“Was Hachi Abused?”- Hachi Snapshot #13: The Truth Behind the Myths

Hachi waits at train station

Most people did not know why Hachi went to Shibuya Station every day. The former gardener of Professor Ueno, Kobayashi, cared for Hachi in the later years. Kobayashi registered Hachi at the local police station and made sure that Hachi wore a collar and harness with an identification tag. Nevertheless, because the loyal Akita went to the station everyday, and hung around there alone — people assumed that Hachi was a stray dog. Did Hachi Create Trouble at the Station? The truth was that Hachi was well-behaved and dignified. He never barked at people, let alone bite them.  Nevertheless, station employees considered his presence a nuisance for the passengers. They often mistreated him — kicking and even dumping water on the faithful Akita. Hachi endured getting his face painted with a mustache while children would tease and taunt. He was seen as a nuisance…an abandoned, unwanted beast. Vendors who operated in front of the station also considered Hachi an unwelcomed pest. Vendors even went so far to pour water on the Akita hoping to make him leave and not return. Moreover, some heartless people argued that Hachi went to the station simply for a handout of yakitori (chicken shish kebab) offered by a few kind vendors.  However, their argument is far from the truth. Why did Hachi Keep Returning? Despite the abuse, Hachi kept going to the station.  Why? Because Hachi missed Professor Ueno. The gardener Kobayashi’s younger brother Tomokichi, who walked Hachi most often, attests that Hachi missed the late professor dearly. Hachi was attached to the Kobayashis, but he responded to them differently from the way he used to react to Professor Ueno.   Tomokichi states, “The only two persons Hachi acted towards as if he were a puppy, wagging his tail, were Professor Ueno and his widow Yae. Hachi went to the station because missed Professor Ueno.” In each Hachiko Snapshot, you can follow Hachi’s incredible journey from sickly puppy to worldwide icon. On the 14th of each month, his birthday – right here on the blog. Author Mayumi Itoh is considered the “official biographer” of Hachiko. Mayumi is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously taught at Princeton University and Queens College, City University of New York. She currently teaches haiku writing at Princeton University. Mayumi is best known to Hachi friends for Hachiko: Solving Twenty Mysteries about the Most Famous Dog in Japan.

“Hachi Needs a Home” – Hachi Snapshot #12: The Truth Behind the Myths

Hachi waits under box car

In one instant, life suddenly shifted for Hachi. After Professor Ueno’s death, Hachi lived a life of exile for a while. Because she was not legally married to Professor Ueno and had no inheritance rights, his widow Yae had to vacate their residence. Overnight, Hachi had no home. The Search for Hachi’s Perfect Home It was difficult finding a rental house that would house the Akita. Finally, Yae brought Hachi to her relative’s house in an area called Nihonbashi in downtown Tokyo. When this accommodation did not work out, Yae tried another relative’s house in Asakusa, also located in the downtown area. But, the new situation wasn’t suitable either. Finally, Yae decided to give Hachi to Professor Ueno’s previous gardener, Kobayashi Kikusaburō.  Kobayashi didn’t make much money, but he treated Hachi with the same fine standard as the late professor. Even though it was too expensive for ordinary households to consume at that time, Kobayashi fed Hachi beef — while his own family ate fried potatoes. He diligently replaced Hachi’s expensive collar and harness (the same model the professor had used) each time they were stolen. Hachi Resumes his Wait Since Kobayashi lived in the neighborhood of Professor Ueno’s former residence, Hachi resumed his previous routine of going to Shibuya Station to wait for Professor Ueno. Knowing how much Hachi missed Ueno, Kobayashi let him go.  Following his old routine with Ueno, Hachi left the Kobayashi residence in the morning, waited at the station, and returned before noon. In the evening, he repeated his walk and returned to the station.  People reported seeing Hachi every evening at the station, carefully looking at each passenger, as if he were looking for a specific person. Hachi always came back to the Kobayashi residence at night. He kept up this routine for almost ten years until his own death in 1935.   No one could imagine it, but through his faithful loyalty, a legend was in the making… In each Hachiko Snapshot, you can follow Hachi’s incredible journey from sickly puppy to worldwide icon. On the 14th of each month, his birthday – right here on the blog. Author Mayumi Itoh is considered the “official biographer” of Hachiko. Mayumi is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously taught at Princeton University and Queens College, City University of New York. She currently teaches haiku writing at Princeton University. Mayumi is best known to Hachi friends for Hachiko: Solving Twenty Mysteries about the Most Famous Dog in Japan.

