‘Hachi’ story returns in new book from Italian author

‘Hachi’ story returns in new book from Italian author

Hachi and his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, are depicted in a statue in Tsu, Japan.

WOONSOCKET – The story of Hachi, the loyal Akita who awaited his owner’s return at a Japanese train station for nearly 10 years after his death, is known throughout the world, including in Woonsocket, where a 2009 movie starring Richard Gere as the dog’s owner was filmed.

Now, that story has once again come to life in a book that pays tribute to Hachi’s global reach and the lasting impact of the film in keeping the story alive.

Anastasia Ormeron, a resident of Italy and author of “Hachi and Friends,” first encountered the story many years ago while working as a flight attendant. During a stopover in Tokyo, she stumbled across a bronze statue of a dog at the city’s Shibuya Station. The statue, famous in Japan, marks the spot where the Akita patiently awaited the return of his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, every day during his life and for nearly a decade after his death.

“I looked down at the plaque beneath the dog’s front paws and read the words, ‘Hachiko, the Loyal One.’ As I raised my eyes and met Hachi’s gaze, I knew I would never forget him,” she recalled in an email to The Breeze.

But it was the 2009 American movie, filmed at Woonsocket’s Depot Square, that cemented the connection. Ormeron’s daughter, Stephanie, 15 years old at the time, fell in love with the story and decided to research the true events behind the film for her high school thesis. The project eventually brought them in contact with an employee of Tokyo’s government offices who helped them track down Kazuto Ueno, the grandson of Hachi’s owner.

“We were so excited, and my daughter sent a letter by post to be delivered to Master Ueno’s grandson,” said Ormeron. “You can imagine the day when a beautifully handwritten envelope arrived from Japan with the first of quite a few letters, all containing precious recollections about Hachi’s life, the people who played a part in making him famous and those who befriended him in his nameless days at Shibuya railway station.”

Those recollections would form the basis of “Hachi and Friends,” a fictional book she spent years putting together. Originally written to satisfy her daughter’s love of everything Hachi, the book was published this year by a Virginia-based publisher and is available for purchase on amazon.com, with sale proceeds benefitting Akita rescue organizations. The story follows a rambunctious Hachi and his animal companions as they explore the streets of Tokyo after his owner’s death.

“It seems so appropriate for Hachi to help his less fortunate Akita friends in this way,” said Ormeron. “We are also convinced that the loyal dog’s message is especially important in a society that sometimes forgets the value of friendship, loyalty and determination.”

Over the years, the project has allowed mother and daughter to cross paths with others touched by the Akita’s story, including Vicki Wong, co-producer of the film alongside Richard Gere. In 2015, Stephanie’s project was featured in a leading Japanese newspaper in advance of an unveiling of a new statue of Hachi and Ueno at the University of Tokyo. Following the story’s release, the newspaper received photos of schoolchildren sending greetings to Stephanie at the various statues of Hachi around the city.

The project has also led to a friendship with the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, which plans to sell copies of the book in its Pawtucket gift shop. Ormeron said she hopes to visit Woonsocket one day and see the Hachi statue, a replica of the one at Shibuya Station, that now sits in front of the train station at Depot Square.

“We wish to thank Woonsocket for bringing Hachi to the world, and hope that animal loving friends in Rhode Island will enjoy reading our story,” she said.

A new book by Italian author Anastasia Ormeron, below, left, and illustrated by Chiara Intropido, recounts Hachi’s adventures with his animal friends.
Pictured above on the occasion of her daughter’s wedding in 2017 are, from left, Ormeron, Fabrizio Orlandi and Stephanie.
After seeing the American movie filmed in Woonsocket in 2009, Ormeron’s daughter, Stephanie, researched the true events behind Hachi’s story and filled five notebooks with her findings.