So three years in to Sailor Moon Crystal, we know what to expect with the latest installment. The disproportionate limbs and tediously long transformations are here to stay. Maybe I’ll piss off fans to admit I forward 50% of most transformation-laden episodes. But I still keep watching.
A year ago, a colleague found out I was photographing anime locations around Tokyo, so she suggested that I adapt some photos her friend did for Sailor Moon. As someone who gravitates towards the Shitamachi, the “Lower City”, I can imagine most of my cycling routes from Tokyo University, through Ueno and Asakusa, down Jimbocho, to Nihonbashi, to Ginza and finally to the canals of Fukagawa, where I used to live. But Sailor Moon’s location of Azabu-Juban in the posh, hilly south part of Tokyo is a black hole in my navigation map. With Doni’s permission, I borrowed her juxtaposed photos and screencaps and explored the history behind the places she found.
Azabu-Juban was established in 1962 (the Showa era) as a smaller neighbourhood in the Azabu area. Juban roughly translates to “the ten” and, in this case, refers to the samurai residences from the Edo period. The large fuedal properties have since been subdivided, but the area still has residential plots — a luxury in Tokyo. Despite its mega-city status, Tokyo still has rooted communities in all its namesake pockets, which begins with a commercial street for everyone to get their errands done. Ichinobashi to Sendaizaka is Azabu-juban’s shopping area and even boasted one of Tokyo’s only natural hot springs until 2009.
Located close to Tokyo’s embassy area, Azabu-Juban is one of Tokyo’s trendiest and most sought after residential neighbourhoods in Minato Ward. The area is also close to the Tokyo Tower, which features often in the Sailor Moon series, and commercial areas such as the Roppongi Hills mall, and Hiro-o.
This tiny park hosts an annual matsuri, festival, in August so you will find it on Google Maps under the name of the event 麻布十番納涼まつり. In fact, Azabu-Juban has its own neighbourhood website, complete with shops, restaurants, and events.
Shibuya has its Hachiko. Ikebukuro has its owl. Azabu-Juban has its Girl with the Red Shoes, said to be inspired by the Japanese nursery rhyme “Akai Kutsu” (Red Shoes), which in turn had further inspirations. The poem written in 1922 by Japanese poet Ujo Noguchi is popularly believed to be based on the life of the girl, Iwasaki Kimi, who died at the Toriikazu Church orphanage in Azabu. When Kimi’s mother, Kayo, married Shiro Suzuki and moved to Hokkaido, she arranged for her 3-year-old daughter to be adopted by American missionaries to spare her the harsh northern frontier. Kimi contracted tuberculosis just before her adopted family, the Hewitts, returned to the United States. At the time, tuberculosis was incurable, so the Hewitts left her with the church. Kimi died in 1911 at the age of 9 and her mother never found out even though she had moved back to Tokyo. It is said that Ujo Noguchi met Kimi’s stepfather, Shiro Suzuki. In 1973, Shiro and Kayo’s third daughter claimed that the girl in “Akai Kutsu” was her half-sister, Kimi.
The shrine Rei and her grandfather take care of has its real-life counterpart in the Azabu’s Hikawa Shrine (氷川神社). The kanji character for ice (氷) was replaced with the word for fire (火). Not only do they look alike, they also are pronounced exactly the same way: “hi” the name of the shrine remains the same.
Thanks to Doni, I placed another corner of Tokyo in my mental map of historical trends, economic shifts, and enduring little neighbourhood charms. If you have an area you’ve photographed and want written up, feel free to message me any time. 🙂
This Sailor Moon post is adapted from images posted on Doni’s blog with the author’s permission.
This post has been updated and was first published on Odigo on October 3, 2016.