George Carter
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Japan ’08 – Day 4

| Tuesday 5th August, 2008

…in which we walk quite a long way in search of a dead dog.

I previously mentioned Hachiko, and now – as promised – will tell you more.

In 1924, Hidesamurō Ueno, a professor at the University of Tokyo moved to to the city with his dog, Hachiko. Each morning, Hachiko would see him off at the front door, and in the evening he would go to the station to meet the professor from his train.

In May 1925, Professor Ueno was taken ill at work and unfortunately died. However, every day for the following ten years, Hachiko arrived at the station precisely on time to meet the train, and wait in vain for his master.

Hachiko became well known in the area. Firstly people thought he was a stray, but slowly they began to notice the pattern. A student once followed him home and learnt the full story.

The dog’s loyalty to his master became nationally famous, such that a statue was erected to him – Hachiko was even present at its unveiling. The exit from the station was also named after him – a rarity in Tokyo where you’ll normally find the “East Exit”, “Central Gate” and so on. The statue is a very popular meeting point.

Hachiko has also given his name (and cute cartoon likeness) to a bus line running in the area…

We walked out from Shibuya to Aoyama Cemetery, an enormous area filled with fascinating graves, bonsai and city-centre peace and quiet. There is a geocache based around the Hachiko story and so we had the coordinates of Professor Ueno’s grave.

It took a while to find, but fortunately I knew the characters 上野 “Ueno” which, incidentally, match those of the place name in northern Tokyo.

Anyway, on arriving at the grave, we were touched to see that while the Professor has a very nice grave, on the left of the photo, Hachiko not only has his own little kennel-shaped grave at his master’s feet, but people are still leaving flowers to this local hero…

And I still nearly cry like a girl when I think about this story.

On our walk back, we passed our first (and only) Blowfish restaurant. We didn’t go in – mostly due to the ludicrous price, and therefore for the second outing in a row we did not NEARLY DIE at all.

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