‘Slam Dunk’ pilgrimage follows road to glory

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A special “Slam Dunk” display is seen at Shinjuku Wald 9 film theater in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on the release date of “The First Slam Dunk” movie in December.

Are you a “Slam Dunk” fan? Has it ever crossed your mind to visit the locations where some of the more memorable scenes took place? Well, I have made my “pilgrimage” and will take you around to a few of those famous spots from the legendary basketball manga.

The manga’s protagonist, Hanamichi Sakuragi, is a little rough around the edges. However, after joining his high school basketball team, his talent blossoms through his own physical abilities and tireless efforts.

The manga was serialized from 1990 to 1996 in the Shukan Shonen Jump weekly manga magazine, which is published by Shueisha, Inc. The realistic depictions of the characters created by mangaka Takehiko Inoue made the manga a huge hit. The total number of printed copies of the manga surpassed the 100 million mark in 2004, eight years after the manga’s serialization ended.

The manga remains popular. Some people have said they started playing basketball because of the manga.

The new animated film adaptation, “The First Slam Dunk,” which came out in theaters in December, was written and directed by Inoue. The slogan for the movie is: “A completely new ‘Slam Dunk’ that no one has ever seen.”

High school

“Slam Dunk” is a basketball manga, but it also depicts the daily lives of the high schoolers. When Sakuragi enters Shohoku High School, he instantly falls for his classmate Haruko Akagi. She is the one who suggests that he join the basketball team.

The high school is said to have been modeled after Musashino Kita High School in Musashino, Tokyo. The exteriors of the school and the gym in the manga closely resemble the buildings at the Tokyo high school.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Musashino Kita High School in Musashino, Tokyo, is the supposed model for Shohoku High School in “Slam Dunk” (➊ on the map)

During the period when many students are taking university entrance exams, the school hangs a large banner with a famous line from the manga: “Akirametara sokode shiai shuryo dayo,” meaning, “If you give up, that’s when the game is over.”

Test takers will surely feel more motivated after being encouraged in this way.

Game venue

Other than the high school, most of the other key locations from “Slam Dunk” can be found in the Shonan coastal area of Kanagawa Prefecture.

After defeating rival Ryonan High School in the final round, Shohoku High School advanced to become one of the two teams representing Kanagawa Prefecture in the high school championships.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Clockwise from left: A “Slam Dunk” display is seen inside the Hiratsuka Sogo Taiikukan gym in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture; the Hiratsuka Sogo Taiikukan gym, which is believed to be the model for the venue of an important game in “Slam Dunk”; the interior of the gym (➋ on the map)

“The other employees told me, ‘Mr. Inoue used to regularly come here,’” said Motoji Yoshimura, 58, a Hiratsuka government official in charge of the gym.

The gym is still used during the final to determine which high school basketball team will represent the prefecture.

“The school to represent [Kanagawa] Prefecture still emerges from here,” Yoshimura said.

Railroad crossing

I took a train from JR Hiratsuka Station to JR Fujisawa Station, where I transferred to an Enoshima Electric Railway train. After about 30 minutes, I got off at Kamakura Koko Mae Station.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
“Slam Drunk” fumikiri crossing in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture (➌ on the map)

As I walked along a road to next to the tracks, I saw a railroad crossing, which can be seen during the opening song of the TV anime. The crossing, located in Kamakura, is well-known among fans, who refer to it as the “Slam Drunk” fumikiri crossing.

The anime aired overseas as well, so many fans from around the world apparently come to Japan just to see this very crossing. Since it is still a functioning street and railway, please be considerate of others when taking photos.

Feeling relaxed

I hopped back onto an Enoshima Electric Railway train and got off at Enoshima Station. I then walked along the shore and looked out over the water from the Shonan coast before arriving at the Kugenuma Kaigan coastal area in Fujisawa.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Enoshima Island (➍ on the map)

This location is believed to be the model for the setting of one of the final scenes of “Slam Dunk.” The sparkling sea and the long coastline toward Enoshima Island were incredibly beautiful.

I murmured a famous “Slam Dunk” line, “Hidarite wa soeru dake …,” meaning, “The left hand stays relaxed,” as I took my last photo to cap off this “Slam Dunk” pilgrimage.

10 days later

In December 2004, eight years after the manga’s serialization ended, a continuation from the final chapter was drawn on several blackboards at former Prefectural Misaki High School in Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture. The next chapter, titled “Arekara tokago —” (10 days later —), was drawn by Inoue for a three-day event for fans.

The high school was subsequently demolished, and a supermarket and a fire station have been built in its place.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Miyoshi Wakazawa holds a T-shirt given to staff working the “Slam Dunk” three-day event in 2004.

Miyoshi Wakazawa, 67, the president of Miura Umigyo Kosha in Miura, used to work as a Miura government official and had a part in setting up the event. He was even able to watch Inoue draw the art.

“I gazed in awe as [Inoue] drew one panel after another,” Wakazawa said.

Wakazawa said his most vivid memory is what Inoue did after the three-day event ended. Inoue walked to each classroom and erased his manga from the blackboards. When he entered the last classroom and stood in front of the very last panel, which featured Sakuragi, he took his time and erased the board very slowly, little by little.