". One particular Akita dog took these qualities to such an extreme, he has earned a place in the hearts of all Japanese people, and has kept that place for over sixty years!

Nestled amid hoards of harried commuters, a variety of shops and department stores, and a giant television screen that covers half a skyscraper, a life sized bronze statue of a dog can be found at Tokyo's busy Shibuya Train Station. Despite the diminutive size of the statue in comparison to the massive neon flash of the city, it isn't difficult to find. Millions of Tokyoites have been meeting at the landmark since 1934 and continue to do so today.

Chu-ken Hachiko (lit. the faithful dog Hachiko) was born in Akita in 1923 and was first brought to Tokyo in 1924. He and his owner, Mr. Eisaburo Uyeno, were inseparable friends right from the start. Each day "Hachi" would accompany Eisaburo, a professor at the Imperial University, to the train station when he left for work. Upon returning, the professor would find the dog patiently waiting, tail wagging. This happy routine continued until one fateful day in 1925, when the professor was taken ill on the job and unfortunately died before he could return home.

Despite the fact that Hachiko was less than two years old at the time, the bond between dog and owner was strong. Hachiko continued to wait each day at Shibuya station for a friend who was never coming back. At times, he wouldn't return home for days at a stretch.

The Akita became a familiar sight to commuters as he kept his vigil for over ten years. On March 8, 1935, Hachiko finally went to meet his master. He died on the very same spot he last saw his friend alive.

Statue Erected

The people who passed the loyal dog each day were so touched by his story that they erected a statue in his honor in 1934. The famous artist Ando Teru was commissioned for the original bronzed sculpture, which was melted down during the war.

After the war, Hachiko was hardly forgotten. In 1948 The Society For Recreating The Hachiko Statue commissioned Ando Tekeshi, son of the original artist who has since passed away, to make a second statue.

Being a dog lover, the Hachiko statue has become an important pilgrimage for me each time I find myself in Tokyo. During my last visit with "Hachi," I encountered an old man who had also come to pay his respects. He told me in broken English "I knew him. I used to bring him treats. The station was much smaller then." With that he approached the statue, gave it a friendly pat, wiped a tear from his eye and slowly walked away.

Though Hachiko stood only two feet tall and weighed 92 pounds, the message he left on the importance of good friends is enormous. Hachiko's life has been portrayed in a book and motion picture (The Hachiko Story). Travelers going through Shibuya station can buy gifts and souvenirs of their favorite canine at the Hachiko Memorial Store called Shibuya No Shippo or "Tail of Shibuya." A colorful mosaic of Akitas at play covers the nearby wall of the station.

Hachiko may be gone but he will never be forgotten. The story behind the statue is one that has endured and continually warms the hearts of locals and tourists alike.TOKYO, JAPAN - Loyalty, faithfulness and unconditional love are qualities that have earned dogs the title of "man's best friend". One particular Akita dog took these qualities to such an extreme, he has earned a place in the hearts of all Japanese people, and has kept that place for over sixty years!

Nestled amid hoards of harried commuters, a variety of shops and department stores, and a giant television screen that covers half a skyscraper, a life sized bronze statue of a dog can be found at Tokyo's busy Shibuya Train Station. Despite the diminutive size of the statue in comparison to the massive neon flash of the city, it isn't difficult to find. Millions of Tokyoites have been meeting at the landmark since 1934 and continue to do so today.

Chu-ken Hachiko (lit. the faithful dog Hachiko) was born in Akita in 1923 and was first brought to Tokyo in 1924. He and his owner, Mr. Eisaburo Uyeno, were inseparable friends right from the start. Each day "Hachi" would accompany Eisaburo, a professor at the Imperial University, to the train station when he left for work. Upon returning, the professor would find the dog patiently waiting, tail wagging. This happy routine continued until one fateful day in 1925, when the professor was taken ill on the job and unfortunately died before he could return home.

Despite the fact that Hachiko was less than two years old at the time, the bond between dog and owner was strong. Hachiko continued to wait each day at Shibuya station for a friend who was never coming back. At times, he wouldn't return home for days at a stretch.

The Akita became a familiar sight to commuters as he kept his vigil for over ten years. On March 8, 1935, Hachiko finally went to meet his master. He died on the very same spot he last saw his friend alive.

Statue Erected

The people who passed the loyal dog each day were so touched by his story that they erected a statue in his honor in 1934. The famous artist Ando Teru was commissioned for the original bronzed sculpture, which was melted down during the war.

After the war, Hachiko was hardly forgotten. In 1948 The Society For Recreating The Hachiko Statue commissioned Ando Tekeshi, son of the original artist who has since passed away, to make a second statue.

Being a dog lover, the Hachiko statue has become an important pilgrimage for me each time I find myself in Tokyo. During my last visit with "Hachi," I encountered an old man who had also come to pay his respects. He told me in broken English "I knew him. I used to bring him treats. The station was much smaller then." With that he approached the statue, gave it a friendly pat, wiped a tear from his eye and slowly walked away.

Though Hachiko stood only two feet tall and weighed 92 pounds, the message he left on the importance of good friends is enormous. Hachiko's life has been portrayed in a book and motion picture (The Hachiko Story). Travelers going through Shibuya station can buy gifts and souvenirs of their favorite canine at the Hachiko Memorial Store called Shibuya No Shippo or "Tail of Shibuya." A colorful mosaic of Akitas at play covers the nearby wall of the station.

Hachiko may be gone but he will never be forgotten. The story behind the statue is one that has endured and continually warms the hearts of locals and tourists alike.

1 comment:

Yvette said...

You write very well.