Hachiko, a golden brown Akita, was born on November 10, 1923 at a farm located in Ōdate, Akita Prefecture, Japan. In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the Tokyo Imperial University, took Hachikō as a pet and brought him to live in Shibuya, Tokyo. Ueno would commute daily to work, and Hachikō would leave the house to greet him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued the daily routine until May 21, 1925, when Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, while he was giving a lecture, and died without ever returning to the train station in which Hachikō waited.
Each day, for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachikō awaited Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station.
Hachikō attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachikō and Professor Ueno together each day. Initial reactions from the people, especially from those working at the station, were not necessarily friendly. However, after the first appearance of the article about him in Asahi Shimbun on October 4, 1932, people started to bring Hachikō treats and food to nourish him during his wait.
One of Ueno’s students, Hirokichi Saito, who developed expertise on the Akita breed, saw the dog at the station and followed him to the home of Ueno’s former gardener, Kuzaboro Kobayashi, where he learned the history of Hachikō’s life. Shortly after the meeting, the former student published a documented census of Akitas in Japan. His research found only 30 purebred Akitas remaining, including Hachikō from Shibuya Station.
He returned frequently to visit Hachikō, and over the years he published several articles about the dog’s remarkable loyalty. In 1932, one of his articles, published in Asahi Shimbun, placed the dog in the national spotlight.
Hachikō became a national sensation. His faithfulness to his master’s memory impressed the people of Japan as a spirit of family loyalty to which all should strive to achieve. Teachers and parents used Hachikō’s vigil as an example for children to follow. A well-known Japanese artist rendered a sculpture of the dog, and throughout the country, a new awareness of the Akita breed grew.
Eventually, Hachikō’s legendary faithfulness became a national symbol of loyalty, particularly to the person and institution of Emperors.
Hachikō died on March 8, 1935 at the age of 11. He was found on a street in Shibuya. In March 2011, scientists finally settled the cause of death of Hachikō: the dog had both terminal cancer and a filaria infection. There were also four yakitori skewers in Hachikō’s stomach, but the skewers did not damage his stomach nor cause his death.
After his death, Hachikō’s remains were cremated and his ashes were buried in Aoyama Cemetery, Minato, Tokyo where they rest beside those of Hachikō’s beloved master, Professor Ueno. Hachikō’s fur, which was preserved after his death, was stuffed and mounted and is currently on permanent display at the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno, Tokyo.