A bronze image of the faithful dog Hachiko, the Hachiko Statue is the symbol of Shibuya. The tale of Hachiko, who patiently continued waiting for his deceased master, is a story that has resonated with the hearts of not only the Japanese people but also those overseas—it has even been made into a Hollywood movie. This time we’ll be introducing the tale of Hachiko as well as efforts made by those who protect his legacy.
The Tale of Hachiko
Do you know about the Hachiko Statue in Shibuya?
If you’ve visited Shibuya while traveling in Japan you may know that the Hachiko Statue is commonly used as a meet-up location. You might have wondered “Why was it built in front of Shibuya Station?” While many readers may already know the answer, let’s first revisit the tale.
In the year 1923, a single dog of the Akita breed was born in the city of Odate, Akita Prefecture, and in the following year of 1924 this dog was adopted by Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor at the agricultural department of the Tokyo Imperial University which existed at that time. Mr. Ueno named this Akita Dog “Hachi.” Mr. Ueno took very good care of Hachi, and in turn, Hachi became deeply attached to Ueno. Every morning and night, Hachi would see his master off at the nearby train station, and wait for his return.
But these joyful days were not to last, as just 1 year after Hachi was adopted by the Ueno family, Mr. Ueno suffered a stroke in the middle of a faculty meeting and died suddenly. After Mr. Ueno’s death, Hachi refused to even eat, so you can imagine just how great of a shock it was.
*A photo of the Hachiko decorating the Shibuya Ward Tourist Information Office in front of Shibuya Station.
Following Mr. Ueno’s death, Hachi was adopted by an acquaintance of Mr. Ueno and moved to Asakusa, but even after that he was frequently observed heading towards Shibuya Station. Kikusaburo Kobayashi, a neighborhood friend of the Ueno family, sensed Hachi’s attachment, and moved him from Asakusa into his own home. Despite the fact that the Kobayashi family house was located around 700-800m from the Ueno house, every night after dinner Hachi would wander around the former Ueno house, then sit in front of the ticket gate at Shibuya Station, as though he were waiting for Mr. Ueno to come back home. Hachi continued doing this all the way until he died almost 10 years later in 1935.
Hachi’s admirable deeds earned him the nickname of “Chuken Hachiko” (Faithful Dog Hachiko) and his story was picked up by newspapers. Before long, word had spread all throughout Japan. Despite Hachi’s short life, his story continues on after his death, as numerous people who felt empathy for Hachi constructed a bronze statue of him in front of the station so that his tale would never be forgotten.
Protecting the faithful Hachiko Statue, even today
Though it is sad, the tale of Hachi and Mr. Ueno’s bond has resonated with the hearts of many people, and today the Hachiko Statue is the symbol of Shibuya. Even in today’s Shibuya, there is a group of people working to protect the Hachiko Statue while transmitting the tale of Hachiko to even more people.
They go by the name “Chuken Hachiko Douzou Iji-kai” (Hachiko Statue Preservation Association). The association was formed as a group for handing down the tale of Hachiko, and since long ago the association has welcomed various companies, groups, and individuals who work to protect the Hachiko Statue. Every year on April 8th the “Memorial Service for Hachiko” is held, sponsored by the Hachiko Statue Preservation Society and attended by the mayor of Hachiko’s birthplace, Odate City in Akita Prefecture.
Aside from this, the number “8” is pronounced as “hachi” in Japanese, so on the 8th day of every month at 8:00AM the area in front of the statue is cleaned up. On the day that I joined in, plenty of foreign visitors showed up for pictures despite it being so early in the morning, which gave me a renewed feeling that Hachiko Statue is truly a spot that is famous all over the world. Also, near the statue there was a flower bouquet left by someone, which comforted my heart knowing that there are still people thinking of Hachiko today.
Umbrellas connected to the tale of Hachiko, made by an umbrella store opened in 1930
The Nakaya Shouten located in Shibuya Prefecture is one of the members of the Hachiko Statue Preservation Association, and the manager Mr. Naka is one of the people who feel a deep connection to the bond between Hachiko and Mr. Ueno.
The Nakaya Shouten is an old store that has been in business since 1930, when Hachiko was still alive. Mr. Naka, a Shibuya native who serves as the third generation owner of the Nakaya Shouten, is deeply familiar with the tale of Hachiko; when he was a child, he grew up in a neighborhood where he heard that some of his neighbors were people who had actually touched Hachiko.
Mr. Naka, seeing the crowds of foreign tourists gathering before the Hachiko Statue, felt a desire to spread Hachiko’s empathetic tale to even more people and so he began creating original Hachiko-themed umbrellas. The “Shibuya Machiken” on the umbrellas is an original character created by the Nakaya Shouten, based on Hachiko.
Photo by Ame Kondo
The store offers two types of umbrellas: plastic umbrellas and folding umbrellas, with the folding umbrellas suitable for both clear and rainy weather. In addition to these folding umbrellas which can be used for both sunny and rainy days, they also offer gift sets that include a Machiken strap and a card containing an explanation of the tale of Hachiko, which is perfect for a souvenir.
Regarding his creation of the Shibuya Machiken umbrella, Mr. Naka says that “My efforts barely compare to Hachiko, who waited for his master for 10 years, but I am happy to have the chance to hand down the story of Hachiko.” In addition to the Nakaya Shouten main store, Machiken umbrellas are also sold at the Taiseido Bookstore Shibuya at the Shibuya Stationfront scramble crossing. Shop information is as follows.
NAKAYA SHOUTEN CO .,LTD
Address:2-7-9 Hatagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo (3 minute walk from Hatagaya Station North Entrance, Rokushin-doori shopping district.)
Business Hours: 9:30 – 19:00, closed on Sundays and holidays
Japanese only, however you can also purchase from the online store “umbreLOVE.” This store contains images of the umbrellas as well.
Taiseido Book Store
Taiseido Book Store
Address:22-1 Utagawa, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, 150-0042
Business Hours: 9:30～21:00 Closed during New Year period
Come meet Hachiko, the symbol of Shibuya
With Shibuya looking toward redevelopment of numerous areas in the year 2027, the stationfront where the Hachiko Statue is located is one of the locations that will be undergoing big changes. Mr. Naka, thinking about handing down the story that he has loved since childhood to future generations, tells me that “Because the city scenery is changing, now is precisely the time when we make efforts so that Hachiko’s story remains for the future. When people come to visit Shibuya, we would love for them to see Hachiko and think about the feelings of all the people who work to protect Hachiko. We would be so glad if you would take a Machiken umbrella back home as a souvenir.”
Text and Photo by Yoojin Lee