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Hachiko: Japan’s dog story gets Americanized


The story of Hachiko, an Akita who came to a train station in Tokyo to wait for his master every day — and for another 10 years after the man died — is coming to the big screen in an Americanized version that stars Richard Gere and takes place in Rhode Island.

The movie still features an Akita, and it’s still named “Hachiko,” but his master isn’t Hidesaburo Ueno, the professor of agriculture at the University of Tokyo whose dog never stopped looking for him.

Instead, the story of one dog’s lifelong devotion to his owner centers around a Rhode Island music professor, played by Gere.

Lasse Hallstrom’s “Hachiko: A Dog’s Story” recently had its North American premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival, and reportedly produced enough sniffling to rival “Marley & Me.”.

The movie, from Sony Pictures, is based on a screenplay by Stephen P. Lindsey’s, who adapted a Japanese film about Hachiko made 20 years ago.

Lindsey changed the setting to Rhode Island and updated the story, according to Reuters,  but retained the basic idea of a loyal Akita who achieves an almost transcendental bond with his owner.

Gere , who’s no stranger to things transcendental, is one of the producers of the film, the story line of which begins when the professor discovers an Akita puppy that has been abandoned at the train station where he commutes to work. He brings the dog home on a temporary basis, but it soon becomes a permanent member of his household.

The role of Hachiko is  played by three dogs as an adult and about 20 as a puppy.

The real Hachiko was present in April 1934, when a bronze statue in his honor was erected at Shibuya Station. The statue was recycled for the war effort during World War II, but recommissioned after the war. Takeshi Ando, son of the original artist, made the second statue, which was erected in August 1948, and still stands at one of the exits of Shibuya Station.


Comment from HOB
Time June 19, 2009 at 10:30 am

Some sniffing? This is going to be a real tearjerker. I have seen the original Japanese version Hachiko monogatari. Although I did not understand the language, the story of Hachiko was very clear. Dog lovers will sob at this story. Plan on taking at least 3 big boxes of Puffs.

Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time June 20, 2009 at 12:28 am

I’m starting to feel like a total contrarian here. Of course I’ll be schlepping along my large supply of tissues to the movie. I’ve known about Hachiko’s story for years–it’s one of the all time great true dog stories. No wonder the Japanese find his story so inspiring. He embodies a lot of the qualities they find inspiring as a people. All of this is true. Yet there’s this little nagging voice somewhere saying, “Jeez, let’s hope a half-million people don’t suddenly decide they need to acquire an Akita.”

Comment from Marie
Time June 21, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I also hope it doesn’t make the breed “popular”. They simply aren’t for everyone.

Comment from Doreen
Time June 22, 2009 at 11:14 pm

I agree with the comments about popularizing the breed. I have owned three Akitas (still have two) and they are every bit as loyal and loving as depicted in the movie; however, they are a dominant breed that requires a firm but loving hand. If you’re not used to a large, dominant dog, this is NOT the breed for you. To those of us who are lucky enough to share a household with one (or more!), we are truly blessed and fortunate. I have never had a more loving, intuitive, loyal companion. I just had to put my 7 1/2 year old male down about four months ago and still grieve for him on an almost daily basis. Fortunately, I have his niece and nephew and both channel mannerisms of their dearly departed uncle. I am hooked. I can’t imagine having any other breed of dog after these wonderful creatures. I can’t wait to see this movie. I will certainly be thinking of my sweet boy that left us far too soon. I am a proud Akita owner and love to brag about my babies, and welcome the chance to remember my “big guy”.

Comment from jackie
Time November 6, 2010 at 10:50 am

this was truly an amazing dog who loved his master till the end, i was absolutely in tears watching this movie…