Pachikō, Busan, 1931
Almost any Japanese person can recount the story of chūken Hachikō, (忠犬ハチ公, “faithful dog Hachikō”,) Japan’s most beloved dog and national symbol of loyalty, honored for returning everyday to Shibuya’s bustling train station to wait for his master’s return, even long after his death. Few, if any, know of or are willing to acknowledge the pup’s miscreant sibling, taida na Pachikō. (怠惰なパチ公, “slothful dog Pachikō.”)
Born in November of 1923, “Hachi” and “Pachi” were two pups from a litter of seven, born on a farm near the city of Ōdate, Akita Prefecture. Their owner, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo, adopted the pair and brought them back to Tokyo, naming them after the Japanese word “hachi-pachi,” used to describe the sound of popping bubble wrap, a new and popular pastime in 1920′s Japan.
As pups, the dogs were identical, but as they aged, Pachiko grew dark distinguishing eyebrows, that according to historians, later inspired Japan’s bushy eyebrow craze that has yet to come out of vogue to this day. With his distinguished eyebrows, Pachiko soon gained the favor of Professor Ueno as the more clever of the pair, who later remarked in a letter to his wife, regarding all night vigils at the station by the less adroit Hachiko while the professor was away on lecture tours, “You must be kidding! That silly dog Hachiko waits overnight for me at the station?”
During most days however, while the professor was lecturing his students at nearby Tokyo University, the two dogs, though siblings, would often spend their time separately in Shibuya. Hachiko was said to have played fetch with the owners of the near by Yakitori shops of Nombeyokocho, befriended the homeless living the adjacent Miyashita Park, and occasionally helped the police track owners of missing wallets. Pachiko contrarily, would meander the the red light districts of Dogenzaka, where patrons of the many bars would frequently put cups of sake for the dog to lap up, as well as still-lit cigars, that the dog would seemingly smoke as he chewed upon them, before stumbling off to pass out drunk in the gutter on a mid afternoon binge. After sunset, the two brothers would meet at the station, Pachiko tipsy and late, Hachiko scornful, yet always sympathetic. It should be noted that so strong was Hachiko’s loyalty, even to his own delinquent brother, that he never mentioned Pachiko’s tumultuous escapades to their master, Ueno.
The brothers continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return on the usual train one evening. The professor had suffered a stroke at the university that day. He died and never returned to the train station again. Hachiko loyally waited all night long, and for every following day of the next 10 years, for his dead master’s return. Pachiko was said to have waited for just a mere 10 minutes before staggering back to Dogenzaka for more sake, never to return for his master again.
Within several months, both dogs were eventually found new homes, Hachiko to middle-class family of four in a neighborhood adjacent to Shibuya, Pachiko to a Korean traveling circus visiting Tokyo at the time. In August of 1926, while touring Japanese countryside with the circus, as “Oji-inu“, the “Amazing Cigar-Smoking, Gambling, Womanzing Dog Drunkard”, Pachiko had gained such notoriety, that he became a national fixture in homes as Japanese flocked to decorate their walls with prints from Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s “Dogs Playing Poker” series, which were directly inspired by dog.
It was only after Pachiko’s short and illicit love affair with Prime Minister Kato Takaaki’s beloved Shiba Inu, “Lady” which resulted not only in an illegitimate litter of eleven, but also the Prime Misinster’s subsequent heart attack and sudden death, that the public fell as quickly out of love with Pachi as they fell in love with him. Soon after the scandal, he boarded a tramp stream liner back to the port city of Busan with the circus, where he spent out his living days.
While Japanese could never forget Hachikō, who waited faithfully each day at Shibuya Station for Professor Ueno’s return, for Pachiko, much remains swept under the Japanese tatami of shame. But not all is forgotten, for every time a sake is slurped, a cigarette is smoked, and a little silver metal ball is dropped into the pin-ball-fortune machines of Japan’s most famous pastime, Pachinko, little do they do know, or how quick they have forgotten, that the once legendary “Oji-Inu”, Pachiko, after which the game is named, is honored…
But that’s another story…