A popular meeting spot for those avoiding the teeming masses surrounding the Hachiko statue, the Hachiko Family Mural is a work of art sometimes overlooked by the thousands of people passing it every day on their way to Hachiko or to the famed Shibuya Scramble Crossing.
It’s not as well known as its cousin the Hachiko Statue, but it has shared the Shibuya Station north exit area for almost 30 years. It was installed in 1990 in honor of the station’s north exit area renaming to Hachiko-mae Hiroba and has been a colorful, if slightly overlooked, landmark since then.
The original design was created by Ryutaro Kitahara, a suiboku (Japanese-style ink painting) artist. He imagined what it would be like if Hachiko had an extended canine family and painted around 20 Akita dogs to accompany the famous pooch, along with a sun, moon, stars and a giant rainbow. Not all of the dogs made it to the mural, despite its impressive size. It measures 4 meters high and stretches 11.2 meters across, and is compiled of over 1,200 Shigaraki ware ceramic pieces.
Over the years the mural gathered dust and dirt from its surroundings and was visibly getting grubby. Because of this, Public Interest Incorporated Foundation Japan Traffic Culture Association (JPTCA), a group dedicated to promoting public art spaces, took it upon themselves, in cooperation with Johnson Company Limited, to give the Hachiko clan a bit of a groom.
The group’s purpose is to create a good impression for tourists and residences alike by sprucing up the landmarks they walk by every day, and cleaning up the mural will help clean up Shibuya, literally and figuratively. Because of the lack of space, a maximum of three cleaners can work on the mural at a time, scraping off gum, stickers, and giving the dogs a polish.
The efforts started on September 20 and will be finished by September 26. The scaffolding surrounding the art will be taken down by September 27 or 28, revealing the polished pups to the world at large.
If you drop by to take some snaps of the newly scrubbed up doggos, don’t forget to use JPTCA’s hashtag, #mypublicart when you share it on Instagram. The hashtag campaign is active until Oct 1.