However, I promised a certain Russian blogger who lives in Finland that this South African who lives in Japan would do a post about two shrines that feature in … yes, you're allowed to laugh; we all know I'm an idiot when it comes to manga and anime … two shrines that feature in Sailor Moon.
I've never read or watched Sailor Moon, but Wikipedia tells me that 美少女戦士セーラームーン (Bishōjo Senshi Sērā Mūn) is the story of "Usagi Tsukino, an ordinary, ditzy, 14-year-old girl" who is actually a special warrior whose destiny is to save Earth and later the entire galaxy. (Piece of cake. I do that twice a day.)
My Russian co-blogger, who goes by the name of Ekaterina, educated me as follows: "Sailor Moon is an old manga/anime that influenced lots (LOTS) of other manga/anime. It was one of the first manga about a team of magical girls fighting evil. It has some special magic … it has really cool, strong female characters, for example Haruka, one of the most popular lesbians in the anime world." Apparently when the manga was released in the United States, Haruka and her partner were changed into cousins, because lesbian romance doesn’t combine well with Mom, apple pie and white picket fences.
It was written by Takeuchi Naoko, and both the manga and subsequent anime were major hits. Wikipedia says its media franchise is one of the most successful Japan has ever had, reaching a total of $1,5 billion in merchandise sales during the first three years.
Anyway, one of the main characters is Sailor Mars, also known as Rei Hino, who's a schoolgirl and a Shinto princess at Hikawa Jinja. The manga shrine was modelled on a real shrine called Hikawa Jinja (氷川神社) in Azabu-Jūban; the anime shrine was modelled on another Hikawa Jinja in Akasaka. Both are branch shrines of the main Hikawa Jinja in Ōmiya, Saitama. (Are you keeping up?)
Incidentally, the shrine is written 火川 in the manga, but it's 氷川 in real life. Interesting difference: 火 is fire, 氷 is ice, both can be pronounced hi. The kanji 川, kawa, is river. I have no idea whether this difference has any significance, but I've read that Sailor Mars has psychic powers related to fire.
I'd been to both the Saitama and the Akasaka shrine, so when I realized that Ekaterina really liked Sailor Moon, I offered to visit the remaining shrine as well. I finally did that recently, on a very hot day with a humidity of 80%. Azabu-Jūban Hikawa Jinja is at the top of a slope. Ekaterina, you owe me lots of photos of Akhal-Teke horses!
The manga shrine in Azabu-Jūban (see below) is small and nondescript, and it's dominated by the hideous top-heavy Moto-Azabu Forest Tower (a condominium complex) that looms behind it. Apparently you could see Tokyo Tower from the shrine before that eyesore was built.
The anime shrine in Akasaka (see below) is beautiful! It really charmed me: it's a very old shrine hidden behind massive trees on the border of soulless Roppongi, filled with shadows, birdsong and mysterious fox statues. It was completed in 1730 and was Tokugawa Yoshimune's personal shrine.
|Akasaka Hikawa Jinja|
|This photo is a personal favourite. Click to see a bigger version.|
The granddaddy shrine in Saitama was established in 473 and was the main Shinto shrine of the old Musashi province. It's next to Ōmiya Kōen, which is one of the best cherry blossom spots near Tokyo. I've included a few photos:
|The main Hikawa Jinja in Ōmiya, Saitama|
|Another horse! See why I like Hikawa shrines?|
So, there you have it, the shrines of an old manga series. I had fun visiting its real-life locations, though I still don't lekker know what it's all about. Ekaterina, feel free to add better information in the comments. If I made any mistakes, yell very loudly.