Earlier we recounted the tale of Hachiko, the Japanese akita, revered for his fierce loyalty to his master, Professor Ueno. A Japanese Greyfriars Bobby… The children’s book, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Machiyo Kodaira, won the ASPCA Children’s Book Honor in 2004.
A joyously tearful 1987 Japanese movie, Hachiko Monogatari, followed.
Hachiko’s legend is also featured in David Wroblewski’s , first book, The Sawtelle Dogs.
Now, Hachiko: A Dog’s Tale, is being released in American theatres on December 18, 2009. It stars Richard Gere as the professor, Forest as Hachiko, and a couple of shiba inu puppies as the young Hachiko. It is set in Bristol, Rhode Island, and everyone speaks American.
According to one of the movie’s producers: “Something about this dog’s simple act of unwavering loyalty, of waiting, is so profoundly moving…People seem to identify with Hachiko. He symbolizes so many different things to different people. Hachiko represents innocence, fear, hope, joy, loss and loneliness.”
In May 1994, Japan’s Culture Broadcasting Network played a recording of Hachiko barking which had been made from a broken record repaired with laser surgery. Millions of people tuned in to listen to Hachiko barking, 59 years after his death. Each April, tens of thousands visit the dog’s statue at the Shibuya train station, during a festival in which food offerings are left at the base of the dog’s statue, in hopes that his loyal spirit will visit all humans.
Go see the movie, and take lots of Kleenex. But please don’t hit the pet shop after and buy an akita or shiba inu. As Harry Haller noted, these steppenwolves are magic theatre and not for everyone…
For more on the akita and its recovery from near-extinction during World War II, read The Man Who Saved Akitas.
Image: Hachiko, stuffed, at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo.