New Sailor Moon Manhole Covers Celebrate the Series in Its Ritzy Setting

New Sailor Moon Manhole Covers Celebrate the Series in Its Ritzy Setting

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Sailor Moon Manhole Covers
Manhole picture: Naoko Takeuchi
Minato City in Tokyo will celebrate Sailor Moon in March with manhole covers around the wealthy neighborhood of Azabu-juban. The event brings up an interesting question: Just how rich was Tsukino Usagi's family?!

Minato City in Tokyo will celebrate Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon (美少女戦士セーラームーン), a manga and anime that needs no introduction to fans of either genre. The release of five manhole cover art designs around the Azabu-juban neighborhood makes sense, as the area forms the backdrop of the series. It also re-raises an old question: just how well-off was protagonist Tsukino Usagi’s family?

A classic of the magical girl genre

Picture: Minato City / Naoko Takeuchi

Sailor Moon is the story of Tsukino Usagi, a second-year middle school student who’s a bit of a klutz. But turns out she’s also a magical girl, one of the few “sailor soldiers” who can fight off the advance of the nefarious Dark Kingdom.

The story follows Usagi as she grows into her role as a superhero and develops close friendships with her fellow soldiers – Sailor Mercury, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter. Usagi is also assisted by the mysterious Tuxedo Mask, whose trademark is showing up in the middle of a fight, throwing a rose, and…well, not really helping one way or another. As the series evolves, the characters realize why they were chosen for this battle, discovering their true identities and learning more about their past lives.

Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask: "My job here is done." "But you didn't do anything."

A classic of the Magical Girl genre, Sailor Moon was a huge hit in the 90s, with its first manga volume selling over 500,000 copies in its original release. An anime version received five seasons plus a 2014 remake, Sailor Moon Crystal, for a total of 201 episodes. The story remains a beloved favorite, not only in Japan, but among anime fans worldwide.

Manhole covers debuting in March

Usagi’s family lives in the Tokyo neighborhood of Azabu-juban in Minato, so it makes sense that the neighborhood and its surrounding areas are the target of Minato’s manhole cover campaign. Manhole cover art is popular in Japan, with fans of the corresponding show traveling to the scene to grab pictures as well as stamp cards certifying their visit.

Minato City says that it’ll install five total manhole covers, starting middle of March 2024, in locations that are meaningful to the series:

Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen: Azabu-juban shopping area entrance, in front of Azabu-juban 2-chome 1 (麻布十番商店街入口; 麻布十番2-1先) . This is the spot where Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen – in their everyday identities as Usagi and Chiba Mamoru -“reunite” at the beginning of the series.

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Five Sailor Soldiers (blue): Near Shiba Park, in front of the Minato Library, Shiba Koen 3-chome 2-25 (芝公園付近(みなと図書館前)芝公園3-2-25先). This plate is near where Sailor Venus’ school was located in the series.

All five main characters (Usagi, Ami, Rei, Makoto, Minako): Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin, in front of the elementary division/preschool, Roppongi 5-chome 6-14 (東洋英和女学院小学部・幼稚園前(六本木5-6-14先)). Toyo Eiwa is said to be the model for the school that Hino Rei (Sailor Mars) attended.

Five Sailor Soldiers (green): Near Tokyo Tower, in front of the Shiba Water Station, Shiba Park 3-chome 6-7 (東京タワー付近(芝給水所前)(芝公園3-6-7先)). Due to its proximity to the characters’ stomping grounds, Tokyo Tower figured prominently throughout the series.

Five Sailor Soldiers (lemon): Keio Nakadoori Shopping District entrance, in front of Shiba 5-chome 20 (慶応仲通り商店街入口(芝5-20先)). Aino Minako (Sailor Venus)’s original Sailor Soldier incarnation, Sailor V, first appeared near this location. Sailor V was a one-shot and then series by Takeuchi Naoko that serves as Sailor Moon’s predecessor.

Azabu-juban: Was Tsukino Usagi’s family loaded?

