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THE LEGEND OF "WASAMON" #1 : Pedestrian Scramble

Mayuna Mizutani Mayuna Mizutani 09/03/2018 8 min read
In the center of Kyushu, in the far west of Japan, lies a land called Kumamoto. Surrounded by a bottle green sea and towering mountains, this place of outstanding beauty is known as the “Land of Fire” by the local people…and where there is beautiful nature, unique and intriguing cultures flourish. Naturally, the people of Kumamoto have imbued their own culture and language with these same, mystifying characteristics. We have already discussed the word “WASAMON” – the theme of SMA-EX3, being a concept found solely in the Kumamoto dialect. Roughly translating as “a person who loves new things”, WASAMON perfectly sums up the people of Kumamoto, an inquisitive population, fascinated by innovation. That being said, it is quiet difficult to convey an accurate understanding of the concept “a person who loves new things”. What exactly do we mean by “new”? Or “love” for that matter. Ok, we can hear all you Manga fans out there, shouting “you’re a Manga webmagazine! Show it! Don’t explain it!!” Hear you we have, so here’s a brand, spanking new article, aimed at helping you understand the concept of “WASAMON” through emotion! In this series, we’ll be introducing you to some intriguing examples and legends of “WASAMON”, directly from the people of Kumamoto themselves, to improve your manga creating skills!  

A Chronicle of Pioneers: “Pedestrian Scramble”

To kick off the series, we’ll be looking at the “Pedestrian Scramble (A crossroad that temporarily stops all vehicular traffic, allowing pedestrians to move in all directions for a short amount of time)”. If “Mt. Fuji” and the Temples and Shrines of Kyoto & Nara represent traditional Japan, then the bustling, fast paced thoroughfare of Shibuya’s Pedestrian Scramble, or Shibuya Crossing, most definitely embodies modern Japan. Yes, I’m, talking about Tokyo’s enormous pedestrian crossing, enclosed by towering, modern buildings, huge screens blasting out advertisements, that green, vintage rail carriage and the iconic statue of Hachiko (Japan’s loyalist dog). Most visitors admit to being overwhelmed by this monstrous human fortress, made famous by the movie “Lost in Translation” and a whole host of manga and anime, but it’s a must on any tourist’s schedule, including our Master Class trips, where at least one person requests a visit!   But did you know, the idea of this Urban Monster was first thought up in Kumamoto? Back in 1968 (or was it 1969?), the very first “pedestal scramble” in Japan was first built in Kokai, Chuo-ku in Kumamoto City. Located within close proximity to Kumamoto University and a popular shopping hub, Kokai was a notorious hotspot for traffic jams. Exasperated, the Kumamoto Police searched for a solution when genius struck! Inspired by “Fifth Avenue” in New York city, they decided to introduce a new concept, an innovative pedestrian crossing, thereby alleviating the ever mounting congestion.   “Shibuya scramble” came to life in 1973, less than five years later. Though younger than it’s Kumamoto counterpart, “Shibuya Crossing” certainly makes up in numbers, with an estimated 3000 people crossing it every 5 minutes! That’s 3000 people, rushing along under the glare of neon every time a green signal flashes. Intrigued by this crossing rivalry, our team counted the people crossing in Kumamoto, which was…19! Not even 1% of Shibuya Scramble!! The Kokai Scramble may not be as famous as Shibuya’s, or as busy, but it was Japan’s first. A fact the innovation seekers of Kumamoto are, quite rightly, immensely proud of. More than just a crossing, this pioneering, little space in Kumamoto has a big place in the hearts of the locals. After all, this is the home of “WASAMON”.     Penmaru: That’s sooooo cool!! I had no idea that Japan’s most famous tourist spot had it’s roots in Kumamoto! It seems there are more surprises to come… don’t you think so, Shihan!?   Shihan: Yes. I can feel the “WASAMON” spirit of the Kumamoto people, especially in the way the police looked to New York for a solution. I imagine the guy thought, “We should look to the wider world, to learn more”… “Cool” indeed!     And thus, the first legend “WASAMON” has been told on the SMAC!’s page. What kind of “WASAMON” will come next!? Read the next episode to find out! Did you feel the spirit of WASAMON from the people in Kumamoto? If you did, share this article with your friends, and spread the coolness! If you didn’t, tweet/message Mayu so that she can work harder next time! Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter /Facebook, too!
Featured Image: “Shibuya” by Candida.Performa / licensed under CC BY 2.0
Mayuna Mizutani

Mayuna Mizutani