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Memorial service held for legendary loyal dog Hachiko in northern Japan

Ryosaku Saito, right, the present head of the family where Hachiko was born, and Ku Kobayashi, a sixth-grader at the municipal Minami Elementary School, put flowers on a Hachiko statue in front of the Akitainu Visitor Center in Odate, Akita Prefecture. (Hikoshi Tamura)

ODATE, Akita -- A memorial service for "Hachiko," the famously loyal Akita dog who waited for the return of his deceased owner in front of JR Shibuya Station in the early 20th century, has been held at a municipal tourist facility in this northeastern Japan city.

    Hachi, or "Hachiko" by its Japanese honorific title, was born in Odate and moved to Tokyo to live with a professor at the then Tokyo Imperial University (the present-day University of Tokyo). The Akita dog died in 1935 and a statue of Hachiko built in front of the major station has been a famous meeting spot in Tokyo.

    A local citizens' group holds the memorial service every spring. Some 20 people, including Odate Mayor Junji Fukuhara, attended this year's service at the Akitainu Visitor Center amid the coronavirus resurgence. Ryosaku Saito, 72, the present head of the family where Hachi was born, and Ku Kobayashi, 11, a sixth-grader at the municipal Minami Elementary School, placed flowers on the statue of Hachiko in front of the facility.

    Kobayashi read aloud a letter, saying, "I'm very happy that Akita dogs have become a means of communication with people around the world. This is amazing and it's all thanks to Hachiko."

    (Japanese original by Hikoshi Tamura)

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