Old Fart Who Loves Japanese Pop Culture 日本の大衆文化を愛する中年

Japanese Dramas, Manga, Anime and Japanese Movies, Jpop, and anything else about Japanese pop culture that I find interesting.


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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Japanese Rooftops

Densha stands sobbing, shoving a piece of cake into his mouth before starting to climb the rooftop fence, presumably to throw himself to his death. The scene switches from the Akihabara skyline to an event that occurs some days before that. As far as I know we never return to this scene as SPOLIER ALERT he doesn’t plunge to his death in the series. In fact he lives to be in the Densha Otoko Deluxe Special.

But this isn’t about production gaffs it’s a question about the Japanese and rooftops. Many dramas and animes have scenes that occur on a rooftop. GTO is a prime example. Onizuka showers up on the rooftop with a hose and has countless meetings with his students up there, also the suicide attempts take place there. Another scene has Onizuka holding one of the girls over the edge of a roof to punish her for bullying a fellow classmate. The writer of the drama Gal Circle (Galcir) must have watched this episode of GTO as the well, because the first episode of Gal Circle has Shinnosuke the American cowboy do the exact same thing for exactly the same reason. Strawberry On The Shortcake another school drama has many scenes set on the school roof, one scene involving bullying the rest just using it as a private setting.

I’ve just watched the first 5 episodes of Nobuta wo Produce and while it’s about schools and bullying no one has dangled from the roof although a fair number of scenes occur there. Shuji starts his morning, brushing his teeth on the roof of his apartment building, goes to school and spends most of the day on the school roof with Akira and Nobuko. When Shuji goes to Akira’s home which is a above food stand. They spend there time on the roof where a small garden is being tended. That’s a lot of time to spend on rooftops.

But it isn’t always about suicide or bullying, in Remote a school girl falls from the rooftop of her school, she was trying to watch the lights on Tokyo tower turn off because she thought it was a romantic view. Everyone assumes that she has committed suicide and that sets off another chain of problems. In Ai no Uta an adult family drama the characters who are police officers often gather on the roof to talk about personal stuff. In Suppli (Sapuri) Minami, Itoh Misaki character has a number of encounters with male co-workers atop the roof of a skyscraper that is under construction. One that occurs at night is framed by a fireworks display over Tokyo bay.

In Maid in Akihabara the first drama to take advantage of the popularity of the Densha Otoko setting, the Yakuza take to the rooftops to plot their takeover of Akihabara and the maid cafe.

In Pretty Girls which is set in the fictional Andrews Department Store, there is an amusement park on the roof with a ferris wheel, needless to say many scenes are set on the roof throughout the series and one entire episode revolves around a plan to close down the old ferris wheel in order to save money for the troubled business.

In Fruits Basket Yuki goes up to sit on the roof every time he gets upset or wants to think. In the Genshiken manga they are forced up to the rooftop to paint the models when the other circles complain about the fumes.

Where I live in Upstate NY, part of the litigate happy USA. I only know of one restaurant that has open air rooftop access. No schools or workplaces that I know of allow any kind of access to the roof. Many have decks and other outside areas but always on the ground. So what is the Japanese fascination with rooftops? Do the Japanese spend a considerable amount of time on their roofs as the there entertainment would seem to indicate or am I mistaking a familiar plot device for something that doesn’t really occur all that often in real life Japan.

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Anonymous Ian said...

Hi Kevin. I wrote a master's dissertation on this topic. http://tokuon.weblogs.jp/rooftop/2008/01/sophia-universi.html

What I'd really be interested in is how rooftops are portrayed in New York and other urban centers. The use of the image and space seems to be part of urban culture, but living in Tokyo, I've only experienced it here. Super-hero comics in American comics, NYC-based dramas, sitcoms, etc. do occasionally use rooftops, though not nearly to the extent that Japanese media use it. But I could be wrong.

1/12/2008 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

@Ian I tried to download the dissertation but it didn't load a PDF it just went to a page with one line of Japanese.

The use of the image and space seems to be part of urban culture, but living in Tokyo, I've only experienced it here.
A friend from Germany who worked at a lab in Hokaido told me she used to go up to the roof to see the ocean and sunsets over the mountains. Not sure if she was in an urban or rural area, I'll have to remember to ask her.

1/13/2008 08:31:00 AM  

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