Akita Dog Visitor Center

Home of Hachiko, the most famous dog in Japan

By Dermot Killoran    - 2 min read

The search for lifelong loyalty and companionship is elusive. Who is that someone who can be there when others have given up, someone who can listen without judgment, someone who can feel for you in times when words can’t express? Someone who is there in times of rejection, isolation. The love of dogs can even transcend time and space. When Abe visited Putin in 2012, an Akita dog was selected as a gift of international friendship.

The story of Hachiko, the most famous Akita dog of our time, is a story of love and loyalty without peer. Born in 1923 at a farm in Odate, he moved to Shibuya, Tokyo with his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, a university professor. Hachiko would come to Shibuya station to welcome him on his way home. But one day, Mr Ueno would not come home from work, dying from a cerebral haemorrhage at work. Hachiko continued to come to the station for eight years, waiting faithfully for his owner. Passengers at the station began to feed him, and eventually came to know about his loyalty.

Odate is the hometown of the Akita dog. A small, snow covered city in the North of Japan, its people are stoic through the winter blizzards that dump snow nightly on the residents’ doorsteps. Discover the charm of Odate, the birthplace of Akita inu (inu is the Japanese word for dog) at the Akita Dog Visitor Centre. Here you can learn about the judging criteria for the Akita dog show, as well as the history of the dog breed. In July 1918, the Akita dog was first designated as a natural monument, though it was at risk of extinction in the 1940s. Today, the Inukko Festival, held in February commemorates our gratitude to the faithful Akita dog.

In Odate, you can learn all about Akitas at the Akita Dog Visitor Center. The building itself plays tribute to Shibuya station from the olden days, when Hachiko waited patiently for its owner. You can even come face to face with a real Akita dog. Its gentle face and expression touch your heart and heals your soul. Akita dogs are known to be very loyal to their owners, so some of them are not used to be touched by other people.

Getting there

From Narita Airport, you can reach Odate via Ueno, a shinkansen or bullet train to Shin Aomori, and then an express train to Odate, taking 7 hours in total. From Tokyo station, there are bullet trains to Shin Aomori. From Haneda Airport, ANA has direct flights to Odate Noshiro Airport, for which there are airport buses to Odate.

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Dermot Killoran

Dermot Killoran @dermot.killoran

A passion to photograph people and explore unique places around Japan. I have been here going on 30-years and still find the place to be intriguing and surprising when I least expect it! I am constantly discovering something new about the people and the place. I particularly like the 'romance' of old Japan in the worn out towns, rural single-car railways and the quite pace of life - offering so many photographic opportunities.