The Dog at Shibuya Station

The Dog at Shibuya Station

There are many stories out there about the faithfulness of dogs. You might have heard one or two of these; maybe you are familiar with the tale of Old Shep, the border collie who followed his beloved owner’s coffin to the train station, and, barred from boarding the train, waited for six years him to return; or of Buddy the black labrador, who braved the sub zero temperatures of mid-winter Alaska to fetch help for his dying master.

It’s less likely you will have heard of the tale of Delta, a dog from Pompeii in 79AD who was found lying in a protective stance across the body of her child owner, preserved forever after the famous eruption. The silver collar around Delta’s neck had survived intact. On it was written the name of her young master, Severinus, and that she had previously saved his life three times; from drowning, from robbers and from a wolf.

The tale I’m most familiar with is that of Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was a Skye terrier who belonged to John Gray, a man who lived in the Scottish city of Edinburgh. When Gray died Bobby remained at his side, spending the rest of his life – fourteen years – lying on his master’s grave in the Greyfriars churchyard. When he died he was buried just inside the gate of the churchyard, with a gravestone marked; “Greyfriars Bobby – died 14th January 1872 – aged 16 years – Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”

It may come as no surprise to learn that Japan has its own canine hero. Hachikō [ハチ公] the Japanese Akita was born in 1923 on a farm near the city of Ōdate in Akita Prefecture, named hachi, which means ‘eight’ (eighth of a litter), and which means ‘prince’.

Hachikō belonged to Hidesaburō Ueno [上野 英三郎], a professor of Agriculture at Tokyo University who became renowned in the field of architectural engineering. Ueno took Hachikō in as a pet in 1924. Hachikō made a very faithful pet; every morning, he would accompany Ueno to the Shibuya train station in Tokyo; and every evening, Hachikō would be waiting on the platform to accompany him home.

Sadly, a year later in 1925 Ueno boarded a morning train, never to come back. He had passed away after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while giving a lecture at Tokyo University. Hachikō was given away, but never settled down. He returned to his master’s old house, and finding someone else living there, returned to Shibuya station to await his return.

Every day Hachikō would be found on the platform, patiently waiting for his master’s train. Effectively abandoned, he became a permanent fixture at Shibuya station. Many of the commuters had seen Professor Ueno and Hachikō together, and soon the sad story of Ueno’s death and Hachikō’s continuing vigil became somewhat of a legend. Many people made the journey to Shibuya to feed Hachikō and pat his head for good luck.

For nine years, Hachikō would wait for his master, each day appearing at the exact time the train drew into the station. However, on 8th March 1935, Hachikō was found dead on a street in Shibuya; his wait for his master finally over. A statue was erected to his memory near to one of the exits of Shibuya station, which became known as Hachikō-guchi [ハチ公口], or ‘Hachikō’s exit’.

Hachikō’s story spread fast. In the 1930s there were only 30 pure-bred Akitas in Japan; thanks to Hachikō awareness of the breed grew and they became a national treasure. In 1994, an old recording was found of Hachikō barking on an old record which had been broken into several pieces. 59 years after Hachikō’s death, millions of listeners from across Japan tuned in to CBN radio that May to listen to the recording. On 8th April dog lovers from all over the country still meet at Shibuya station to honour the faithful dog’s memory.

Thanks to his unswerving faithfulness to his master, Hachikō became a national symbol of loyalty.

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