“Hachi Grieves the Professor’s Death” – Hachi Snapshot #11: The Truth Behind the Myths

Hachi walks to train station

It’s hard to believe that Hachi was only a year and a half years when Professor Ueno passed away. However short their time together, the young Akita was devastated. As was the custom during that period, the wake and funeral service was held at home, rather than at a funeral parlor.  So it was that Professor Ueno’s widow Yae and their servants were busy preparing for the memorial event. Sometime during the buzz of activity, they noticed that Hachi was nowhere to be found. After much searching, one of the servants found him alone in the outdoor shed. Professor Ueno’s bloodstained shirt, the one he had worn on the day he died, had been placed in the shed. For three days, without eating or drinking, Hachi tucked himself into the shirt. On the day of the funeral, Hachi dashed to the living room where Professor Ueno’s coffin was placed, crawled under the coffin and refused to move. To anthropomorphize his behavior and feelings, the heartbroken Akita was overwhelmed by the death of Dr. Ueno. Seeing the solitary figure of Hachi, Professor Ueno’s widow, Yae, and family members could not help shedding tears. The truth was that Hachi lived most of his life missing Professor Ueno. However their brief time together — the faithful Akita died waiting to see his beloved friend once again. Loyally. Who would believe a frail puppy would have the strength to capture the hearts of an entire nation…then the world? In each Hachiko Snapshot, you can follow Hachi’s incredible journey from sickly puppy to worldwide icon. On the 14th of each month, his birthday – right here on the blog.  Author Mayumi Itoh is considered the “official biographer” of Hachiko. Mayumi is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously taught at Princeton University and Queens College, City University of New York. She currently teaches haiku writing at Princeton University. Mayumi is best known to Hachi friends for Hachiko: Solving Twenty Mysteries about the Most Famous Dog in Japan.

“Solving Professor Ueno’s Death”- Hachiko Snapshot #10: The Truth Behind the Myths

Sad Hachi waiting at train station

For Hachi and Professor Ueno, everyday was filled with joy! The two were inseparable. In the morning, Hachi could be spotted walking Ueno to the Shibuya train station. At the end of each day, the faithful Akita eagerly returned to greet his beloved owner. They settled into a daily routine, and life was sweet. Nobody would guess that these blissful days were soon to end, until an abrupt event would transform the loyal Akita’s life forever. The day, May 21, 1925, started out as usual—Hachi watched as Professor Ueno disappeared into the train station. A day like any other. But it wasn’t. Who could predict that it would be Professor Ueno’s last day at the Imperial University of Tokyo campus…the final time that Hachi would see his friend? The popular belief is that Dr. Ueno died while he was giving a lecture or attending a faculty meeting. The truth was that neither was the case. To settle this popular misconception, the true account is that Dr. Ueno started his day by attending a faculty meeting in the morning. After the meeting, around noon, Dr. Ueno visited the office of his colleague, Kikkawa Suketeru (September 1868–February 1945). A professor of the Imperial University of Tokyo, Kikkawa became president of the Tokyo University of Agriculture in 1927. While in Professor Kikkawa’s office, in the midst of discussing the new curriculum for the College of Agriculture, Dr. Ueno suddenly collapsed. He spoke a few words, sat down on a chair, and never regained consciousness. The cause of Dr. Ueno’s death was a cerebral aneurysm infarction. He was only 53 years old. In hindsight, it was as if Dr. Ueno surrendered his own life for Hachi: Among the five Akitas he had raised, Hachi became the only Akita to live a full life beyond ten years old. From that day on, Hachi returned to the station to wait for Professor Ueno’s return. A lonely sight, Hachi’s act of loyalty impacted all those who witnessed it. Soon, the circle of influence would widen…and eventually, his story would touch the world. Who would believe a frail puppy would have the strength to capture the hearts of an entire nation…then the world? In each Hachiko Snapshot, you can follow Hachi’s incredible journey from sickly puppy to worldwide icon. On the 14th of each month, his birthday – right here on the blog.  Author Mayumi Itoh is considered the “official biographer” of Hachiko. Mayumi is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously taught at Princeton University and Queens College, City University of New York. She currently teaches haiku writing at Princeton University. Mayumi is best known to Hachi friends for Hachiko: Solving Twenty Mysteries about the Most Famous Dog in Japan.

