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

Hachi statue in Shibuya in fall

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. 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, she traces 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 – 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’s Real Birthday”- Hachiko Snapshot #2: The Truth Behind the Myths

Puppy Hachi meets Professor Parker

There is much speculation as to Hachi’s actual day of birth. There is no record of an authentic birth certificate for Hachi, so his precise birthday is unknown. However, the best clue to determine his actual birthdate is the day he left his birthplace at Ōdate to meet his new owner, Professor Ueno. It has been established as fact that Hachiko left Ōdate on January 14, 1924. His breeder Saitō Giichi would send off his Akita puppies when they became two months of age. If puppies were younger than that, they would be too weak to withstand a long trip (there was no air shipment at that time).  In turn, if puppies were older than two months, it would be difficult for them to establish a bond with a new owner. Akita puppies specifically are known for the need for early bonding.  In considering these two age-related factors, my conclusion is that Saitō Giichi must have sent his Akita puppies off as soon as they became two months old. His wisdom matches well with the concern of veterinarians today that many breeders sell puppies prematurely before the age of two months. Providing proper care and treatment is necessary at this critical stage of their growth. The train from Ōdate Station to Ueno Station ran every day. So, it was possible that Saitō Giichi could send a puppy off precisely when it became two months old. All things considered, it’s most accurate to conclude that Hachi was born approximately on November 14, 1923. 🥳 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, she traces 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 – 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. 

Do you love your (Hachi) dog more than humans?

I take lots of photos on my travels like most of us. Except, the majority of my holiday pictures are of the local dogs! When I walk down a street I’m often not looking at the people, but dogs. If you find yourself thinking that you care more about your dog than you do about humans… you are not alone.
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A series of experiments by philosophers and psychologists have shown some people, in some situations, care more about dogs than humans!
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Is this as shocking as it might seem at first? Click the link below to read the full article and find out how many people would choose to save their dog over a stranger in a life-threatening situation.
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Question of the day: Do you sometimes feel more sympathy for dogs than for humans? What about all the wonderful qualities dogs have? Let me know in the comments!

Living the Good (Hachi) Life – How Hachi’s Dog Tale Can Inspire Us All to Live Adventurously and in the Moment

My childhood is filled with memories of adventure – running through fields to catch mice, making friends with chameleons, hauling my little red wagon door-to-door to sell flower seeds to neighbors.
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Since I was little, I’ve been called to chase adventure. Rather than playing with dolls, I preferred to arm wrestle the boys. I craved action and wasn’t afraid to test the limits.
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True happiness is found in lovely moments, and you can experience those wherever you are. What is a memory that you have where you felt true happiness? Read the article and let me know in the comments!

Why Richard Gere decided to do family film “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”

USA Today by Cindy Clark, 9/25/10– In this Richard Gere dog film, he stars as Professor Parker Wilson in Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (Sunday, 9 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark), which is based on a true Japanese story of canine loyalty. It also marks the first family-friendly film for the 61-year-old actor. “My agent sent me the script…I don’t normally do G-rated movies, but I read the script and I was incredibly moved by it,” he says. “I have been going to Japan since I was in my 20s. I was surprised when I got this script and I didn’t know the story.” “I said I’d be happy to do this, but I’d need to produce this as well. The story is very straightforward, almost like a fable,” Richard elaborated. Film for his Son Gere also liked the idea of doing a film that son Homer, 10, could enjoy. “There’s nothing I do that doesn’t factor him in,” says Gere. “He’s the joy in my life.” Homer’s mom is Gere’s wife, actress Carey Lowell. “He’s had this wonderful dog since he was a child.  We’ve had the dog since the dog was a puppy,” Gere says of their 8-year-old “kind of a Border Collie crossed with a Corgi” named Billie, after jazz singer Billie Holliday. The dog in the film, Hachi, is an Akita that Professor Wilson finds as a puppy abandoned at a train station. After a fruitless search for the dog’s owner, Wilson adopts the dog, making it part of the family. “We thought we were making a children’s movie…but it’s maybe a little too intense for young kids,” says Gere of the tearjerker. “Dealing with very big subjects and very adult stuff.” This Richard Gere dog film was made possible because of Hachi’s true, impeccable story. Without speaking to Gere in such a powerful way, our Hachi film may never have been launched. 

Hachi Waits: Poem by Daniela Caride, “The Daily Tail”

One Hachi fan penned a powerful poem dedicated to the loyal Akita. The love for this devoted dog knows no bounds. Thank you to Daniela Caride for sharing her poem with us. She first posted it in her “Daily Tail” blog.  I sobbed for two hours straight watching “Hachi, a dog’s tale” (I still have a headache) — a movie inspired by the real story of Hachiko, an Akita dog who achieved international fame for his loyalty. The dog waited for his deceased owner for nine years at the train station. I realized that Hachi became a symbol of loyalty not because he was better than any other dog. Dogs are exceptionally loyal if treated with love and respect. But nobody offered Hachi a loving home during the long years he waited for Professor Ueno. It broke my heart. So I wrote the poem below. I humbly ask you to send this post to every person you know who may be able to find a home to a pet in need. Together we may be able to ease the pain of homeless animals like Hachi, who ask for so little and give back so much. Hachi waits By Daniela Caride Hachi waits at the train station The dog waits for nine minutes It’s after five It’s time And the professor doesn’t arrive Hachi waits for nine hours Nine days The professor is late But the dog doesn’t mind At the train station he stays Hachi waits for nine months Nine years straight He’s convinced the professor is really late But the dog doesn’t mind At the train station he stays Tired of old age, not tired of his long wait Hachi finally closes his eyes And finds his friend In his deepest dreams inside At the end But Hachi still waits Even after he died He waits on the streets of every town At all the neighborhood pounds Under the skin of every dog around For someone to rescue him To give him A name Water Food And a home Where love abounds It’s true that this dog’s love knows no bounds. Hachi brings out deep emotions in us. We can use them to get in touch with our innermost hopes, fears and desires. Did his story provoke any surprising feelings in you?