“The Lonely Departure”- Hachiko Snapshot #1: The Truth Behind the Myths

Snowy mountains of Odate Japan

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


A Japanese Akita puppy was born in Ōdate, in mid-November 1923. This northern Japan setting is located in the snowy northern Akita Prefecture, surrounded by mountains on all sides.

The puppy would be named Hachi. He would soon become the most famous dog in Japan. Hachi would grow up to live an extraordinary life, and leave an even more extraordinary legacy after his death.

Hachiko waits at Shibuya Station, 1930’sThis is Hachi’s true story.

On January 14, 1924, in a raging blizzard, the two-month-old Akita puppy got on a train Ōdate Station. All alone, he headed for Ueno Station, Tokyo on Express 702-gō. He was being shipped to his new owner. The long and solitary journey was arduous for the small puppy. The train ride was bumpy, going through many tunnels through the winding mountains.

Worse, just before the train arrived in Tokyo, the train was hit by a strong earthquake. It was one of the aftershocks of the Great Kantō Earthquake of September 1, 1923, which claimed a death toll of more than 100,000. The earthquake delayed the train and the train ride took almost 20 hours.

When the puppy arrived at Ueno station, he looked as if he were dead.

This was how Hachi left his birthplace, never to return.

With Hachi’s arrival in Tokyo, not only the history of Japanese dogs was altered, but also popular culture – beyond anyone’s imagination.

Hachi statue at Shibuya Station, sunny dayWho would believe this frail puppy would capture the hearts of admirers around the world? Put your comments below! 


Hachiko author, Mayumi Itoh, offers snapshots into his fascinating life on the 14th of each month. 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
1 month ago

Thank you, Vicki and Mayumi, for beginning this fascinating new Hachi adventure – one which will certainly prove precious to many followers of the ‘Loyal Dog’.
I am so looking forward to your next chapter!

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