“Hachi Begins his Daily Routine”— Hachiko Snapshot #9: The Truth Behind the Myths

Hachi greets the Professor at train station

As soon as Hachi’s health improved in July 1924, his “job” began.  Professor Ueno, an accomplished man in his own right, wore many hats. While going to the Komaba campus to teach, on foot, he also went to the Agriculture Ministry’s office and to the Agriculture Ministry’s Agriculture Experiment Station, taking a train.  There, Hachi accompanied Professor Ueno to Shibuya Station each work day and saw him off. Afterwards, Hachi went home. An Unforgettable Bond is Formed Rain or snow, Hachi faithfully returned to the station to greet his beloved companion at the end of each day. Their routine provided constant comfort and unwavering friendship to the other. At that time, in Japan, it was legal to have dogs walk free without a leash. This blissful period was the happiest time for young Hachi and Professor Ueno, and set the stage for the devastating event to come. They were inseparable. The loyal Akita was only one and one half years old in May of 1925. He would have no idea that his idyllic life was to abruptly change. Who would believe a frail puppy would have the strength to capture the hearts of an entire nation…then the world? In each Hachiko Snapshot, you can follow Hachi’s incredible journey from sickly puppy to worldwide icon. On the 14th of each month, his birthday – right here on the blog.  Author Mayumi Itoh is considered the “official biographer” of Hachiko. Mayumi is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously taught at Princeton University and Queens College, City University of New York. She currently teaches haiku writing at Princeton University. Mayumi is best known to Hachi friends for Hachiko: Solving Twenty Mysteries about the Most Famous Dog in Japan.

“Hachi’s Near Death Experience” – Hachiko Snapshot #8: The Truth Behind the Myths

