Hachiko's Birthday Centennial!
Japan's most famous dog, Hachiko, was born 100 years ago. So 2023 is a great time to visit Hachiko's home, Akita Prefecture, where you can meet a local Akita Dog.
This year marks 100 years since the birth of Hachiko, the Akita dog made world-famous by the movie "Hachi, a Dog's Tale.” The Akita breed is the only large-sized dog among Japanese canines and was the first Japanese dog to be designated as a “Natural Monument” in 1931.
Here is the story of Hachiko (this name is more common than 'Hachi' in Japan). Hachiko was born 100 years ago in November 1923 in Odate City, Akita Prefecture, in northeastern Japan, and was brought to Tokyo at the age of two months. In fact, Hachiko came to Tokyo by train. The person who welcomed Hachiko to the capital was Dr. Hidesaburo Ueno, who lived in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.
Faithful Hachiko accompanied Dr. Ueno to and from Shibuya station every day, and even after Dr. Ueno died, Hachiko continued to wait for him there every evening for about 10 years. This steadfast devotion made Hachiko a beloved symbol of loyalty and perseverance for the Japanese people. A bronze statue of Hachiko sits in front of Shibuya Station. There is also a statue of Hachiko in Odate City, his hometown, where a birthday festival is held every year.
In Odate City, the hometown of Hachiko, as well as in Akita City, there are facilities where you can enjoy learning about Akitas and interacting with actual dogs. The Akita Dog Visitor Center building was designed to reflect the architecture of Shibuya Station in the Taisho era (1912-1926), the station where Hachiko waited for Dr. Ueno.
Akita Dog Museum detailed materials on the history and ecology of Akita Inu (“inu” means dog) are on display. Visitors can see Akita dogs belonging to members of the Akita dog Preservation Society.
Akita Dog Station (Akita City) This is another facility where you can meet Akita dogs; they greet visitors every Saturday and Sunday. The Akita Dog Station also serves as a training site for Akita dogs, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of items at the facility is used to support Akita dog protection activities.
Blessed with several World Natural Heritage sites, Akita is rich in scenery and has many attractive sightseeing spots. Its culture reflects the region's heavy snowfall with distinctive festivals and food that is unique to this region. Come to Akita Prefecture to enjoy its many charms, and to meet a friendly Akita dog.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in Akita along the Sea of Japan coast, is something of a miracle: it represents the last area of virgin beech forest in Japan. Magnificent beech trees once covered a much larger area throughout East Asia, but now they are limited to protected areas such as Shirakami; the almost 17,000 hectares of this mountainous preserve represent the largest such forest in East Asia. In addition to the mysterious and enchanting woods, Shirakami-Sanchi (Sanchi means “mountain territory”) is also home to many interesting species such as the black bear and an unusual goat-antelope called the serow.
Because Shirakami-Sanchi is a carefully protected area, visitors are only allowed into select areas along the edges of the park, but can still enjoy plenty of hiking in its beautiful scenery, with spectacular views of waterfalls, lakes, seacoast, and mountains. Or enjoy “slow travel” by taking the relaxing and scenic Resort Shirakami train between Aomori and Akita; it passes right through the park.
Akita is best known for heavy snowfall, but visitors can enjoy the prefecture's beauty in all four seasons: spring when melting snow brings blossoms, a verdant summer, colorful autumn foliage, and the snow-covered winter landscape.
Spring: Many varieties of cherry blossoms can be enjoyed in different areas: the best time to see cherry blossoms this year is in mid-April.
Summer: In August there are exciting festivals to pray for a good harvest, to dance in honor of the ancestors, and to enjoy one of the largest fireworks displays in Japan.
Autumn: In the national park at Hachimantai autumn leaves appear in early October, while the foliage of many hot springs and tourist spots bursts into brilliant colors from mid-October.
Winter: In snowy Akita, visitors can enjoy hot spring bathing surrounded by snow, or visit the igloo-like snow houses called 'kamakura' during festival time. It is also the season for delicious local dishes such as Kiritampo nabe, in which rice is ground, baked on a stick, and eaten to accompany a stew, or Ishiyaki Cuisine, in which soup and various ingredients are placed in a tub made of Akita cedar and then cooked by inserting a hot baking stone to bring it to a boil.
Akita is only 3 hours and 30 minutes from Tokyo by Akita Shinkansen and are covered by both the JR EAST PASS and the Japan Rail Pass