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  • Writer's pictureHirokazu Kobayashi

Shimizu: Hometown of "Chibi Maruko"!

Updated: Jul 14

Hirokazu Kobayashi

CEO, Green Insight Japan, Inc.

Professor Emeritus and Visiting Professor, University of Shizuoka

The manga "Chibi Maruko" is set in the picturesque Irie area of Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Shimizu City, now Shimizu Ward in Shizuoka City after 2003. This charming location, nestled about 1 km upstream from the mouth of the Tomoe River, serves as the birthplace of the manga's author, Momoko Sakura (1965-2018), who spent her childhood there. The main character, Chibi Maruko, is an ordinary yet endearing girl in the third grade of elementary school. The period is 1974-1975, coinciding with the author's childhood. Chibi Maruko's everyday life and sharp wit resonate with all generations. The manga was first published in 1986 in Ribon (Shueisha Inc.), followed by an animated film in 1990. In March of this year, we received the sad news that TARAKO (1960-2024), the voice of Chibi Maruko, passed away.


In front of JR Shimizu Station is a shopping street reminiscent of the Showa era (1926-1989). Summer is the season for festivals nationwide. In Shimizu, the secretariats are located in the Shizuoka City Shimizu Industry and Information Plaza, which hosts the Tanabata Festival (Qixi Festival), held for four to five days around July 7, including Saturday and Sunday, and the Minato Festival (Port Festival) done on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, including the first Sunday in August. This year, 230,000 people attended the former festival, and 400,000 participated in the latter last year (organizers information). These festivals, a vibrant celebration of local culture, are greatly enhanced by the presence of the "Chibi Maruko" character, a major attraction at these events. The Shizuoka Railway connects Shimizu with the center of Shizuoka City. Shizuoka Prefecture is a tea-producing center, and the former Shizuoka Railway was established in 1907 to transport tea leaves for export from tea wholesalers in the Anzai district of the former Shizuoka City to Shimizu Port by light rail. Today's Shizuoka Railway is used exclusively for passenger transportation, and its cute two-car trains are popular with "photographers" and "train riders. The "Chibi Maruko" version is prevalent among children, too. These two-car trains are wrapped with "Chibi Maruko" pictures, and "Chibi Maruko’s" announcement can be heard inside the train. The old train of type 1000 had this feature, but a new version named "Maru-chan no Shizuoka Ondo" (Maru-chan's Shizuoka Folk Music) appeared on the A3000 model train in 2021. In addition, maintenance hole covers depicting "Chibi Maruko," which can be said to be Momoko Sakura's posthumous work, have been installed near the Shin-Shizuoka Cenova Keyakidori Exit on the south side of Shizuoka Railway Shin-Shizuoka Station and near the West Exit (Ejiri Exit) of JR Shimizu Station.


Present-day Shizuoka City, which includes Shimizu Ward, is located in central Shizuoka Prefecture, formerly known as "Suruga.” During the Warring States Period, the city flourished as a castle town under Imagawa Yoshimoto (1519-1560) and was later taken over by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616). The city has remained a commercial center to this day. From the Meiji era (1868-1912) until the collapse of the bubble economy around 1994, the city prospered as a shipbuilding center. As a result, many factories remain in the city. Taking advantage of its technology, it is now the most significant air conditioner production center in Japan. Many soccer players, including Kenta, namely Kenta Hasegawa (1965-), who appears in "Chibi Maruko," were born in this area, and "Shimizu S-Pulse," a J1 team usually, is based here. "Chibi Maruko-chan Land" opened at "S-Pulse Dream Plaza" in 2008 and has become very popular with children. Mr. Iwao Hayakawa (1943-), the former president and chairman of "S-Pulse," has been my neighbor ever since.

I lived in Boston, USA, for two years, starting in 1983. At that time, there was a shopping mall called "Chestnut Hill" in the suburbs of Boston, and I saw a shopping mall for the first time in my life. In addition to many high-end stores, there were restaurants and a movie theater. I thought it was a system that could only be implemented in a car-oriented society. Such shopping malls began to spread in the 1940s and 1950s and increased in the 1960s. In Japan, they increased in the late 1980s and 1990s; by the 2000s, they had spread throughout the country. These malls are often integrated with supermarkets such as Aeon. Such malls are convenient for consumers because they provide access to many stores in one location. It also stimulates the local economy by creating jobs. However, it causes a strain on the natural environment and traffic congestion, homogenizing the whole country. On the other hand, local shopping districts preserve the area's unique flavor. Shopping malls will squeeze and eliminate the business of this type of shopping district. I live in Shimizu Ward, where many children wear yellow caps and school backpacks. I see many "Chibi Marukos" walking to and from school. We must preserve the shopping district and the atmosphere of the days when the real "Chibi Maruko" was around.

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