Most of us know Chuken Hachiko as the loyal Akita dog who waited for his master in front of Tokyo’s Shibuya Station every day for over nine years, not knowing he would not be coming home due to sudden death from a cerebral hemorrhage.

Hachiko and master Hidesaburo Ueno’s story has been shared and preserved through memorial statues and movies, but recently a rare photograph of Hachiko showing him relaxed and lying on his stomach in front of the ticket gate was discovered. Drastically different from memorial photos that have hitherto been taken of him, this picture captures him in a completely natural setting where he blends in at the station, commuters taking little notice of his presence.


The photo was taken by the late Isamu Yamamoto around the year 1934 when the first statue of Hachiko was erected in front of Shibuya Station. This first statue was later destroyed before the end of World War Two, when it was ordered to be melted due to the scarcity of metal during that time.

Years later, the picture was found by Yamamoto’s family and passed on to Takeshi Ando, the sculptor who created the second statue in front of the station, which still stands today.

“Hachiko blended in with the area around the station [in the photo] and this is just what I saw at that time,” Ando said. “I have never looked at such a photo that caught the atmosphere of Hachiko’s everyday life at that time so well.”


Yamamoto’s eldest daughter Yoko Imamura, who is now 89-years-old, has said her father had enjoyed taking pictures, and hopes that this remarkable photo will be preserved carefully through many years to come.

Currently there are two statues of Hachiko — one of him waiting for Ueno, and another where they are happily reunited. But this rare photograph has allowed us into the never-before-seen daily life of Hachiko, and shines a different light into the touching story that continues to live on to this day.


Source: The University of Tokyo Foundation

By - grape Japan editorial staff.