After Hachi passed away in 1935, Japan entered into a challenging war with China and the United States. During this tumultuous period, Hachi’s beloved bronze statue was taken down in 1944 as part of a metal recycling campaign. Despite heartfelt protests from Saitō Hirokichi and the sculptor, Andō Teru, the government moved forward with its plans. Saitō and Andō were able to strike a compromise with the Transportation vice minister, ensuring that the statue would not be melted but stored safely until the war’s end.
This removal deeply saddened the community. Many saw it as a second loss of Hachi-kō. To honor this, Shibuya Station organized a farewell ceremony for the statue. Crowds gathered, facing sleet and cold, to offer their solemn goodbyes.
A Failed Rescue
In a separate effort, Andō tried to protect the original plaster model of Hachi. He moved it to Tokyo Station with plans to further move it to his hometown, Kagoshima, for safekeeping. However, the station was destroyed during the U.S. B-29 Massive Tokyo Air Raid on May 25, 1945. Along with it, the plaster statue was lost, and, more tragically, Andō and his daughter lost their lives in the raid.
In a final heartbreaking act, despite the agreement between Saitō, Andō, and the Transportation vice minister, the Hachi-kō bronze statue was secretly melted down in August 1945. Saitō, who had moved to Kyoto after his house was destroyed, remained unaware of these painful developments until after the war had concluded.
The series of losses surrounding Hachi and the statue were felt deeply, amplifying the sadness and challenges of the times. Yet, the sense of community and shared love for Hachi remained, even in the face of such devastating events.
Elevating Your Hachi Spirit
I hope the stories of Hachi have enveloped you in as much warmth as they have me. The monthly series, “The Truth about Hachi,” will pause after the next installment. This allows us to focus on finalizing our new, transformative website. Our upcoming platform aims to be your go-to space for delving deeper into The Hachi Spirit, empowering you to create a life that honors your unique passions.
Thank you for being a vital part of this community!
Vicki & Hachi
Author Mayumi Itoh 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. You can learn more about the loyal Akita in the pages of her updated Hachiko biography.