A girl’s devotion to Hachiko has become part of Japan’s long adoration of the loyal dog.
At age 10, Stephanie watched Hachi: A Dog’s Tale and was moved by the Akita’s plight. In response, she began writing a series of personal notebooks about the faithful Akita.
Stephanie, now 15 and a resident of Bergano in northern Italy, is devoted to keeping the memory of Hachiko’s inspiring story alive.
Through online research, she discovered that Kazuto Ueno, 77, a grandson of professor Hidesabuto Ueno lived in Tsu, Mie Prefecture. Stephanie sent messages to the government’s Multicultural Affairs Division seeking to connect with the professor’s grandson.
The letters were translated to Japanese and forwarded to Ueno. Soon after, Ueno and Stephanie began a friendship by email.
A Personal Letter to Hachiko
On March 8, the 80th anniversary of Hachiko’s passing, a statue featuring Hachiko and his owner Hidesaburo Ueno was unveiled at the University of Tokyo.
After the ceremony, Ueno’s grandson placed a letter with words from Stephanie’s notebooks:
“Dear Hachi, Eighty years have gone by since you were called to heaven to be with your beloved master, but I am sure you are still close to us.”
Ueno was so touched by the young fan’s devotion that he placed similar letters at the Hachiko and Ueno statue in Tsu, as well as the bronze Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station.
“I have read so many things about how special you are: strong and dignified, pure and gentle, peacemaker among dogs. With lots of love,” wrote Stephanie in one of her notebook passages.
Another devoted fan is Stephanie’s mother, Anastasia, who reveals how it all came to be.
“My daughter and I continue to love him as much as ever and when it came to choosing a subject for her end of school mini-thesis, Stephanie had no doubts at all, it had to be her furry best friend! We managed to contact Dr. Ueno’s descendent in Japan and he wrote us some lovely letters.
One day a journalist from the Asahi Shimbun went to interview him for an article before the 80th memorial anniversary and Mr. Ueno told him all about Stephanie and her love for Hachiko.
We were then contacted by this journalist, who wanted to write an article about it all and was kind enough to take a symbolic little letter from Stephanie “to Hachi”, and this was placed on the New Statue by Mr. Ueno on the day of the ceremony. He then sent us a photograph of that moment and Stephanie almost cried with happiness!!
It is indeed a strange story, and Stephanie is convinced that it is Hachi who is working his magic after so many years as indeed we have met some amazing people through all this and have been impressed by the kindness of Japanese people.”
Stephanie and her mother hope to one day visit Japan together, and personally say “Hi” to Hachi!
As Ueno wrote to Stephanie, “Hachi kept waiting for his owner, so he must be waiting for you forever.”
2018 Update from Stephanie’s mother:
“Stephanie was at high school and wrote to Mr. Ueno as she was writing a thesis on Hachi and his legacy. Almost ten years have gone by since then but it seems like yesterday!
Most people imagine Stephanie to be younger than she is. A long time passed between her original letter to the Mie Government Office and the arrival of Kazuto Ueno’s letter before the unveiling of the new statue. I think it was the reporter, who found out about Stephanie during an interview with him prior to this event, that convinced him to be a part in this story…in any case it was a wonderful experience.
Stephanie is now married and works for an airline company in Milan, but Hachi still remains firmly in her heart! She travels abroad regularly attending courses aimed at improving customer service techniques.”
When I received Stephanie’s gorgeous wedding photo, I could hardly believe it! In my mind, she was still that young girl who was crazy about Hachi! Anastasia and her daughter Stephanie are loyal Hachi friends. We’ve corresponded for years — sending updates on Hachi happenings around the world. In contribution to Hachi’s legacy, Anastasia created the popular Facebook page called Hachi & Friends.