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The Reunion of Hachi’s Family – A Japanese in Gloucestershire

When I wrote about Hachi (Part 1 / Part 2), I wondered what Mrs. Yaeko Ueno’s later life was like.

Talking of hardships, in my opinion, Mrs. Ueno was in much harder situation, as I gather that she had to leave Ueno’s house only with her personal possessions and start a new life alone.  She was reportedly a certified instructor of a tea ceremony, so she might have made living from it.  With the war approaching, however, I do not believe it was easy for her.  I wish I could find out more about her after Hachi’s death.

I have recently learned good news about her, so I would like to share it with you today!

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After his death, Professor Hidesaburō Ueno was buried at a temple in his hometown in Mie Prifecture.  As he had no children, the family was succeeded by his nephew.

Below right: Ueno’s ‘grandson’ Kazuto with Doctor Ishii of Mie University in front of Professor Ueno’s grave (Images’ source: Professor Narioka)

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Ueno had been very well respected and loved by his fellow professors and students at Tokyo University.  As they wished to visit Ueno’s grave frequently, they successfully made another grave in Aoyama Cemetary in Tokyo.

When Hachi passed away nearly ten years after his beloved master’s death, …..

Below:  Mrs. Yaeko Ueno putting a mourning badge on Hachi’s statue (Asahi Shimbun dated the 9th of March 1935)

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….. his ashes were buried by his master at Aoyama Cemetary.

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(The following information and some images come from the web page of Agricultural Engineering Study Department of Tokyo University.)

Mrs. Yaeko was not officially married to Professor Ueno and they had no child of their own but an adopted daughter.  Ueno was from a prestigious family in Mie Prefecture and had a fiancée chosen by his father.  He disobeyed this, however, and chose Yaeko as his partner.

(Another source reports that Ueno was about fourty when he met Yaeko as his certified instructor of a tea ceremony.  They became intimate and lived together for about ten years till his death.  Yaeko was 14 years junior to Ueno.)

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After Ueno’s unexpected death in May 1925, Yaeko had no rights to his assets under the then civil law and had to leave Ueno residence with her personal possessions only.  It was Ueno’s students who had admired him that supported her.  They had previously raised money and built a house in Hayama for Ueno to rest when he was suffering from severe tympanitis.  Ueno declined such an expensive gift initially.  After repeated pleads by them, he eventually agreed that he would use it as a rented accommodation.  After his death, his students sold the house and built one for Yaeko in Setagaya.  They also raised money and built a tea ceremony room for Yaeko who was making a living as a certified instructor of tea ceremony.  They even offered her a lifelong pension plan, but she declined it with sincere gratitude and tears in her eyes.

From time to time Yaeko expressed her wish that she be buried under the Tōrō by Ueno’s grave after her death.  She died on the 30th of April 1961 at the age of 76.  As she was officially single throughout her life, like Hidesaburō Ueno, she was buried as Yae Sakano in a cemetary away from Ueno’s.

When the interested party of Tokyo University decided to build a statue of Hachi and Professor Ueno together in the grounds of the university and started a fundraising campaign, Ueno’s succeeding fellow professors felt the need that Yaeko rest together with Ueno and Hachi.  With willing consents from both Ueno and Sakano families, they started to negotiate with Tokyo City which manages Aoyama Cemetary.  Due to regulations and bureaucracy it took about two years, but on the 19th of May 2016 it was realised.  Some of Yaeko’s ashes were added to Ueno’s; her name and the date of her death was inscribed on the side of the tombstone.

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Yaeko’s relations were present as well.

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After Hachi had become famous, some people irresponsibly speculated that Mrs. Yaeko was a cold person as she “abandoned” Hachi, despite the fact that it was far from the truth.  Hachi was reported to have shown great happiness and affection towards her whenever she came to see him.

Mrs. Yaeko and Stationmaster Yoshikawa with Hachi

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55 years after Mrs. Yaeko’s death, the “family” were finally able to rest together.  I am certain that they are enjoying their reunion in heaven.

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As I am going to Japan for ten days in March to see my mother at a nursing home, I am hoping to go and see the statue of Hachi and Professor Ueno together at Tokyo University.

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