Warriors of Legend: Reflections of Japan in Sailor Moon

The book Warriors of Legend: Reflections of Japan in Sailor Moon is split into two parts. The first, called Exploring the Sailor Moon Universe, looks at the way the city of Tokyo has shaped the development of the series. We take you to dozens of places that are seen in Sailor Moon, and really do exist in Tokyo (or at least did at the time the anime/manga ran). In the process we talk about the history, culture, and legends of these locales. It's a fun way to learn a lot about Japan's amazing capital, as well as the crafting of the Sailor Moon series itself.

In the second part, we tackle five subjects: Family, Culture/Lifestyle, Education, Religion, and Foreign Influences. Each of these chapters takes you deeper into the characters of Sailor Moon, examining how their fictional lifestyles reflect real life in contemporary Japan.

We have for you two samples from the book, the first from the exploration section, the second from the chapter on Education.

Photograph taken by Yosenex Orengo for Warriors of Legend. (Book is B&W.)

Statue of the Girl in Red Shoes

In a memorable episode of the third season of the Sailor Moon anime, genius schoolgirl Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury) regains her confidence to do well in school while sitting next to this statue of a girl in red shoes named Kimi-chan.

The statue exists in Azabu-Jûban and is modeled after a real girl named Kimi-chan, who was featured in a well known children's song called "The Girl in Red Shoes." The lyric writer was a Japanese poet called Ujō Noguchi, and the musical composer was Nagayo Motōri. Motōri (1885-1945) was a descendant of Norinaga Motōri, a famous scholar of Japanese literature who studied music and composed many children's songs. Norinaga is even supposed to have composed the first Japanese children's song.

In the song "The Girl in Red Shoes" a young girl accompanies a foreigner by ship from Yokohama. The real Kimi-chan was supposed to have done the same—or so her mother thought. Kimi Iwasaki was born in Shimizu in the city of Shizuoka, on July 15, 1902. She was adopted at the age of three by American missionary Charles Huit and his wife. Kimi's mother, Kayo, had given her up for adoption to work in Hokkaido, believing she had done the best for her daughter.

But Kimi-chan had a weak constitution. She came down with tuberculosis (which was incurable at the time) just before she was supposed to leave for America. Her adopted parents left her in a church orphanage in Azabu-Jûban, where Kimi passed away at the age of nine on September 15, 1911. The orphanage she died at was Toriizaka Church, which stood at Azabu-Nagasaka between 1877 and 1923.

Ujō Noguchi worked in the same company as Kimi's mother Kayo. Noguchi heard Kimi's story from her mother and wrote the lyrics to Akai Kutsu (Red Shoes). In later years, it is said that Kayo would often say, "Ujō made that song for you, Kimi," and sing, "A Little Girl Wearing Red Shoes." Her voice was full of sadness and regret.

When a Hokkaido newspaper wrote a chance story on the girl's tragic life in November 1973, her life became widely known around the country. Several statues dedicated to Kimi were erected—the one in Azabu-Jûban dates from 1989.

In the episode where the statue is featured, Ami is contemplating why she works so hard at her school work and why she wants to be a doctor like her mother. As she sits next to the statue, Ami regains her confidence to continue studying for her future career. It is likely the animation staff chose this location for Ami to sit at because they wanted to emphasize Ami's feelings for her mother, whom Ami seeks to emulate. Indeed, the watercolor backgrounds that make up the Sailor Moon series seem to have subtle but deep meanings.


There is a popular stereotype, especially in America, of the Japanese student as focused, dedicated, and above all, extremely studious. What this preconception fails to take into consideration, however, are the social and cultural pressures that lead to this kind of behavior. Japanese students spend 240 days a year at school, 60 days more than their American counterparts. This includes, for some schools, half days on Saturdays, and school days that routinely last into the evening. For these students—assuming they want to "be anything" in life—studying to excess is critically important.

Sailor Moon, unlike many manga/anime series that gloss over the hard realities of a teenage girl's educational life, takes a direct look at the often torturous educational system. This occurs through the lens of the "genius girl" character of Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury), whose obsessive-compulsive study habits make her the embodiment of the Japanese student stereotype. What makes Sailor Moon an especially valuable resource in examining Japanese education is the diversity of the characters and their educational experiences. Through these characters, we can learn more about the pressures children must endure to succeed in modern Japanese society.

Ami's debut episode of the anime makes clear that her school life is a commentary on the Japanese educational system. At the start of the episode, the anime's two villains, Queen Beryl and General Jadeite, break character and describe the system of education in Japan:

Jadeite: The children of Japan are pushed into studying all the time.

Beryl: I hear there are women called ‘education mothers' who are as fierce as demons.

Jadeite: They are extremely desperate to have their children get in first rated kindergartens, first rated elementary schools, first rated secondary schools, the best high schools and the top universities.

Beryl: And what will become of them after graduating the top universities?

Jadeite: That I do not know.

As this dialogue illustrates, Japanese schools work different than American schools, where education through the high school level is open to all by simply passing from one grade to the next. In both Japan and the United States, the distinguishing factor on someone's curriculum vitae comes from what university one attends. But in Japan, what one takes at the university level is less critical, university instead being a place where one can "coast," parlaying the way into work afterwards with relative ease. In America, however, students must work hard even through college... [continued in Warriors of Legend]

Sailor Moon characters are copyright © Kodansha, Naoko Takeuchi and Toei. Warriors of Legend: Reflections of Japan in Sailor Moon is not affiliated with Kodansha, Naoko Takeuchi and Toei. No infringement of copyright is intended.