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Hachiko, the Akita dog, was born on November 10, 1923 and died on March 8, 1935; generations of Japanese have remembered Hachiko for his loyalty to his owner: Hidesaburo Ueno. A professor at Tokyo Imperial University, Ueno was given the dog in 1924 and named him Hachi. The 'ko' on the end of Hachi's name is a suffix showing affection. Ueno passed away about a year later. Although Hachiko was put in a new home, he would often go to Ueno's house and wait. Later Hachiko was placed with a breeder in Shibuya. Every evening Hachiko would go to Shibuya Station, sit and wait for Ueno to come out of the station. Hachiko continued this for many years after Ueno's death. Japanese began to refer to Hachiko and his faithfulness to his long deceased owner. One of Ueno's students wrote articles on Hachiko and his faithfulness. In October 1932, one of these articles appeared in Tokyo's largest newspaper, reporting on Hachiko waiting for his deceased owner; Hachiko became famous across Japan. The first Hachiko movie was produced. Teru Ando made the first sculpture of Hachiko, which was put in front of Shibuya Station in April 1934. Hachiko died in March the following year on a street in Shibuya with filarial worms in his heart and three to four yakitori sticks in his stomach. In 1944, Hachiko's statue was melted down for metal as part of the war effort. A few years after the war ended, Teru Ando's son, Takeshi Ando, made the second Hachiko sculpture. On August 15, 1948, the bronze statue was unveiled. In 1987, a second Hachiko movie appeared in Japan; the movie was a blockbuster. There have been references to Hachiko in popular culture in America since then. Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword, the 2009 animated film, refers to the legend of Hachiko. Matt Groening's Futurama has an episode titled "Jurassic Bark" that is similar to the story of Hachiko. A number of children's books in the English-speaking world have also featured Hachiko. Next month a remake of Hachiko starring Richard Gere will be released in Japan. An American release will follow in October. The film was made in Rhode Island. I believe we take to this narrative of Hachiko because Hachiko becomes the symbol of unconditional love and loyalty in a world in which both have conditions. In the real world love and loyalty depend on a laundry list of factors. We imagine thirty or fifty years ago that both love and loyalty were constant and enduring. We may say that long ago, employees were loyal and stayed in the same job or with the same team their entire lives. We may say that married people stayed together because they truly loved each other. We may have many images of how life used to be. I wish I believed that there was such a time. Although we may be experiencing a world depression right now, I believe that the world is only superficially different today. Love and loyalty are based on relationships and options and behaviors. Given our world, Hachiko becomes a hero. He is the ideal being: always faithful, loving and true. We may yearn for the people around us to shower us with such loyalty. Unfortunately the world of Hachiko is quite different from the world that most of us live in. Still I'm looking forward to seeing the movie about Hachiko because for the price of admission, I'll be able to forget the sometimes harsh realities of life and enjoy vicariously participating in Hachiko's world.
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