It's been 55 years since professor Ueno's common law wife passed away, but they were recently joined together in Tokyo's Toyama Reien cemetery. They family's descendants held a ceremony on May 19 to commemorate the event.
Ueno had a bride chosen for him but they never married. He eventually met Yaeko, a tea ceremony instructor and they set up a household in Shibuya Ward but never legally married due to his previous pledge. After Ueno's sudden death at age 53, Yaeko was not allowed to continue living in their home. She moved in with an acquaintance and gave Hachiko to a relative to be cared for.
Many believe that Yaeko had a poor relationship with Hachiko. However, 93-year-old Takeshi Ando, who created the second Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station, denied these claims.
His father, Teru Ando, who produced the first statue of Hachiko, often took the dog into his studio. Hachiko was old and weak and Ando could not capture a good pose.
But when Yaeko arrived to see Hachiko, the dog stood up energetically and ran straight toward Yaeko. According to Takeshi Ando, his father made the statue from Hachiko’s appearance at that moment. “It was wonderful how joyful Hachiko was when he saw Yaeko,” Ando junior said.
In later life, Yaeko told her family members, “I want my remains to be placed in the grave of my beloved Prof. Ueno when I die.” But her wishes were not honored, and she was laid to rest in another cemetery in Tokyo.
In 2013, which marked the 90th anniversary of Hachiko’s birth, Keita Matsui, a curator of the museum, and Prof. Sho Shiozawa of the University of Tokyo, 63, agreed to make Yaeko’s wish come true. Shiozawa heads a study lab established by Ueno, and was president of the Japanese Society of Irrigation, Drainage and Rural Engineering which manages Ueno’s grave.
After obtaining agreement from the descendants of Ueno and Yaeko’s families, and they began efforts to move Yaeko’s remains.
Shiozawa played a leading role with other interested people in negotiations with the Tokyo metropolitan government, which manages the cemetery. The team spent about two years adjusting the burial rights.
The great-grandson of Yaeko, Masami Takahashi, 65, attended the ceremony on May 19. He said: “I was moved to think that love can transcend time. All my family members are glad.”
Matsui, who has studied Hachiko’s life for many years, expressed his deep emotion by saying: “There’s also a shrine for Hachiko near the professor’s grave. The family is reunited for all time, and the story of Hachiko has reached a happy ending like a dream.”
(As reported in the Yomiuri Shimbun, June 10, 2016)
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"!