If it hadn’t been for Facebook and my involvement with animal issues, I may never have come across the whole story of Hachiko, an Akita dog of which the 2009 movie is based on.
First let me share a bit about the story of Hachiko itself. Back in 1924, a Professor named Hidesaburo Ueno taught at the University of Tokyo. It was in that year, he took in an Akita dog and named him Hachiko. The dog was completely loyal to Professor Ueno, so much so, that a routine seemingly began where the dog would patiently wait every single day at the Shibuya Train Station, waiting for his master to come home from the University. But then one day in May of 1925, the Professor didn’t. He had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage and passed on.
The story doesn’t end there however. From 1925 up until 1935, Hachiko continued his patient wait at the train station for his master to come home. The story of Hachiko’s loyalty toward his master didn’t go unnoticed, and the story started to circulate and made public. Even before his passing, a statue of Hachiko was erected in his honor at the Shibuya Train Station in 1934. A year later on March 8, 1935 Hachiko passed away and a ceremonial funeral was held at the station.
Now for the movie version.
In the 2009 movie, the story is “Americanized” with Richard Gere playing the role of Professor Parker Wilson, who one night, when coming home from the University that he teaches, finds an abandoned Akita puppy roaming the train station. The dog almost immediately seems attracted to the Professor and of course, Professor Parker feels sympathy for this lost, abandoned puppy. At first he tries everything possible to find a home for the puppy, especially since he knows his wife Cate (played by Joan Allen) wouldn’t be too keen on the idea of having a pet in the home. For a good part of the beginning of the movie, you might say it’s a sheer battle between the Professor and his wife in keeping the puppy. Well, as you can guess, the puppy does stay and is named Hachi.
A close bond occurs between the Professor and Hachi, and true to the original story, Hachi develops a routine where he goes to the train station and patiently waits for the professor to come home every night, and like the original story, as you can guess, one day the Professor suffers a cerebral hemorrhage and passes on. Also true to the original story, Hachi waits, and waits, and waits for ten years at the train station for his master to come home.
I’m not going to kid you, while watching this movie, one definitely needs a box of tissues nearby. I think what gets a person the most is the demonstration of loyalty and devotion that this dog exhibits to his master. I’m not going to spoil things by giving the entire plot away but the ending of the movie is truly bittersweet, and yes, tissue time again.
For the record however, this demonstration of the loyalty of a dog to his master, even after death is by no means the first recorded incident. There is also the true story of Greyfriar’s Bobby, which was made “famous” by the 1961 Disney movie of the same name, and was one of my favorite childhood movies that I had watched. In this case, the story takes place in 1865 in Edinburgh, Scotland and of a Skye Terrier owned by a shepherd who passed on, and after his master’s death, Bobby keeps a vigil watch and slept on the grave of his master in the Greyfriar’s churchyard. Like Hachiko, there is also a statue in Bobby’s honor in Edinburgh, Scotland More recently is the story of Huachi, a dog of mixed breed in Bolivia and had been owned by a student who tragically died in an accident. In similar fashion to Bobby and Hachiko, Huachi waits for his master to return.
The movie Hachi is definitely one of those must see movies, particularly if one is an animal lover. The movie and the original story that it is based on clearly demonstrates that animals do indeed show feelings, emotions, joy, pain, depression and grief, and as the former movie critics, Siskel and Ebert would have said, I give this movie two thumbs up. Just remember those tissues!
For a little more background of the true story of Hachiko one can read all about it here:
There are also a good number of books that have been written about Hachiko and if you’re interested they can be purchased over at Amazon.com
1). Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog by Pamela S. Turner
2). Hachiko Waits by Lesléa Newman and Machiyo Kodaira
3). Hachiko: The True Story of The Royal Dogs of Japan and One Faithful Akita by Julie Chrystyn
4). Hach-Ko: The Samurai Dog by Shizuko O. Koster
5). Hachi: The Truth of The Life and Legen of the Most Famous Dog in Japan by Mayumi Itoh
The official Greyfriar’s Bobby website:
Story of Huachi of Bolivia: