The color drains from the students face and the tears begin as the Japan Times is laid back on the table …
METAL THIEVES SUSPECTED
Shibuya’s ‘loyal dog Hachiko’ vanishes
By KYRSTEN REILLY
A team of audacious thieves, apparently disguised as a cleaning crew, made off with one of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks in the early hours of Saturday.
The statue of “loyal dog Hachiko,” a popular rendezvous spot on the north side of JR Shibuya Station since 1934, was reported missing shortly after dawn, when a newspaper delivery truck driver spotted the bare pedestal and notified policemen at the nearby “koban.”
While police have yet to issue an official statement concerning the statue’s disappearance, The Japan Times has learned the entire scene was recorded by NHK’s 24-hour monitor camera affixed to the Shibuya Station building.
A network technician described what clearly appears to be a well planned caper. “Five men in khaki work duds, wearing hats, safety glasses and gauze masks, moved in about 1:43 a.m., after the trains had stopped running,” said the man, who declined to give his name.
“They set up traffic cones and ‘Men Working’ signs, and then raised several blue vinyl work sheets around the statue. It took them about 10 minutes to get it off the pedestal.
“They put it on a hand truck and threw a drop cloth over it. On the video you can see them wheeling it toward the street before they disappear from view.”
While motives for the theft are uncertain, speculation has focused on the soaring prices for copper and other metals, spurred by the construction boom in China leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The National Police Agency reported 5,701 metal thefts in 2006, with losses valued at 2 billion yen. The 198 thefts reported in Tokyo during January and February 2007 represented a fourfold jump from the same period last year.
“I’m not surprised — nothing is sacred for these thieves,” said a source in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.
“They made off with 200 incense burners at a cemetery in Kanagawa and a bronze bell from a fire watchtower in Ibaraki. They’ll clearly stop at nothing. I fear Hachiko might be on his way to China,” he added.
As news of the theft spread, a large crowd gathered, with several teenage girls appearing close to tears. “Can’t somebody do something? This is really vexing,” sobbed Saitama teenager Satoko Kawasaki, who held up the image of Hachiko she had recently shot using her cell phone camera.
“Without Hachiko, Shibuya Station won’t be the same any more. I might as well tell my boyfriends to meet me by the statue at Ebisu.”
Shibuya’s illustrious icon, a purebred Akita dog born in November 1923, was owned by Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor of agriculture who taught at the University of Tokyo Komaba Campus.
After Ueno passed away in May 1925 the dog continued to wait for him outside the station. To commemorate the animal’s loyalty, sculptor Sho Ando was commissioned to produce a bronze statue, which was unveiled in April 1934 with Hachiko in attendance.
The dog expired a year later of filaria, a parasitic disease, at age 11. Its body, preserved by a taxidermist, can be viewed on the second floor of the National Museum of Science in Ueno. Ironically, Ando’s original statue was also melted down for its metal during the Pacific War.
After the war a replacement was recast by Takeshi Ando, the original sculptor’s son, and dedicated in August 1948.
When the plaza was extended in 1989 the statue was moved and turned facing eastward, the original direction.
Theft of the icon has spurred an international outcry. Shibuya Ward’s Sister City, the Sixth Arrondissement of Paris, France, expressed its “profound sympathy” and promptly offered to cast a new replacement for “le toutou fidele,” provided Shibuya agrees to accept a poodle.
Meanwhile, city authorities in Odate, Akita Prefecture — Hachiko’s birthplace — have requested police to boost security measures for an identical statue located in front of the main station.
The Japan Times: Sunday, April 1, 2007
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SO many people were heartbroken that any Japanese could perpetrate something so horrific. They rushed to Shibuya in the hopes that there was some mistake. I, however, was dubious … this being 1APR and all. Add to that the fact that the article only appeared (on the front page above the fold no less) in the Japan Times and it somehow mysteriously disappeared from the website some time later (being the reason the whole thing is quoted above), a tingle of suspicion did not seem unwarranted. [I must congratulate myself on the foresight to have saved a copy of this the moment I saw it for just this eventuality]
Yup, it was a hoax – obvious to a non-Japanese, but unheard of amongst the natives. It turns out that they have no ideation of April Fools even in a circle of friends small time situation. It is just unthinkable that such a thing could happen in a reputable news outlet. I got to do lessons revolving around the unfamiliar concepts of pranks/practical jokes which was “a lark.” I’ll take the one day a year the news and even the corporate elite take the tongue in cheek over the knife in jugular as a gift of the gaijin. Is it wrong to play a joke on those oblivious to the context? Until next year …