A northern Japanese city wants to be reunited with perhaps its most famous onetime resident.
It plans to ask a local authority in Tokyo for the loan of its statue of Hachiko, a dog from Odate in Akita Prefecture that became known as a symbol of faithfulness.
The dog was born in Odate but was later owned by a man living in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood. Although its master soon died, the dog would wait patiently for his return every evening at a railway station.
To memorialize his faithfulness, a bulbous, shiny bronze sculpture that is now a popular meeting spot was built outside JR Shibuya Station, where it has stood for 82 years.
The city, population 75,000 and shrinking, plans to ask Shibuya Ward to move the figure up there temporarily when planned redevelopment of the area west of Shibuya Station begins after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
An Odate official said the city’s mayor, Junji Fukuhara, may propose the idea to Shibuya Ward when he attends a meeting in Tokyo on Friday. The meeting is between officials involved in preserving the statue.
The artwork was erected in front of the station in April 1934 and is now one of the area’s main tourist attractions.
“We are earnestly hoping for the return of Hachiko to his home,” said Tsuyoshi Kudo, an Odate city official in charge of tourism policy. “But we acknowledge the statue is an important property of Shibuya Ward. We need to ask officials carefully.”
The city has its own statue of the dog outside JR Odate Station, and would place the two together, Kudo said, where they would be a major tourist draw.
Shibuya Ward, however, seems cool toward the idea at present. A ward official told The Japan Times on Wednesday no official discussions have begun between the two municipalities.
Shibuya Ward plans to start rebuilding the area west of Shibuya Station only after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and has not decided yet what will happen to the statue when the work takes place, said Kazuhiro Okuno, a Shibuya Ward official in charge of the area’s redevelopment.
“Either way, the Hachiko plaza itself will stay,” Okuno said. “The statue of Hachiko is an important treasure of Shibuya Ward.”
Born in Odate in 1923 and sent to Tokyo the following year, Hachiko was owned by Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor at Tokyo Imperial University, now the University of Tokyo. Ueno died in 1925, and Hachiko outlived him by a decade. It is said that the dog would sit outside the station every evening — a model of fidelity and patience.
The loyalty impressed even Hollywood, as the 2009 film “Hachi: A Dog’s tale” brought the story to the silver screen starring Richard Gere.