Hachiko continues to wait for his master at Shibuya Station till this day
As one emerges out of the bustling Shibuya train station in Tokyo (from the Hachiko Exit or Hachiko-guchi), the first sight that greets you is a life size bronze statue of an Akita dog, stoic and gleaming under the sun, like a guardian watching over the thousands who choose to meet everyday at the square where it stands. Across the statue on the station wall, colourful motifs of a playful Akita dog bring cheer even on the most dreary day.
Akita dog motifs on the station wall
Unless you have been living in a hole, or absolutely hate animals, you would probably have heard the touching story of Hachiko who, following the sudden death of his master, Professor Hidesaburo Ueno in 1925, continued to wait faithfully at the Shibuya Station everyday at the SAME time for the next 10 years until his death in 1935. It is all the more astonishing when one realises that Hachiko had only been with Ueno for two years before his passing. This remarkable story of unwavering loyalty and friendship between man and hound has been made into several films including one by Hollywood starring Richard Gere (which I refused to watch since I KNOW it would turn me into a slobbering mess). I remembered watching the 1987 Japanese film as a child and the ending where Hachiko finally died and they showed his heavenly reunion with his master made me bawl hysterically.
This tale never fails to break my heart and bring me to tears (yes just thinking about it makes me teary) when I thought about how the dog would sit there day after day waiting fruitlessly for a beloved friend who would never return. On our very first trip to Tokyo, I insisted to Samurai T that we had to make a pilgrimage trip to Shibuya, not for shopping at Shibuya 109 (honestly that was a "by the way" thing), but to pay our respects to Hachiko. His stuffed and mounted remains are now at the National Science Museum in Ueno, which was unfortunately closed during our visit.
A rare photo of Hachiko, in his later years
Hachiko with train station staff a year before he died
I lost my beloved dog of 15 years to old age a few months ago. Till now, I could still feel his presence around me on many occasions. Sometimes I thought I could smell him, and could literally feel him in my arms. But I would prefer the dog to go before me rather than the other way around. The pain may be hard to bear, but at least as humans we understand that they are gone. Dogs, intelligent as they are, are unlikely to comprehend loss, and will feel traumatised and abandoned. I am glad though that Hachiko had friends at the train station who would feed and accompany him, but even they could not replace the master who never came home again.
See you in doggie heaven, Waggie