Akita puppy rainy day at window

Today, the story of the loyal Akita Hachi is globally recognized through the film Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, but in reality, he almost didn’t survive his early days. Upon his arrival at Professor Ueno’s home, the puppy had serious, life-threatening issues for the first six months. Suffering from a weak digestive system along with constant diarrhea, Hachi required regular stomach medicine. For comfort, Professor Ueno also placed a thick apron on Hachi’s belly; the same one that Japanese carpenters and craftsmen wore. Hachi the Puppy Patient Besides his stomach issues, Hachi also suffered from dog roundworms. Extremely common, almost all dogs have roundworms at some point in their lives. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), symptoms can include:  Malnourishment. Roundworms live in the intestines, depriving the puppy or dog of nutrients from his food—thus symptoms of a heavy roundworm infection can include signs of malnutrition such as weakness, weight loss, and stunted growth. Potbellied appearance. When a case of roundworms is untreated, the parasites can multiply quickly in the intestines and grow to the point where the presence of numerous adult worms gives the puppy a potbellied appearance. Coughing. Roundworm larvae can migrate to the lungs and cause coughing and other respiratory symptoms, sometimes even serious conditions such as pneumonia. Vomiting or diarrhea. Roundworms can cause digestive upsets such as vomiting and diarrhea. Diarrhea can range from mild to severe. Worms vomited up or visible in stools. In his already weakened condition, the feverish puppy soon became seriously ill from dirofilariasis (heartworm). Heartworm is a potentially deadly parasite that is transmitted by mosquitos, which circulates in the bloodstream of infected animals. Heartworm spreads in a startling manner. The residue on the mosquito’s mouth carries immature worms called microfilaria (which are only about 1/100th of an inch long). These worms travel through the bloodstream, settle in the right side of the heart, and can survive for seven years each reaching a length of about 1 foot. In a year, a dog can carry hundreds of these worms (15 is the average number), and cause damage to the heart, arteries, and lungs. Professor Ueno Nurses Hachi Professor Ueno was especially particular about Hachi’s diet. He fed the weak puppy a special diet of the finest quality beef, but not before carefully removing all the fat and membranes. He separated each grain of rice (Japanese eat sticky short-grain rice) and soaked it in hot broth before offering it to the puppy. Whenever Hachi suffered diarrhea, Dr. Ueno would feed him egg yolks. To ensure that the puppy had the best diet, Dr. Ueno also fed Hachi two bottles of milk and the occasional beef liver as a source for vitamins (this was before the age of vitamin pills). Professor Ueno’s wife, Yae, upon Hachi’s death in March 1935 remembered: “Hachi was sick all the time. Ueno had raised four Akita-inu before Hachi came, but all of them died young. So he was determined to raise Hachi into adulthood and paid special attention to his health… We really tried our best to make Hachi live longer. We mixed cemen’en (dewormer) in rice porridge and gave it to Hachi twice a month. Despite this constant care, Hachi fell into critical condition several times.” Hachi’s Legacy Fulfilled Owing to the exemplary care of Professor Ueno and Yae, Hachi became the only Akita that grew to maturity among the five Akitas that they had raised. Moreover, the sickly puppy would grow up to become one of the most famous canines in history; a symbol of loyal and forever love. Who would believe a frail puppy would have the strength to capture the hearts of an entire nation…then the world? But as we know, he did. Now, thanks to Hachi historian/author Mayumi Itoh’s landmark research, we can trace every step of his miraculous story. In each Hachiko Snapshot, you can follow Hachi’s incredible journey from sickly puppy to worldwide icon. On the 14th of each month, his birthday – right here on the blog. Author Mayumi Itoh is considered the “official biographer” of Hachiko. Mayumi is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously taught at Princeton University and Queens College, City University of New York. She currently teaches haiku writing at Princeton University. Mayumi is best known to Hachi friends for Hachiko: Solving Twenty Mysteries about the Most Famous Dog in Japan. She is the author of a dozen books on politics, including Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy and Animals and the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. In addition, Mayumi has written 22 haiku collections, including Haikus for Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Scenes of Edo.

