When I lived in Tokyo, there was a popular meeting point outside Shibuya station; where friends could arrange to link up. This was a statue of a dog, and it's story is poignant.
Hachikō was a Japanese Akita dog remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno, for whom he continued to wait for over nine years following Ueno's death.
Hachikō was born on November 10, 1923, at a farm near the city of Ōdate, Akita Prefecture. In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University, brought him to live in Shibuya, Tokyo, as his pet. Hachikō would meet Ueno at Shibuya Station every day after his commute home. This continued until May 21, 1925, when Ueno died of a cerebral hemorrhage while at work. From then until his death on March 8, 1935, Hachikō would return to Shibuya Station every day to await Ueno's return.
During his lifetime, the dog was held up in Japanese culture as an example of loyalty and fidelity. Well after his death, he continues to be remembered in worldwide popular culture, with statues, movies, books, and appearances in various media.
A couple of years later, while in Cape Town I saw another remarkable dog statue, of a Great Dane called "Just Nuisance" His story was in the local press:
"There are many stories of extraordinary animals (especially dogs) that have left their paw prints in history, touching the hearts of those who lived among them. Names such as Laika, the first Russian canine in space, Jock of the Bushveld and Sergeant Stubby, the most decorated war dog in WW1, come to mind. In addition to these (and many other) honourable creatures is Simon’s Town very own famous great dane, Able Seaman Just Nuisance.
It was in 1939 that Just Nuisance became the first and only canine Royal Navy member in history.
Simon’s Town has a rich naval history, which stretches back more than two hundred years. Although now home to the South African Navy, in those days the Naval Base fell under the command of the British rule and the Royal Navy was the largest naval base on the entire African continent.
Just Nuisance grew up in a very social environment soon becoming acquainted with the young Royal Navy sailors, who fell in love with the young pup. Just Nuisance continued to grow into a big, strong dog (even for a great dane) of enormous proportions (he was almost 2m tall when standing on his hind legs), but with a gentle nature.He loved the sailors and in turn followed them everywhere, even catching the train to Cape Town (35km away) with them. Despite the sailors’ efforts to conceal him, owing to his large size and the fact he insisted on lying across three seats on the train, the railway authorities soon became annoyed by him and would kick him off the trains.
This, however, did not faze Just Nuisance as he would patiently wait for the next train, or walk to the next station where he would board another train. Amused travellers would at times pay for the hounds train fare, but eventually officials of the State-owned railway company, South Africa Railways and Harbours threatened to have him put down unless he was prevented from boarding the trains and/or had his fare paid in full.
In response, the sailors hastily consulted their Officer Commanding, who thought of a very unusual yet brilliant plan for the great dane:
1939, June 6: Just Nuisance “volunteered” to join the Royal Navy. At that time the Royal Navy, expecting an outbreak of the War, was recruiting new sailors. The Officer Commanding knew that as an enlisted sailor during the WW2, Just Nuisance would be entitled to free rail travel at all times and thus, his fare-dodging days were over!
1939. August 25: Just Nuisance commenced his duties in the Royal Navy and was issued with his own sailor’s cap. A special collar was made for him in the Naval dockyard, to which his free pass was attached. Just Nuisance’s official documents say that he was a “Bone-crusher” by trade and that his religious denomination was a “Scrounger”. Furthermore, Just Nuisance was given the rank of Able Seaman: Able Seaman Just Nuisance.
1944, April 1: At the age of seven, Just Nuisance was involved in a car accident that left him with a thrombosis that had paralysed him. The severity and deterioration of his paralysis caused him to be discharged from the Royal Navy as well as admitted into the Simon’s Town Naval Hospital. On advice from the naval veterinary surgeon, Just Nuisance was taken up to the Royal Naval Hospital and put to rest by the Surgeon Commander who administered the injection.
Following his death, Just Nuisance was wrapped in a canvas bag, covered with a White Ensign and buried with full military honours at Klaver Camp, situated above Simon’s Town where a simple granite headstone marks his grave. Owing to the fact the Royal Navy was heavily engaged at the time in fighting the War, it is remarkable that the naval signal announcing Just Nuisance’s death and burial was sent to every naval ship and establishment worldwide.
The legendary story of the extraordinary character that was more human than dog still lives on today where the uniqueness and admiration of his tale has left many tourists, and Capetonians alike in awe. Now days, Able Seaman Just Nuisance’s bronze statue, erected in 1985 stands proud and tall in Jubilee Square overlooking Simon’s Town.