The heartwarming story of Hachiko the faithful dog has charmed Japan for decades, and his legacy is set to extend further thanks to residents here, the birthplace of his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno.
Tsu residents teamed up to produce a new picture book and a CD in hopes of conveying the strong bond between Ueno and the purebred Akita-Inu dog “Hachi” as well as the character of Ueno who loved the dog.
The book, “Hachi to Hakase no Monogatari” (The story of Hachi and the professor), was published by Bungeisha Co. on Feb. 1.
Tomiko Inoue, a 72-year-old welfare facility operator in Tsu, wrote the story based on historical records that she studied in related books and documents.
The book was illustrated by Eriko Hamada, 55, who works at the welfare facility, and drew 29 pictures for it over three years.
Hachi is famous for his unswerving loyalty. Legend has it that the dog waited at Tokyo’s Shibuya Station every day to greet Ueno (1871-1925), a professor of agriculture at what is today’s University of Tokyo, on his return from work, and carried on doing so for 10 years after Ueno’s death.
The story begins with Hachi, who was born in Akita Prefecture, meeting his owner for the first time.
Softly drawn pencil illustrations depict scenes in which Hachi and Ueno take a bath together and sleep in the same futon. The story ends with a reunion between Ueno and a happy-faced Hachi in heaven.
Hamada stayed in Tsu’s Hisai district, where Ueno was born, for inspiration. She strolled around the town while imagining the professor’s childhood experiences there, and pictured the scenery of the time.
The illustrator also visited an exhibition of more than 40 Akita-Inu. There, she studied the texture of their hair and their facial expressions, and combined an image she saw of a happy looking Akita-Inu and its owner, with one of Ueno and Hachi.
“I want Ueno to be known to as many people as possible,” said Inoue.
Hamada added: “From children to adults, I will be happy if they can feel the strong bond between the professor and Hachi.”
Meanwhile, the CD “Hachi to Hakase to Kishapoppo” (Hachi and the Professor), will be released on Feb. 24.
“Hachiko no Uta o Utao Kai,” a local group that promotes Ueno and Hachi through songs, produced the track, and Akira Morimoto, a 78-year-old songwriter in Tsu, wrote the lyrics. The lyrics and music score are also printed on the last page of the picture book.
Morimoto also wrote the “waka” poem titled “Ah Chuken Hachiko-yo” (Ah faithful dog Hachiko) that is inscribed on the base of the Hachiko and Ueno statue outside Kintetsu Corp.’s Hisai Station in the city.
As Morimoto feels that even three and a half years after the statue’s installation in 2012, many people still do not know that Ueno came from the city, he wrote the lyrics to promote the professor’s appeal through the song.
The rhythmical song has a cheerful tune and catchy chorus that repeats “poppo poppo pipoppo.”
“I want children and adults to sing the tune,” said Morimoto. “I want to emphasize the charms of Ueno to people around the globe through the picture book and song created by the local residents.”
The CD also includes an English version of the song.
The picture book is priced at 1,200 yen ($10.50) plus tax, while the CD costs 1,300 yen, tax-inclusive.
They can be purchased online and at bookstores and CD stores across Japan.