“How did Hachi get his Name?” – Hachiko Snapshot  #7: The Truth Behind the Myths

Hachi: A Dog's Tale class room scene

The Meaning behind “Hachi” To this day, there are conflicting theories on just how the beloved Akita of Japan was named. In 1934, Kishi Kazutoshi gave credit to Yae, Dr. Ueno’s wife, in “The Tale of Loyal Dog Hachi-kō.” However, Kaneko Osamu released a study of local heritages in Japan. In 2006, he wrote that Dr. Ueno named Hachi because it was a popular name for dogs in his hometown of Mie prefecture. Given these two ideas, neither view is entirely persuasive. The decisive clue came from the four Akita puppies that Dr. Ueno had raised previously. They were named Tarō, Tarō II (or Jirō, depending on the source), Gorō, and Rokurō (or Roku).  Tarō was the most common name for the first-born boy in Japan.  Jirō refers to the second-born boy. This means that Dr. Ueno used the numerical sequence in naming his Akita puppies. He skipped the numbers three and four, probably because Saburō (meaning ‘the third-born boy’) would overlap with Dr. Ueno’s name, Hidesaburō. In turn, Shirō (meaning ‘the fourth-born boy’) does not sound good as “shi’ also means “death.”  To continue in this precise sequence, it follows that the third puppy was named Gorō (meaning ‘the fifth-born boy’). Then, the fourth puppy was named Rokurō (meaning ‘the sixth-born boy’). More than just a Name Hachi was the seventh dog to be introduced into the household. It seems natural that he should have been named Shichirō (the seventh-born boy). The problem was that people in Tokyo spoke the traditional Tokyo dialect, as some Londoners in England spoke with a Cockney accent.  Many Tokyoites could not pronounce the word “shichi” (seven) articulately and pronounced it “hichi,” instead.  Because of this, Dr. Ueno might have skipped seven and named the puppy Hachirō (meaning ‘the eighth-born boy’) and called him Hachi.  The mystery resolved? In this author’s opinion, Hachi was most likely named after the number eight (hachi).  Who would believe a frail puppy would have the strength to capture the hearts of an entire nation…then the world? But as we know, he did. Now, thanks to Hachi historian/author Mayumi Itoh’s landmark research, we can trace every step of his miraculous story. In each Hachiko Snapshot, you can follow Hachi’s incredible journey from sickly puppy to worldwide icon. On the 14th of each month, his birthday – right here on the blog.  Author Mayumi Itoh is considered the “official biographer” of Hachiko. Mayumi is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously taught at Princeton University and Queens College, City University of New York. She currently teaches haiku writing at Princeton University. Mayumi is best known to Hachi friends for Hachiko: Solving Twenty Mysteries about the Most Famous Dog in Japan. She is the author of a dozen books on politics, including Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy and Animals and the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. In addition, Mayumi has written 22 haiku collections, including Haikus for Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Scenes of Edo.

“The Man Behind the Loyal Akita” – Hachiko Snapshot #6: The Truth Behind the Myths

Professor Ueno and Hachi statue

What do we know about Professor Ueno? He was a dog lover, owning sixteen dogs in his lifetime, but his connection with Hachikō was exceptional. The young, sickly Akita had a rough beginning, but it only served to strengthen their bond. Ueno is immortalized alongside the loyal Akita with a statue at the University of Tokyo. Moreover, the blockbuster 1987 Japanese film, Hachikō Monotagari, was based on their enduring friendship. Over twenty years later, in 2009, the film classic was remade into the popular Hachi: A Dog’s Tale starring Richard Gere. Yet, beyond being renown as Hachi’s devoted companion, Ueno achieved acclaim and respect on his own accomplishments. A respected scholar and authority on agricultural civil engineering in Japan, Ueno was recognized for extraordinary contributions in his field. Dr. Ueno was born on January 19, 1872, in Motomura (current Motomachi, Hisai), Mie prefecture, in the central region of Japan. He was the third son of Ueno Rokurobei. However, some literature still record the date as December 10, 1871. This was due to the lunisolar calendar that was used in Japan until the end of 1872. Destined for Achievement He was a professor of agricultural civil engineering at the College of Agriculture of the Imperial University of Tokyo. Now known as the University of Tokyo, it’s ranked as the most prestigious university in Japan. The esteemed school has produced many notable individuals including seventeen prime ministers of Japan. Eighteen alumni have received the Nobel Prize. A July 1895 graduate of the Agriculture Department, College of Agriculture of the Imperial University of Tokyo, he went on to its graduate school, and completed the doctoral program in July 1900 (ABD).  A month later in August, he was appointed as lecturer at the College of Agriculture and assistant professor in March 1902. In future years, Ueno would gain an international perspective. From March 1907 to February 1909, Ueno studied abroad in Germany and France. From there, he resided in the United States from June 1909 to April 1910. In May 1910, he was reappointed as assistant professor at the College of Agriculture of the Imperial University of Tokyo. Ueno was promoted to full professor in March 1911 by the Ministry of Education. In December 1913, Ueno was accorded a doctoral degree in agriculture. By this time, he had taught more than 3,000 students over the course of 25 years.  Kurita Reizō was a past student. He is credited with sending Hachi to the Professor on that long trip from Ōdate to Ueno Station in Tokyo. In the Shadow of Fame So, when Hachi was introduced into Dr. Ueno’s residence, the professor had already reached the pinnacle of his illustrious career. One of his last students stated, “It was beyond my wildest imagination that Hachi-kō would become more famous than Dr. Ueno himself.” Who would believe a frail puppy would have the strength to capture the hearts of an entire nation…then the world? But as we know, he did. Now, thanks to Hachi historian/author Mayumi Itoh’s landmark research, we can trace every step of his miraculous story. In each Hachiko Snapshot, you can follow Hachi’s incredible journey from sickly puppy to worldwide icon. On the 14th of each month, his birthday – right here on the blog.  Author Mayumi Itoh is considered the “official biographer” of Hachiko. Mayumi is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously taught at Princeton University and Queens College, City University of New York. She currently teaches haiku writing at Princeton University. Mayumi is best known to Hachi friends for Hachiko: Solving Twenty Mysteries about the Most Famous Dog in Japan. She is the author of a dozen books on politics, including Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy and Animals and the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. In addition, Mayumi has written 22 haiku collections, including Haikus for Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Scenes of Edo.

