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Japan’s ever-faithful dog Hachiko – an avatar for love and loyalty – turns 100

TOKYO – In the hurly-burly outside one of Tokyo’s main train stations stands a statue of a dog whose true story of loyalty has made him a beloved mascot for generations.

Hachiko, whose birth centenary is this week, belonged to university professor Hidesaburo Ueno. The faithful hound would wait at Shibuya station for its master to come home every day.

Prof Ueno died unexpectedly in 1925, but Hachiko continued to come to the train station to wait forlornly for him for nearly 10 years until it died in March 1935.

The story, similar to that of Greyfriars Bobby in 19th-century Scotland, touched the hearts of many locals, who pitched in money to build its statue in 1934, shortly before the dog’s death.

During World War II, the statue was melted down for its metal, but a new one was installed in 1948 and became a popular meeting spot.

Today, locals and foreigners alike queue up to snap photos with the statue of the Japanese Akita dog, a popular breed with its own museum in Hachiko’s birthplace of Odate.

“I would like my dog to be waiting for me as long a time as he did,” Spanish honeymooner Omar Sanchez, 33, said as he snapped wefies with his wife and the statue.

US businessman Daniel Callahan, 62, said: “The story is sweet, and we need nice stories. The world is fractured… Anything that can bring people together is nice.”

Hachiko’s legend inspired a 2009 Hollywood movie starring Richard Gere, as well as an Indian film in 2015, while also featuring in a Japanese video game.

Not all Tokyoites know the story, though.

Ms Raisa Abe, a 20-year-old college student, standing next to the statue to wait for her friend, said she did not know why it attracts so many tourists.

“This is the first time I heard the story,” she said.

“This is a spot that you hear about all the time, even if you don’t know Shibuya,” Ms Abe said. “Everybody knows where this is. I hope this will remain here.” AFP

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