We love you Chico… May you enjoy everlasting joy with your dear friends Layla and Forrest. 

Chico, the last of the three Akitas who together played the part of Hachi, passed away on Saturday morning, August 4, 2018. Co-stars Layla (his real sister) and Forrest are now reunited over the Rainbow Bridge. The first time I saw Chico was at Boone’s Animals for Hollywood training ranch. He had just arrived and I couldn’t wait to meet him! It was so exciting back then. I had no background in filmmaking — I was just this huge dog lover. Meeting this magnificent Akita was overwhelming to me. He was simply perfect! Hachi: A Dog’s Tale was Chico’s first acting role, yet this novice Akita illuminated the screen with his compelling and incandescent presence. He enjoyed a  healthy, happy, and active life — sharing his sweetness with friends, family, and the numerous strangers who crossed his path. To most, he was benevolently aloof. To a special few, he was outgoing and affectionate. Either way, his attention felt like a gift. Special thanks to animal trainer Mark Harden who guided Chico to his stellar performance. Their connection was deep, and Mark adopted Chico after the shoot. To summarize their deep love, I’ll share Mark’s own words: Hi Vicki, I wanted to let you know before you found out elsewhere, Chico has passed on. Your movie brought me together with this wonderful beast who became my best friend. I will always be in your debt. He had an extraordinary life and thankfully only a very brief infirmity. Mark Chico “Clapton” Harden July 31, 2005 – August 4, 2018 The three Akitas will be remembered for their moving portrayal of the true-life story of Hachiko, the loyal dog of 1930’s Japan. Through “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”, their spirits will live on and continue to capture the hearts of viewers everywhere. To commemorate Chico’s life, you can leave your love note below. After, visit our Facebook page for more tributes to Chico.

Rhode Island Welcomes Hachi

From the first moment, cast and crew were warmly welcomed in Rhode Island. During our first week, we were greeted with an official event at the state capital. Guests included House Speaker William Murphy, Senate President Joseph A. Montalbano, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, Attorney General Patrick Lynch, University of Rhode Island President Dr. Robert Carothers, legislators and local news media. It had all the pageantry one could imagine. Our star and co-producer, Richard Gere, had been in Washington, D.C. the previous day, working on behalf of one of his causes, including AIDS funding. Expecting a low-key meeting with the governor, Richard was “bowled over” by the overflowing rotunda. As I looked around from our seats in the middle of the vast space, every square foot was filled with bystanders. It was an overwhelming sight, for sure. It was nothing similar to my remote South Pacific life of the previous few years! Starting with a short ceremony, Speaker Murphy Gere with a resolution from the House of Representatives. The Speaker joked that it may be the only legislative bill that passed with unanimous consent. Richard is Honored Gere started by relating a story from when he was seventeen. Taking his father’s car, he had driven from Syracuse, New York to the Newport Folk Festival. “I got pulled over. And I just want to know if he is here today.” Gere looked at Capitol Police Chief William Habershaw and joked, “You look very familiar!” A natural with a crowd, the room roared with laughter. Mr. Montalbano, on behalf of the Senate, praised Gere for “your humanitarian efforts across the globe.” He listed Gere’s efforts on behalf of the non-profit organization, Tibet House and Survival International, which helps tribal cultures. Mr. Randy Rosenbaum, executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and Mr. Steven Feinberg, executive director of the Rhode Island Film and Television Office, spoke of how filming in the “Ocean State” boosted the state’s economy. As Richard and our director, Lasse Hallstrom, both lived in New York, the city would have been their first choice for commuting purposes — but the production costs were prohibitive. They looked at Connecticut, but it was Rhode Island’s film tax incentive program that closed the deal. The Pull of Star Power After the ceremony was completed, the entire attention of that vast room seemed to tilt towards Richard’s direction. Female and male fans rushed towards the star to get his autograph or grab a photo. Lasse and I stayed along the walls to avoid the tidal wave movement. I told Lasse that perhaps we should get out of there. He agreed. For the first time, I was able to witness a major star’s magnetic pull — first hand. The Rhode Island Hachi production was everything we could have wanted. Our film could not have been possible without the generous support we received. Moreover, we were made to feel welcomed by the many local fans who gathered wherever we filmed. Did you recognize any of the locations where we filmed in Rhode Island?

Hachiko, The Loyal Dog of Japan celebrates a birthday!