“Mystery behind Young Hachi’s Tokyo Arrival”- Hachiko Snapshot #5: The Truth Behind the Myths

Hachi Arrived at Shibuya Station: Fact or Fiction? It was generally believed that Hachi arrived at Shibuya Station in Tokyo from his birth home in Ōdate. Based on this, the classic Japanese movie Hachi-kō monotagari (The Tale of Hachi-kō, 1987) has a scene in which characters for Ueno Hidesaburō’s gardener and his student-apprentice pick up Hachi at Shibuya Station. But, is it accurate? The Document and the Deceit This long-held belief originates due to a receipt, dated January 10, 1924, for a small parcel (Hachi) at Shibuya Station. It records: “Received a puppy from Ōdate on January 9. Tag number 8. Please come to pick it up immediately . . . Unless this parcel is picked up by January 11, a storage fee, as set forth by regulations, will be charged.” From my previous commentaries, we know that Hachi arrived at Ueno Station on January 15, 1924. So, there is no way that Shibuya Station could have received Hachi on January 9; Hachi still lived in Ōdate with his breeder, Saitō Giichi, at that time. Fame Meets Opportunity Hachi had become famous in October 1932. At that time, few people knew the exact date of Hachi’s arrival. It might sound hard to believe, but Hachi’s arrival at Shibuya was fabricated by Shibuya Stationmaster Yoshikawa Tadaichi to capitalize on the Akita’s new found popularity.  To begin with, no such receipt of an Akita puppy at Shibuya Station actually existed. As facts later revealed, Hachi did not even arrive at Shibuya Station. Mystery of Hachi’s Arrival Solved The fact was that Dr. Ueno’s gardener, Kobayashi Kikusaburō, alone, went to Ueno Station to pick up Hachi. The distance between Shibuya Station and Ueno Station is about 7.5 miles and within walking distance (people walked a long distance back then). Moreover, Ueno Station was the terminal station of the Tōhoku Main Line. The line that Hachi was transported on. So, it made more sense to pick up Hachi at Ueno instead of Shibuya.  On January 15, 1924, after an arduous journey, Hachi arrived at Tokyo’s Ueno Station. Greeting the little Akita was Kobayashi, the professor’s gardener. The weak and exhausted puppy was finally delivered to Dr. Ueno’s residence. This was the beginning of Hachi’s celebrated life. Who would believe a frail puppy would have the strength to capture the hearts of an entire nation…then the world? But as we know, he did. Now, thanks to Hachi historian/author Mayumi Itoh’s landmark research, we can trace every step of his miraculous story. In each Hachiko Snapshot, you can follow Hachi’s incredible journey from sickly puppy to worldwide icon. On the 14th of each month, his birthday – right here on the blog.  Author Mayumi Itoh is considered the “official biographer” of Hachiko. Mayumi is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously taught at Princeton University and Queens College, City University of New York. She currently teaches haiku writing at Princeton University. Mayumi is best known to Hachi friends for Hachiko: Solving Twenty Mysteries about the Most Famous Dog in Japan. She is the author of a dozen books on politics, including Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy and Animals and the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. In addition, Mayumi has written 22 haiku collections, including Haikus for Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Scenes of Edo.