Hikawa Shrine, Azabu-juban, Minato City, Tokyo
Hikawa Shrine (氷川神社) in Azabu-juban, the model off of which Sailor Moon author Takeuchi Naoko based Hino Rei/Sailor Mars’ Shinto shrine, Hikawa (火川). The character in Rei’s shrine is the character for fire, reflecting the Mars-based fire powers of her magical girl form.

I’ve been a fan of Sailor Moon for years. It’s one of the first anime I started watching when I started taking learning Japanese seriously. So it holds a special place in my heart.

But I’d never paid much attention to the setting. So I was surprised when I saw this announcement and realized it was centered in Azabu-juban. First, because I don’t live far from there and I’m in that neighborhood occasionally. And second, because Azabu-juban has a reputation in Tokyo as being the home of the extremely wealthy. Indeed, more than a few Japanese celebrities call the area their home.

That raises the question: exactly how much money did Tsukino Usagi’s parents have?!

Some estimates of the Tsukino home

This question’s been debated before. In 2018, X (formerly Twitter) user @sow_LIBRA11 made a post in which they spitballed the property values of homes of famous anime families. By their estimation, the massive Tsukino house in Azabu-juban cost over 450 million yen, or almost USD $3 million at current exchange rates.

SOW@ on Twitter: “で、「そりゃ昔の作品だから」と思うかもですが、ここで出てくるのが「セーラームーン」の月野家。済んでいるのは港区麻布十番の一戸建て!かなりオシャレな新築物件!それも庭付き。ほぼ同じくらいの物件は、およそ4億5000万ですね。ブルジョワだ! pic.twitter.com/YMFdYGTOoM / Twitter”

で、「そりゃ昔の作品だから」と思うかもですが、ここで出てくるのが「セーラームーン」の月野家。済んでいるのは港区麻布十番の一戸建て!かなりオシャレな新築物件!それも庭付き。ほぼ同じくらいの物件は、およそ4億5000万ですね。ブルジョワだ! pic.twitter.com/YMFdYGTOoM

“Bourgeois!” exclaims X user @sow_LIBRA11 about the Tsukino house.

Another site, which notes that the house has four rooms plus an attached garden, argues that it would have gone for a value worth around 1.4 billion yen (approximately USD $10 million) today. Those figures are apparently from 2022, so may be more accurate. However, that’s still a pretty wild swing in property value. So let’s just agree that the Tsukino house would cost a lot of money.

The X thread generated a lively discussion about whether this was “realistic”. Usagi’s father was a magazine editor – which, depending on the magazine, some users argued means he could have been hauling in six figures. Others wondered whether the family inherited the house via generational wealth.

Of course, the best answer is: it’s fiction. It doesn’t have to make sense. Takeuchi Naoko created Sailor Moon right before Japan’s economic bubble burst in the mid-90s. Azabu-juban was a handy symbol for being oshare (fashionable) and, for many in Japan, somewhat magical in its own way. A fantastical setting for a fantastical story.

Getting your commemorative gear

At any rate, if you’re in Japan in March and are a Sailor Moon fan, make sure to grab some pics of the covers and pick up your commemorative maps. Maps and handouts will be available from the Minato Visitor Information Center at Fuda-no-tsuji Square, Shiba 5-chome 36-4 1st Floor, 9am-5pm, as well as from Minato City’s branch offices.

Sources

全国初!「美少女戦士セーラームーン」のデザインマンホールを設置します. City of Minato

【セーラームーン聖地巡礼】セーラームーンの舞台となった麻布十番. Enjoy! Sailor Moon Life

『セーラームーン』月野家の価値は4億5千万円!?アニメから見た「普通の家」の考察ツイートが興味深い!Nijimen

『美少女戦士セーラームーン』月野うさぎの実家の土地は「約14億円」、火野レイは「超名門女子校で政治家の娘」、タキシード仮面は「ディスコの黒服」……セーラー戦士たちの「港区住民」ぶりはスゴかった!Futaman

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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