Kennel Caccia

Akita - Hachi-Ko - 1

Hachi-Ko - the legend


Photo: Akita-Inu Preservation Society Inc. 1932


One of the most significant events in the restoration and preservation of the Akita was the tremendous attention commanded throughout Japan and the entire world by the moving story of an Akita dog named Hachi-Ko. No dog before or since has so touched the hearts of people everywhere.

In November 1923 a puppy was born in Akita Prefecture which showed great promise of being of true Akita type. At the age of two months it was sent to Professor Eizaburo Ueno in Tokyo, who had long coveted a fine Akita dog. The Professor named the dog Hachi, and called him Hachi-Ko. At that time, Professor Ueno's residence was in a suburb of Tokyo in the vicinity of Shibuya Station, and he commuted by train from that station to the agricultural experimental station at Nishikebara where he worked. Hachi-Ko accompanied his master in the morning and in the evening as he went to and from work.

On May 21, 1925, when Hachi-Ko was one and one-half years old, he was at Shibuya Station as usual, waiting for his mater's arrival on the four o'clock train. Professor Ueno would in fact never arrive, as he had been struck down by a fatal stroke at the University that day.

Hachi-Ko was cared for by relatives and friends of the family, but he continued to go to Shibuya Station each day to await his master's arrival. Hachi-Ko's vigil continued until March 8, 1934, when at the age of 11 years and 4 months he died, still waiting in vain for the return of his beloved master.

Fiction could not have given birth to such a sentimental story of fidelity, courage, and a dog's love of man. Response throughout Japan, and indeed the whole world, was spontaneous, as eulogies and warm words of condolence poured into Japan from young and old, rich and poor.

Today, commuters through Shibuya Station in Tokyo still must pass the imposing statue of Hachi-Ko, erected in loving memory to the venerable dog. His proud figure, sculptured in bronze and set high on a granite block, stands as a mute evidence of the place in Japan's cultural and social history occupied by the Akita dog.


No story of the Akita would be complete without mention of the rather extraordinary circumstances surrounding the first Akita to come to America.

A famous American woman discovered and learned to love the unique character and qualities of this magnificent breed. What must have enraptured her most were the spiritual rather than the physical characteristics of the Akita, for she had been blind since birth. This woman was Helen Keller. She had learned of Hachi-Ko and was touched by his story.

In 1937 at Akita City, Mr Ichiro Ogasawara, a member of the Akita Police Department, presented Miss Keller with one of his own new puppies, Kamikaze-Go. It should be remembered that purebred Akitas were at that time virtually non-existent outside of Akita Prefecture, and very scarce even there.

Kamikaze-Go returned to the Unites States with Helen Keller abroad the liner Chichibu Maru. "Kami", as he was affectionately called, went to live with Helen Keller at her estate in a suburb of New York. Unfortunately, Kami became ill and died in November of the same year at the tender age of eight months.

In June, 1939, a second Akita, Kenzan-Go, was sent to Miss Keller from her admirers in Japan. Kenzan-Go lived with Miss Keller until his death around 1944 or 1945.

So started the strange introduction of the Akita to America, and the ensuing interest in this exotic breed from Japan which finally culminated in recognition of the Akita in America by the American Kennel Club in 1973.

The name Akita-Inu (Akita Dog) was not used until September 1931, at which time the Akita was designated as a natural monument. Prior to that time, dogs from Odate Region were called the "Odate Dogs". During the Federal Period these dogs were called the "Nambu-Inu" (Southern Regional Dog). Those dogs which were used for fighting purposes were called either "Kuriya-Inu" while those used for hunting by the mountain villagers were called "Matagi-Inu". The word Matagi refers to hunter.

Hachi-Ko Statue

at Shibuya Station, Tokyo.
Erected April 1934.
Sculptor: Shou Ando (born in Kagoshima).
Melt down during World War II.
Rebuilt August 1947.
Sculptor: Takushi Ando.
(Shou Ando's son; born in Kagoshima).

Hachi-Ko's Grave

at the corner of the grave of his master, Dr. Ueno's grave, in Aoyama Cemetery, Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo.

Hachi-Ko preserved


(The National Science Museum, Tokyo, Ueno)
Center: Hachi-Ko
Left: South Pole Research survivor - Jiro
Right: Kai-Inu
(Kai: old name of parts of Nagano
and Yamanashi Prefectures)


Thus, since ancient times, Japanese dogs were named according to their locale, or their roles as domesticated animals.

It seems clear that the direct forebears of the Akita as we know it today were native to Akita Prefecture, the northernmost province on the main Japanese Island of Honshu. The historical epicenter of the present day Akita is the City of Odate in Akita Prefecture.

Three events which in combination contributed significantly to focusing attention on the Akita dog during the two decades preceding World War II were: the saga of Hachi-Ko, the tour of Japan by Helen Keller and her involvement with the breed, and the declaration of the Akita as a natural monument. Had these events not occurred, one must wonder if the Akita, as a distinctive and identifiable breed, would have survived.

That the Akita did survive the Second World War is in itself a miracle, for that great conflict took its toll of dogs as well as people. The Akita dog, which consumed the most food among Japanese dogs, suffered greatly, and gradually dwindled in numbers.

Photo © The National Science Museum in Tokyo and Akita-Inu Preservation Society Inc.

Compiled by Katja Sjöberg 2003-2007