A statue of Hanako, Japan’s best-loved elephant, was unveiled Friday during a ceremony in front of Kichijoji Station in the western Tokyo suburb of Musashino.
“The statue is more lifelike than I expected and it is as if I am seeing her again,” said Masaru Sugishita, a 44-year-old resident who visited the zoo from time to time. “It is a good thing her memory will live on also in the form of a statue.”
The 1.5-meter-tall, 2.5-meter-long statue of the Asian elephant, which had resided at Inokashira Park Zoo since 1954, was funded by private donations.
Born in 1947 in Thailand, Hanako was owned by the late Thai businessman Somwang Sarasas until age 2, when he sent her to Japan at his own expense as a gift. After spending a few years at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, she was transferred to Inokashira Zoo.
Six years after Hanako came arrived there, she accidentally caused a zookeeper’s death, prompting the zoo to chain her up. Her later interaction with zookeepers was made into a book and a TV drama.
Hanako was dubbed the world’s loneliest elephant by some media reports because she was kept in captivity alone in a barren cement enclosure for many years.