I was skeptical I’d like the movie when David first told me about the plot (man accidentally meets dog and they fall in love), but barely three minutes into it, I was hooked. By the end, I was in tears.
The 2009 film is based on a true story about the friendship between the dog and his owner, a professor at the University of Tokyo. Now a legend among Japanese, a pet-loving country that honors self-sacrificing loyalty, it was made into a Japanese movie in 1987.
Gere is a music professor who finds his Akita puppy wandering in the train depot when he returns from work one evening. After making a fuss about keeping him, the professor’s wife gives in when she sees how attached man and dog have become in a short time. When his master leaves for work the first day, Hachi digs his way out of the backyard and runs to the train station. The bond becomes stronger from then on.
The first 65 percent of the film is charming and heart warming; but two thirds through, the professor dies suddenly of a heart attack, and the tears begin. Hachi waits every day at the train station for his owner. Even when the professor’s (now-grown) daughter takes him home to live with her family, Hachi runs away and finds the station.
He returns to the station every day for 10 years, at precisely the same time. People start to feed him and donate money for his care. (The real Hachi died in 1935, at exactly the spot were he waited for a decade. People were so moved they built a statue of him at the Shibuya Station, which has become a popular gathering spot. The original statue was melted down and recycled during World War II. It was replaced after the war by the original sculptor’s son.)
“This is a love story,” Gere said. “It has nothing to do with gender or species.” That’s for sure. We should all be lucky enough to have a love like this.