An Italian girl’s devotion has become part of Japan’s long adoration of its most famous and loyal dog.
Ten year old Stephanie watched “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” and began writing a series of notebooks about Hachiko. Stephanie, now 12, and a resident of Bergano in northern Italy, is devoted to keeping the memory of Hachiko alive.
Through online research, she discovered that Kazuto Ueno, 77, a grandson of professor Hidesabuto Ueno lived in Tsu, Mie Prefecture. Stephanie sent messages to the government's Multicultural Affairs Division seeking to connect with the professor's grandson. The letters were translated to Japanese and forwarded to Ueno. Soon after, Ueno and Stephanie began corresponding.
On March 8, the 80th anniversary of Hachiko's passing, a statue featuring Hachiko and his owner Hidesaburo Ueno was unveiled at the University of Tokyo.
After the ceremony, Ueno, the grandson of Hidesaburo, placed a letter with words from three of Stephanie's notebooks: “Dear Hachi, Eighty years have gone by since you were called to heaven to be with your beloved master, but I am sure you are still close to us".
Ueno was so moved by the young Hachi fan's devotion, that he placed similar letters at the Hachiko and Ueno statue in Tsu and the bronze Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station.
“I have read so many things about how special you are: strong and dignified, pure and gentle, peacemaker among dogs. With lots of love," wrote Stephanie in one of her notebook passages.
Stephanie's mother is an avid Hachi fan and always has the latest updates on anything Hachi related. I call her one of "Hachi's Worldwide League of Friends".
She writes, "My daughter and I continue to love him as much as ever and when it came to choosing a subject for her end of school mini-thesis, Stephanie had no doubts at all, it had to be her furry best friend! We managed to contact Dr. Ueno's descendent in Japan and he wrote us some lovely letters."
"One day a journalist from the Asahi Shimbun went to interview him for an article before the 80th memorial anniversary and Mr. Ueno told him all about Stephanie and her love for Hachiko. We were then contacted by this journalist, who wanted to write an article about it all and was kind enough to take a symbolic little letter from Stephanie "to Hachi", and this was placed on the New Statue by Mr. Ueno on the day of the ceremony. He then sent us a photograph of that moment and Stephanie almost cried with happiness!!"
"It is indeed a strange story, and Stephanie is convinced that it is Hachi who is working his magic after so many years as indeed we have met some amazing people through all this and have been impressed by the kindness of Japanese people."
Stephanie and her mother hope to one day visit Japan, and personally say "Hi" to Hachi!
Professor Ueno's grandson wrote to Stephanie, “Hachi kept waiting for his owner, so he must be waiting for you forever.”
Vicki Shigekuni Wong
I first spotted Hachiko's statue many years ago at Shibuya Station. Upon returning home, I adopted a dog and named him Hachi. When he passed away, I missed his reflective, welcoming and calm ways. We can all learn from the innate emotional grace of our animal friends and the Way of Hachi. I love sharing the story of the loyal dog of Japan, and hope he inspires more people to "Be Hachi"!