In love and death

Art June 28, 2016 01:00

By THE JAPAN NEWS
ASIA NEWS NETW

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The loyal dog Hachiko reunites lovers in the same grave



Hachi, widely known as the “loyal dog Hachiko”, has brought his family back together again, as the remains of the common-law wife of Hachiko’s owner were recently placed in the same grave as her husband in Tokyo’s Aoyama Reien cemetery.
Yaeko was the partner of Prof Hidesaburo Ueno of the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Agriculture.
Descendants of the couple held a ceremony on May 19 in the Minato Ward cemetery run by the Tokyo metropolitan government.
The couple lived together in the Taisho period (1912-1926) but were unable to marry for various reasons. After their deaths, they were put to rest in separate graves.
Yaeko is said to have wanted her remains to be placed with those of Ueno, and now her wishes have finally been fulfilled, 55 years after her death. “Hachiko’s soul has united them again,” said a friend.
According to the Shibuya Folk and Literary Shirane Memorial Museum, Ueno was from Mie Prefecture and had a bride chosen for him there independent of his will. However, he did not marry the woman.
Ueno suffered from a severe illness when he was young. He may therefore have believed he would not live long and was willing to be single for life. However, Ueno eventually met and fell in love with Yaeko, who was a tea ceremony instructor. The two began living together in a house in the Shoto district in Shibuya Ward. 
Society was very strict at the time about male-female relationships. Partly because of concerns about public opinion, the two are believed not to have legally married due to Ueno’s betrothal to the woman in Mie Prefecture.
Because Yaeko was his common-law wife, she was not allowed to continue living in his house after Ueno suddenly died at age 53 in 1925, and had to move to the house of one of her acquaintances.
Yaeko and Hachiko had lived together, but she had no choice but to ask one of her relatives to keep the dog.
In later life, Yaeko told her family members, “I want my remains to be placed in the grave of my beloved Professor Ueno when I die.”
But her wishes were not honoured, 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 Professor Sho Shiozawa of the University of Tokyo, 63, agreed to make Yaeko’s wish come true. Shiozawa heads a study lab established by Ueno. 
They obtained agreement from the descendants of Ueno and Yaeko’s families, and began efforts to move part of Yaeko’s remains.
At that time, Shiozawa was president of the Japanese Society of Irrigation, Drainage and Rural Engineering, which manages Ueno’s grave in Aoyama Reien cemetery.
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, finally implementing the plan to place part of Yaeko’s remains in Ueno’s grave.
Masami Takahashi, 65, a great-grandson of Yaeko, 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”
While it has been rumoured that Yaeko did not take care of Hachiko because she disliked dogs, 93-year-old Takeshi Ando, who created the second statue of Hachiko that stands beside Shibuya Station, says nothing could be further from the truth. 
When Ando was a child, he saw Hachiko showed his love for Yaeko. His father, Teru Ando, who produced the first statue of Hachiko, took the dog into his studio to make his statue. Hachiko was old by then, and laid down on the floor so often that Ando senior could not capture a good pose.
But when Yaeko arrived to see Hachiko, the dog stood up so energetically that Teru Ando could not believe the dog had looked so weak just before.
Hachiko 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.
Loyal dog Hachiko Hachi was a male Akita dog born in Odate, Akita Prefecture. After his owner, Professor Hidesaburo Ueno, died suddenly, the dog continued to wait for him at Shibuya Station. The dog’s loyalty became legend and a statue of Hachiko was erected near the station. A movie was produced based on the story of Hachiko, and his stuffed body is displayed in the National Museum of Nature and Science.