Hachi statue at Shibuya Station, sunny day

Almost a century after his birth, Hachi remains in the hearts of people all around the world. An Akita puppy was born on a farm in Odate, Japan in November 1923. Two months later, the little dog was placed in a small straw crate and put on a train through treacherous mountains to meet his new owner. Alone in foreign surroundings with an uncertain future, the small Akita was greeted by an earthquake, snowstorm, and a sandstorm. This was Hachi’s introduction to a world far beyond the farm. Arriving in a sick and weakened condition, the pup’s survival was in question. As puppy luck would have it, Professor Ueno was a passionate dog lover. Ueno nursed the puppy (now named Hachi) back to health. A student assistant kept a detailed health log to document any change. With the loving care, Hachi regained his vitality. Today, Hachi’s deep bond and loyalty to Ueno is memorialized in his bronze statue at Shibuya Station. Located adjacent to the busiest intersection in the world, Shibuya Crossing, the iconic statue is a popular meeting place for locals — “Let’s meet at Hachiko!” Tourists place the statue on their  list of “must see” destinations. When my friend brought her 10 year-old granddaughter to Japan, the only thing she wanted to see was Hachi! She sent me the picture. “On Hachi’s birthday, I think back to the first months of his life. I can imagine a plump squirming puppy playing with his four male siblings in a barn. Hachi was born on a farm in snow country, Odate, Akita prefecture, to a wealthy landlord farmer.” The World Loves Hachi Just last month, I experienced this in person. In London, I stayed at The Egerton House Hotel. Centrally located, just blocks from the world-famous Harrods department store, it boasts an in-house mascot dog — the manager’s own sweet pup. Of course, I had to meet the pup, mentioned being a huge dog lover and about “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”. It seems everyone had seen the film! Word spread fast. From that moment on, staff members would greet me to share their affection for Hachi’s story.​ The boutique hotel is super dog friendly, with a special menu, dog treats, beds and they even host canine events. They are crazy about dogs! In Porto, Portugal, our driver stopped at a park. A man was tossing a frisbie to his dog — who entertained us with rapid acrobatic moves (the dog, that is). While we watched, I discovered that our driver had recently viewed “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” and loved it. At a stop in Malaga, Spain, I noticed that our taxi driver had a cute image of a dog on his cell phone. A huge dog lover, he knew all about the film. We kept in contact, and he’s a member of our Hachi Facebook page. While in Palma de Mallorca, I had lunch in a tiny sidewalk cafe. There was a Hachi-looking dog nearby. We talked about Akitas and the Hachi film. Our young waitress overheard, and got super excited — turns out she loves Hachi, too! She rounded up the wait staff, and insisted on taking my picture with them. Finishing the holiday on a cruise ship, I met one elderly, elegant man who travels the world on ships, and brings his favorite DVD’s with him. Of course, he always packs Hachi! Happy Birthday Dear Hachi! No matter who you are or where you’re from, the story of Hachiko and his gripping, impactful loyalty endears viewers after over 90 years. To continue the party, join our Facebook community where we celebrate Hachi and our dog friends everyday!

Hachiko Souvenirs at Last!

Taking home a momento of Hachiko is something very important to me. Yet, every time I returned to Shibuya Station, finding gifts was a treasure hunt. Except for some cookies, notepads and a few other times, I was left empty-handed. On a Tokyo trip just before filming Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, I discovered some small metal statues at the National Museum of Science And Nature in Tokyo that displays Hachi’s stuffed body. It was like discovering gold, so I bought a dozen! When I returned home, I gifted these precious treasures to my friends and family. The last one is displayed prominently on my living room table so that Hachi can be with me daily! Finding Hachi Heaven In 2016, I toured Asia for three weeks and my first stop was Tokyo. I headed straight for Shibuya Station to say “hello” to my buddy Hachiko. Each time, it’s a never-ending thrill to see the crowds vying to take pictures with the loyal Akita. There’s a small archive of historic Hachi photos in the iconic green box car that’s located directly in front of his statue. Although it’s not marked as such, the “green frog” as it’s affectionately called, it acts as an information center. The staff is helpful and get lots of questions about Hachiko. After taking a few photos with Hachi, the dark sky started to pour rain, so I headed into the adjacent Tokyu department store. Wandering around until the rain stopped, I found an area solely dedicated to everything Hachiko. I hit the jack pot! Overwhelmed with cute Hachi theme items, I couldn’t tear myself away. Of course, I left with bags of Hachi gifts for all his friends back home. No more door-to-door hunt to try and find anything dog related. This is the one-stop place to shop! 2018 Update: My most recent visit was in late 2018 and the Hachi section of the Tokyu store was no longer there. I can’t understand why since: (1) Hachi items are in demand (2) The statue is right outside the front door. It took some time, but I did find some Hachi cookies in the vast food floor. The National Museum of Science And Nature in Tokyo has an expanded section of Akita items. It’s where Hachi’s stuffed remains are on display, and where I originally found those first gift items — the small metal Hachiko statues. This time, I found a few tables of gifts items. With little time to shop, I piled a bunch of adorable Hachi stuffed animals onto the check-out counter. While zipping in and out of shops the next day, I discovered lots of loot in Kinokuniya, a book store with eight stories of books, comics, stationary, magazines and other items. It’s located in the heart of Shibuya and is chock full of treasures. When I returned home, I had an entire luggage filled with gifts. Mission accomplished! Tip: just look for Akita items and not specifically Hachi items. 2020 Update: The entire Shibuya business section is being modernized and is under construction. That branch of the Tokyu store is no longer there. In addition, the iconic “green frog” box car has been relocated to Odate, the birth place of Hachiko. Hachi has left us all with such a powerful impression of loyalty and undying love. There’s nothing better than bringing some Hachi Love back home. When in Tokyo, let us know if you find any Hachi treasures! Good luck in your search…

