“Hachiko Breeder Saitō Giichi”- Hachiko Snapshot #3: The Truth Behind the Myths

Hachi statue in Shibuya in fall

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. Follow Hachi’s journey on the 14th of each month – right here on the blog


Hachi was born in the farmhouse barn of Saitō Giichi (1873–1928), the head of the Saitō clan in Ōdate, Akita prefecture, in the northeastern region of Japan. The actual residence address of Saitō was Ōshinai, Niida-mura, Kita-Akita-gun, Akita prefecture. Its current address is 61 Mitsunashi, Ōshinai, Ōdate, Akita prefecture.

Saitō was the owner of Hachi’s birthmother, Goma-gō, and Hachi’s birthfather, Ōshinai-yama-gō. It’s notable that Saitō was the maternal grandfather of former United Nations Under-Secretary-General Akashi Yasushi (b. 1931), the first and the only Japanese to have held that position. (Akashi graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tokyo in 1954, studied as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Virginia, and later at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.)

Akashi recalls that many chickens and dogs were running around in his grandfather’s house, coming and going on the wide dirt foyer (doma). Akashi Yasushi was related to Akashi Bunji (1885–1938), the owner of Ichimonji-gō, the father of Ōshinai-yama-gō, and accordingly, the grandfather of Hachi.

I had the privilege of meeting Akashi Yasushi at the United Nations Headquarters in the summer of 1982. He owned an Akita-inu called Lord Lucky Alexander. He stated that when he was walking him on the streets of Manhattan, passers-by marveled at the magnificent dog.

Little did I know then that Akashi’s maternal grandfather was the breeder of Hachi!

Reviewing Hachi’s roots makes me re-realize just how rare and remarkable an Akita-inu Hachi was. He was born at a time when native Japanese dogs were on the verge of extinction in favor of imported Western breeds.

At that time, there were few genuine Akita-inu left in Ōdate, let alone in Tokyo. As a corollary, this indicates that Saitō Giichi was a capable and superb breeder of Akita-inu.

The rest is Hachi history.

(To honor Hachiko’s birthday on November 14, Mayumi Itoh shares fascinating snapshots on his life every 14th of the month.)


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, Spring and Asura, Song of Circling The Stars, and The Narrow Road to The Deep North: Bashō’s Haikus and Haikus Inspired by Them.

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Anastasia Ormeron
Anastasia Ormeron
2 days ago

Many thanks to Hachi’s dedicated and expert researcher, Mayumi Itoh, for another fascinating ‘snapshot’ in this fascinating new series.
The extra information regarding United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Yasushi Akashi – grandson of Hachi’s breeder, is particularly precious.

Vicki
Vicki
2 days ago

So now we know that Hachi’s breeder was the ancestor of a prominent and celebrated individual. This bit of Hachi history confirms the “twists and turns” of his fascinating, rich story!

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