A statue of Hachiko, erected at the Shibuya train station in 1948.

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Hachiko and Eisaburo

The yellow-coated Akita named Hachiko was born in November 1923 in the province that is the namesake of his breed. A few months after his birth, little "Hachi" (as he came to be called) was brought to the home of Professor Eisaburo Uyeno (or Ueno) in Tokyo. The two became fast friends. Each morning, Hachiko accompanied his master to the Shibuya train station. Uyeno taught at the Imperial University, and Hachiko made it his habit to see his master off. Each evening, Hachiko returned to the train station, and when Uyeno got off the train, he found his dog awaiting his arrival, tail wagging happily at the sight of his owner and friend.

The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Uyeno didn't return on the usual train one evening. The professor had suffered a stroke at the university that day. He died and never returned to the train station where his friend was waiting.

Hachiko was given away after his master's death, but he routinely escaped, showing up again and again at his old home. After time, Hachi apparently realized that Professor Uyeno no longer lived at the house. So he went to look for his master at the train station where he had accompanied him so many times before. Each day, Hachiko waited for Uyeno to return. And each day he didn't see his friend among the commuters at the station.

The permanent fixture at the train station that was Hachiko attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachi and Professor Uyeno together each day. Realizing that Hachiko waited in vigil for his dead master, their hearts were touched. They brought Hachiko treats and food to nourish him during his wait.

News of Hachiko's remarkable loyalty eventually made its way outside of Tokyo, and he became something of an iconic figure in Japan. A statue of Hachiko forged by sculptor Ando Teru was erected at the train station in 1934, where Hachiko had been awaiting his master's return each day for nearly 10 years. During that time, he had come down with mange, fended off numerous street mongrels and contracted heartworms. Despite all of the hardships he encountered, he continued to wait.

On March 8, 1935, Hachiko laid down to die in the spot where he had spent a decade waiting each day for Uyeno to come home [source: The Tribune]. His bones were buried next to his master's grave.

Hachiko's death was mourned by his nation. As Japan entered World War II, and all metals became precious, however, sentimentality gave way to practicality. The statue of Hachiko was removed from its pedestal and melted for use as arms in April 1944.

After the war, a group of Tokyo residents commissioned Ando Takeshi, the son of the original statue's sculptor, to create a replacement. It was erected in 1948, and it sits at the train station today.

Travel writer Cheri Sicard wrote of a man she encountered at this statue at Shibuya station. "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' … With that he approached the statue, gave it a friendly pat, wiped a tear from his eye and slowly walked away" [source: Sicard].

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