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“Hachi” A Dog’s Tale

This heartwarming film is an American adaptation of a famous Japanese tale about a loyal Akita dog named Hachiko. This special dog, nicknamed “Hachi,” accompanies his master Parker (Richard Gere), a university professor, to the train station every morning to see him off and then returns to the station each afternoon to greet him at the end of his day. The emotionally complex nature of what unfolds when their uncomplicated routine becomes interrupted is what makes Hachi’s Tale a story for the ages; a dog’s faithful devotion to his master exposes the great power of love and how this simplest of acts can become the grandest gesture of all. Also starring Academy Award Nominee Joan Allen and Jason Alexander.

Inferno Distribution chose to finance and produce Hachiko’s story because they are interested in making films that raise consciousness and saw the universal appeal of a story of a man and his faithful dog. Producer Bill Johnson says, “When I read the script, I immediately understood the power of the message it could project on a massive amount of people - of loyalty, commitment and unconditional love.” Working on a project with such universal meaning got the cast and crew pondering their personal connections to the story and how this special dog’s example touches their own lives.

Jason Alexander feels this film will go down in history with other classic animal pictures. He says, “Animals sacrifice for love, they possess certain nobility about them that is oftentimes lacking in their human counterparts. Hachiko’s story is important because it has a profound lesson but it doesn’t bang anyone over the head. It is a quiet little story with a lot of texture and is therefore sophisticated in its simplicity. This dog doesn’t have an extraordinary life. Parker doesn’t have an extraordinary life. This man took this dog and just gave it his heart, and the dog received it andThere is no splash. There is no ‘big’ moment at all. It is just ‘I found you. I get you. And I give myself to you in a way that is real but not terribly flamboyant.’ Right now in my life, that gets me in a very profound way.”

Richard Gere wraps it up nicely saying that Hachiko’s waiting, and what it means to him, is “beyond talking about. It is something you feel very deep in the core of your heart. This sense that there is no beginning, there is no end to this love, that the yearning we feel deepest inside of ourselves is something that fills the universe, and there is something about stories like this, this one in particular, that just touches on that universality in some delicate way that should be mysterious. It shouldn’t relate to description.”

The Real Story
In 1924, Hachik was brought to Tokyo by his owner, Hidesamur Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo. During his owner’s life, Hachik saw him off from the front door and greeted him at the end of the day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Uyeno didn’t return on the usual train one evening. The professor had suffered a stroke at the university that day. He died and never returned to the train station where his friend was waiting. Hachi was given away after his master’s death, but he routinely escaped, showing up again and again at his old home. After time, Hachi apparently realized that Professor Uyeno no longer lived at the house. So he went to look for his master at the train station where he had accompanied him so many times before. Each day, Hachi waited for Uyeno to return. And each day he didn’t see his friend among the commuters at the station.

The permanent fixture at the train station that was Hachi attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachi and Professor Uyeno together each day. Realizing that Hachi waited in vigil for his dead master, their hearts were touched. They brought Hachi treats and food to nourish him during his wait. This continued for 10 years, with Hachik appearing only in the evening time, precisely when the train was due at the station. That same year, another of Ueno’s former students (who had become something of an expert on Akitas) saw the dog at the station and followed him to the Kobayashi home where he learned the history of Hachik’s life. Shortly after this meeting, the former student published a documented census of Akitas in Japan. His research found only 30 purebred Akitas remaining, including Hachik from Shibuya Station. Ueno’s former student returned frequently to visit the dog and over the years published several articles about Hachik’s remarkable loyalty.

In 1932 one of these articles, published in Tokyo’s largest newspaper, threw the dog into the national spotlight. Hachik became a national sensation. His faithfulness to his master’s memory impressed the people of Japan as a spirit of family loyalty all should strive to achieve. Teachers and parents used Hachik’s vigil as an example for children to follow. A well-known Japanese artist rendered a sculpture of the dog, and throughout the country a new awareness of the Akita breed grew.

In April 1934, a bronze statue in his likeness was erected at Shibuya Station, and Hachik himself was present at its unveiling (Hachik died on March 8, 1935). The statue was recycled for the war effort during World War II. After the war, Hachik was not forgotten. In 1948 The Society for Recreating the Hachik  Statue commissioned Takeshi Ando, son of the original artist who had since died, to make a second statue.

The new statue, which was erected in August 1948, still stands and is an extremely popular meeting spot. The station entrance near this statue is named “Hachik-guchi”, meaning “The Hachik Exit”, and is one of Shibuya Station’s five exits. A similar statue stands in Hachik’s hometown, in front of Odate Station. In 2004, a new statue of Hachik was erected on the original stone pedestal from Shibuya in front of the Akita Dog Museum in Odate. The 1987 movie Hachik Monogatari told the story of the dog’s life from his birth up until his death and imagined spiritual reunion with his master, the Professor. Considered a block-buster success, the film was the last big hit for Japanese film studio Shochiku Kinema Kenkyû-jo.

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