Hachiko honored in New Jersey October 9th

Hachiko gets a New Statue Abbey Glen’s 14-acre memorial park in Lafayette, New Jersey, was selected to receive an exclusive reproduction of the life-size Hachiko and Professor Ueno statue recently unveiled at the University of Tokyo. The statue unveiling and dedication took place on October 9th. Special presenters included Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi from the Consul General of Japan in New York City, along with Yumi McDonald the author of “Reminiscence of Shibuya”. “The meaning behind this statue aligns well with Abbey Glen’s mission – to memorialize the unique and valued relationships that exist between man and animal,” said Derek Cooke, president of the family-owned Abbey Glen. Yumi was instrumental in coordinating the statue’s creation in Japan. Yumi’s mother would walk by Hachiko on her way to school. While sharing her family’s fascinating history, the author recalls the vibrant life and times in old Shibuya. Bringing Hachiko’s beloved statue to the states is a true symbol of the human-animal companion bond. Each time Hachiko is honored for his loyalty and forever love, his legacy spreads and his story lives on.

Hachiko’s Family Reunited 90 years after his Birth

After 55 years since Yaeko, Professor Ueno’s wife passed away, they are joined together in Tokyo’s Aoyama cemetery. Family descendants held a ceremony on May 19 to commemorate the event of Professor Ueno’s reunification with his wife Yaeko. Ueno’s family had initially chosen another bride for him, as was the custom during that time, but they never married. The Professor eventually met Yaeko, a tea ceremony instructor, and they set up a household in Shibuya Ward. But, due to his previous pledge, they never legally married. After Ueno’s sudden death at age 53, Yaeko was not allowed to continue living in their home due to inheritance rights. After moving several times, Professor Ueno’s former students pitched in to purchase a home for the grieving widow. Through it all, Yaeko always made sure Hachiko was well cared for. The loyal Akita’s frequent escapes to “wait” for the professor’s return, made it clear that he needed to be closer to the train station at Shibuya. To this end, Hachiko moved several times, eventually ending up with Professor Ueno’s former gardener. Hachi and Yaeko: The Truth Many believe that Yaeko had a poor relationship with Hachiko. However, 93-year-old Takeshi Ando, who created the second Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station, denied these claims. His father, Teru Ando, who produced the first statue of Hachiko, often took the dog into his studio. Hachiko was old and weak and Ando could not capture a good pose. But when Yaeko arrived to see Hachiko, the dog stood up energetically and ran straight toward Yaeko.  According to Takeshi Ando, his father made the statue from Hachiko’s appearance at that moment. “It was wonderful how joyful Hachiko was when he saw Yaeko,” Ando said. In later life, Yaeko told her family members, “I want my remains to be placed in the grave of my beloved Prof. Ueno when I die.” But sadly, her wish was not honored, and she was laid to rest in another cemetery in Tokyo. In 2013, which marked the 90th anniversary of Hachiko’s birth, Keita Matsui, the 48-year-old curator at Shibuya Folk and Literary Shirane Memorial Museum, and Professor Shiozawa, 63, of the University of Tokyo, agreed to make Yaeko’s wish come true. Shiozawa heads a study lab established by Ueno, and was president of the Japanese Society of Irrigation, Drainage and Rural Engineering which manages Ueno’s grave. After obtaining agreement from the descendants of Ueno and Yaeko’s families, they began efforts to move Yaeko’s remains. The Family Unites Shiozawa played a leading in negotiations with the Tokyo metropolitan government, which manages the cemetery. It took around two years to obtain the proper burial rights. The great-grandson of Yaeko, Masami Takahashi, 65, attended the ceremony on May 19. He said, “I was moved to think that love can transcend time. All my family members are glad.” Matsui, who has studied Hachiko’s life for many years, said that it was appropriate since Ueno and Yaeko lived together in Shibuya ward. “To Hachiko the professor was his father, and Yaeko was his mother”, he said. “By putting the names of both (Hidesaburo and Yaeko) on their grave, we can show future generations the fact that Hachiko had two keepers,” added Shiozawa. Oasis of Tranquility In the spring, the walking paths of Aoyama cemetery are lined with vibrant pink cherry blossoms and the expansive grounds are a popular place to walk. The foreigners’ cemetery section is fascinating. One can see the history of expats, from around the world, who lived in Japan many years ago. Hachiko’s memorial is also located in the small family enclosure. It contains a shrine, a small Akita statue, flower vases, incense sticks and various offerings. Every time I visit, the tokens vary. The last time, I saw many foreign coins. In respect, I left a coin as my offering as so many have done through the years. It was a teary moment thinking of all the people who continue to love and honor Hachiko. Hachiko’s family loved him and each other dearly, that much is clear. While they’re no longer with us, their story lives on…