ハチ公、海を渡る 米映画「ＨＡＣＨＩ」の舞台 旧駅舎に銅像
Star of film 'Hachiko' to be celebrated with bronze statue
March 26, 2011
BY RUSS OLIVO
WOONSOCKET – For six weeks, the metal statue was hidden in the janitor's broom closet.
“It was a big secret,” say Robert Pilkington, principal of the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts. “Very few people knew about it.”
But the secret's out now, and soon Hachiko – or at least a life-size bronze likeness of the famous dog – will be appearing at a train station near you, the mirror image of the original on the other side of the globe.
In case you missed all the earlier hoopla, the Depot Building was the defining set piece for Hollywood icon Richard Gere's 2009 film about the celebrated canine. “Hachiko,” the film, was based on the true story of an Akita in Japan that used to greet his owner as he stepped off the train from work every day at the same time – and continued to do so for a decade after the man died suddenly at work. Hachiko lived as a stray and kept up his sadly futile routine until the day he, too, died.
The Japanese were so impressed by Hachiko's enduring loyalty that they erected a statue to him outside Shibuya station in 1934.
Pilkington says it was Mayor Leo Fontaine who came up with the idea of erecting a replica statue of Hachiko, a project that would serve as part tourist attraction, part tribute to the creation of the film at the Depot Building, a former Providence & Worcester stop that was transformed into the “Bedford Falls” train station for the movie. He just took the ball and ran with it.
At first Pilkington considered letting students in the art program create the replica out of plaster or clay and having the model casted in bronze at a foundry. “That would have been way too complicated, and it would have taken too long,” he says.
In the end, Pilkington found what he was looking for where everyone else finds that special, one-of-a-kind item – on eBay. With the approval of Beacon's board of trustees, he expended $1,950 from the school's operating budget for the Hachiko statue.
The shiny, brownish figure weighs 90 pounds and stands about three feet high. Cast in the sitting position, with an expression of vague longing in his eyes, the statue appears, so far as Pilkington can tell, like a perfect clone of the Hachiko that patiently waits outside Shibuya station in Japan. Pilkington says it was created by an artist from New Jersey who visited Japan and was so impressed by the original that he came home to make one of his own.
“It appears to be an exact replica,” said Pilkington, as he perused laptop images of the real thing on YouTube in an office at the Beacon school.
Pilkington wanted to make a surprise gift of the statue to the city, so he kept it hidden after it arrived in a shipping crate a few weeks ago. He chose to unveil the statue Thursday night at Savini's Restaurant, as Pilkington himself was being honored by the Rotary Club with its annual vocational service award.
The city, says Pilkington, envisions the Hachiko project as a permanent tribute to the city's role in the movie and as a magnet for outsiders – maybe even a few visitors from Japan. It's no secret, says Pilkington, that Boston is a hub for Japanese visitors who often venture as close to Woonsocket as the Wrentham Village shopping center during their excursions to the Northeast.