“Hachi and the Great Kantō Earthquake”- Hachiko Snapshot #4: The Truth Behind the Myths

Great Kanto Earthquake of 1823, artwork

Tragedy Greets Hachi Hachi was born in 1923, the same year that the Great Kantō Earthquake hit the Tokyo metropolitan region on September 1, 1923. This 7.9-magnitude earthquake, with the ensuring fire, caused unprecedented calamities and damage to Tokyo and the surrounding area. The tremors were followed by a 40-foot-high tsunami that swept away thousands of people. Fires consumed the wooden houses of Japan’s largest cities, Yokohama and Tokyo, turning to ash everything in their path. Before the earthquake, cosmopolitan Yokohama was flourishing with a population of half a million. The elegant Grand Hotel, a seafront Victorian villa that played host to Rudyard Kipling, W. Somerset Maugham and William Howard Taft, collapsed, crushing guests and employees. Survivor Otis Manchester Poole recalled, “Over everything had settled a thick white dust…and through the yellow fog of dust, still in the air, a copper-coloured sun shone upon this silent havoc in sickly reality.” By the time the fires died down on September 3, forty-five percent of Tokyo was destroyed. The capital of Japan lay in ruins. National Disaster Prevention Day The death toll reached 91,344 and 464,909 residential houses were either shaken down or burned in the ensuing fires touched off by the quake. Due to the severity of the earthquake, the Japanese government designated September 1 as the Day of Natural Disaster Prevention. Today, the Tokyo metropolitan government publishes a 338-page manual, Let’s Get Prepared, with valuable tips on surviving disasters. The date of 9/1 is a solemn day of remembrance for Japanese, as 9/11 is to Americans Clues to Hachi’s Past The significance of this unprecedented earthquake is that one of its aftershocks occurred on January 15, 1924, the day Hachi arrived at Ueno Station in Tokyo. People, including his breeder Saitō Giichi, did not remember exactly when Hachi was born. Even Kurita Reizō could not recall the precise date when he took Hachi from the Saitō residence to Odate Station and sent him off to Tokyo via the Japanese Government Railways (current JR). Yet, Kurita noted that there was a Great Kantō Earthquake aftershock during Hachi’s train ride to Ueno Station. The date was January 15, 1924. This momentous event determined the exact day, January 14, 1924, that Hachi left his hometown. Moreover, it provided an important clue in calculating Hachi’s real birthday, as examined in my previous commentary. The Legacy That’s why January 15, 1924, along with September 1, 1923, became meaningful dates for Hachikō fans, both in Japan and abroad. Even today, the loyal Akita’s birth year of 1923 is forever associated with the Great Kantō Earthquake A dramatic welcome for the young Hachi. Who would believe a frail puppy would have the strength to capture the hearts of an entire nation…then the world? But as we know, he did. Now, thanks to Hachi historian/author Mayumi Itoh’s landmark research, we can trace every step of his miraculous story. In each Hachiko Snapshot, you can follow Hachi’s incredible journey from sickly puppy to worldwide icon. On the 14th of each month, his birthday – right here on the blog.  Author Mayumi Itoh is considered the “official biographer” of Hachiko. Mayumi is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously taught at Princeton University and Queens College, City University of New York. She currently teaches haiku writing at Princeton University. Mayumi is best known to Hachi friends for Hachiko: Solving Twenty Mysteries about the Most Famous Dog in Japan. She is the author of a dozen books on politics, including Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy, The Japanese Culture of Mourning Whales, and Animals and the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. In addition, Mayumi has written 22 haiku collections, including Haikus for Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Scenes of Edo.