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Japan’s ever-faithful dog turns 100

TOKYO (AFP) In the hurly-burly outside one of Tokyo’s main train stations stands a statue of a dog whose true story of loyalty has made him a beloved mascot for generations.

Hachiko, whose birth centenary is this week, belonged to university professor Hidesaburo Ueno. The faithful hound would wait at Shibuya station for his master to come home every day.

Ueno died unexpectedly in 1925, but Hachiko continued to come to the train station to wait forlornly for Ueno for nearly 10 years until passing away in March 1935.

People pose for photos next to the statue of “Hachiko” in front of Shibuya station in central Tokyo on November 6, 2023, ahead of the 100th anniversary of the legendary dog’s birth this month. PHOTO: AFP

The story, similar to that of “Greyfriars Bobby” in 19th-century Scotland, touched the hearts of many locals, who pitched in money to build its statue in 1934, shortly before the dog’s death.

In World War II, the statue was melted down for the metal, but a new one was installed in 1948 and became a popular meeting spot.

Today, locals and foreigners alike queue up to snap photos with the statue of the Japanese Akita dog, a popular breed with its own museum in Hachiko’s birthplace of Odate.

“I would like my dog to be waiting for me as long a time as he did,” Spanish honeymooner Omar Sanchez, 33, said as he snapped selfies with his wife and the statue.

“The story is sweet. And we need nice stories,” said US businessman Daniel Callahan, 62. “The world is fractured… Anything that can bring people together is nice.”

Hachiko’s legend inspired a 2009 Hollywood movie starring Richard Gere as well as an Indian film in 2015, while also featuring in a Japanese video game.

Not all Tokyoites know the story though.

Raisa Abe, a 20-year-old college student, standing next to the statue to wait for her friend, said she didn’t know why it attracts so many tourists.

“This is the first time I heard the story,” she said.

“This is a spot that you hear about all the time, even if you don’t know Shibuya,” Abe said. “Everybody knows where this is. I hope this will remain here.”

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