“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 at Shibuya Station with stationmaster Yoshikawa Tadaichi and Yaeko, wife of Professor Ieno

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.