Japan Journal 2018, Part 1: Adventure on Harumi Island

30 Apr

I was in Tokyo from March 27 to April 11, 2018, on a mission to see five J-pop concerts and visit a couple dozen locations used in Super Sentai and Kamen Rider shows and movies. I covered similar locations on my previous trip (March-April 2016) and wrote about them here. My goal was to see for myself the urban spaces that are used in such a unique way on these shows and how they’re used in everyday life when not hosting costumed superheroes and rubber-suited monsters. A collateral benefit of these explorations is the discovery of parts of Tokyo not seen by many tourists. One of my most interesting excursions this time was to the Harumi Island Passenger Ship Terminal, which led to my witnessing quite an unusual cultural phenomenon that I would not have seen had I gone on any other day and which made use of this particular urban seaport space in a most creative way. The Harumi Terminal faces Tokyo Bay and was built on an island that was created in the 20th century and seems to be devoted to residential districts and high-rise apartment and office towers. (New Yorkers: Think Roosevelt Island if it was about half the size of Central Park.) The terminal has a number of large plazas and staircases that lend themselves to the kind of sprawling fight scenes found in the shows I follow, as seen in these pictures:

On April 8, my last Sunday in Tokyo, I took the subway to what I’d determined was the closest station to the terminal, Kachidoki Station. The Google map clearly states that it’s a 2-kilometer walk from the station to the terminal that would take 25 minutes, but, ignorant of the metric system, I didn’t pay attention to that figure and assumed they’d overestimated the walk time, as is usual for Google Maps. As I walked from the station, knowing I’d have to go southwest, I passed a bus stop. I had the feeling the bus would be going in my direction, but since I didn’t know how to tell the driver where I was going in Japanese, I decided not to risk getting lost. So, yeah, it was a mile-and-a-quarter walk and it took at least 20 minutes. As I headed in the direction I was sure was the right one, I kept looking for the glass pyramid atop the terminal, as seen in these shots:

…and on the left in this shot I took from the Sumida River cruise in my previous trip to Tokyo (March 2016):

It was a long walk.

As I neared my destination, I saw more and more construction sites, including this sign:

I finally spotted the familiar pyramid, but it looked like the terminal was surrounded by construction sites. Would the site be accessible? Has it been closed to the public? Are they planning to tear it down? The closer I got, the more dour the prospects looked:

But I kept going. As long as there was an open road heading in the right direction, I followed it.

Finally, I found the back entrance of the terminal and I noted buses parked in a parking lot and an open stairway leading to an upper level. I also found a bus stop that the bus I spotted near the station would have taken me to. I would have saved quite a walk, but I wouldn’t have gotten the pictures I took.

I went up the stairs and walked down a long, covered, outdoor corridor and came out onto a balcony, looked over it, and there was the main plaza used in these shows.

I went down the stairs and I had the place to myself. I faced Tokyo Bay and, despite some clouds, it was a beautiful day. Occasionally, another photographer showed up.

I began matching shots with screen grabs transferred to my phone.

From the movie SHURIKEN SENTAI NINNINGER VS. TOQGER THE MOVIE: NINJAS IN WONDERLAND:

“Shuriken Sentai Ninninger” #18:

“Ressha Sentai Toqger” #28:

This time I didn’t forget a selfie:

I noticed that the terminal itself was closed, but I had free rein in the outdoor areas.

I’d gone to the bathroom at a public restroom in the park across from the train station right after disembarking, but I suddenly felt I needed to go again and didn’t want to wait and have to walk a mile back to the park. Was there an open restroom anywhere in this facility? As I asked this, I turned my head to the right and there it was, just yards from where I was taking pictures. What could be more convenient?

I soon realized from the Harumi screen grabs I’d transferred to my phone that there was another plaza in this location that didn’t match the one in front of me as well as a staircase leading up to the glass tower. It must be upstairs on the other side of the terminal, so I went up the stairway on the other side and traversed a side corridor where I saw someone in a costume and a mask and I got real curious. I went through an entrance and noticed the strange sight of lots of people wandering around, a mix of models and photographers.

The models were all Cosplayers dressed like anime characters, but their faces and heads were completely covered. A full face mask was supplemented by a massive wig attached to some kind of hood that covered the rest of the head. The models also had full body stockings on, so it seemed like not a single inch of skin was exposed. They seemed to be coming from a space atop the next staircase, probably being used to dress up the models. The photographers, most of whom were male, all had identifying badges that said “OK,” along with other text, indicating to me that they were members of some organization and had to get a credential to come and take pictures. Some of the models had badges also.

Some photographers had video equipment, including one enterprising gentleman with a steadicam.

The models could barely see outside their masks and some needed help walking down the stairs.

There was another corridor on the other side facing the water between Harumi and the next island, Odaiba, and that’s where a lot of photographers and models went.

Since I didn’t have the expected credential, I kept my distance and shot pictures from that distance, merely documenting the scene and not intruding on any photographer-model relationships. Nor did I ask any models to pose for me, although at least one did upon seeing me. No one bothered me or asked what I was doing there, so I just kept taking pictures.

My guess is that they did this only on Sundays and that the buses I saw in the parking lot had brought these participants.

I have since learned that this kind of modeling is called Kigurumi Cosplay. (Click on the link for more info.)

In truth, some of the sentai characters who’ve visited Harumi Terminal for the TV shoots do indeed resemble Kigurumi Cosplayers, such as this villain, Madame Noir, from “Ressha Sentai Toqger”:

I also found the locations used for this scene from SUPER HERO TAISEN GP: KAMEN RIDER 3 (2015):

And I also found the staircase used for a scene from the same movie featuring the 2016 sentai team, Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger:

This stairway offered views of the massive construction sites surrounding this area. By next year, the whole area will look completely different and by the following year even more different. Would the Harumi Terminal even be here? Would the Toei Studio Location Managers have to find new locations?

As I left, I sought to take the bus back. I saw one at the last stop preparing to drive back to the train station, so I ran to catch it, but it started up and left without me. So I walked.

On the way back, I crossed a large intersection.

On one side was a highway that trailed off into the distance, probably headed for a bridge, and on the other side was a similar highway trailing off into the distance, probably headed for a bridge.

There wasn’t a single vehicle on either highway because they were both closed, presumably brand-new and waiting for something else to be finished before they open. The only traffic I saw consisted of bicyclists.

There was an almost post-apocalyptic feel to it. (Pre-apocalyptic?) I wouldn’t have seen this if I had taken the bus.

Next up: Odaiba, across the river, which boasted several different locations.

For more information on Japanese locations used in sentai and tokusatsu shows, please consult this website:

http://neokerberos.free.fr/index.htm

4 Responses to “Japan Journal 2018, Part 1: Adventure on Harumi Island”

  1. Bill Baldwin April 30, 2018 at 6:17 PM #

    Thanks. I enjoyed the visit, Brian. But these folks need to get some more trees and plants in their landscapes. When is Godzilla scheduled to drop in on all that modern architecture? Should be an interesting meeting. Hope you get to play the Raymond Burr character. . .

    • briandanacamp April 30, 2018 at 7:58 PM #

      There was a park adjacent to the site that had been used as a location also, but it’s closed now and being torn up…for something, probably connected to the planned Olympic Village.

    • briandanacamp May 16, 2018 at 3:43 PM #

      I believe there is far more parkland in the Bronx than in all of Tokyo.

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  1. Harumi Island + Olympic Village – Ten Minute Tokyo - November 2, 2021

    […] Adventure on Harumi Island […]

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