In the world of Japanese manga, which has birthed countless masterpieces, there is one work that stands out, a creation that has been well-known and beloved for a long time.
That work is “SLAM DUNK”. Although this manga series first began in 1990 in the “Shonen Jump” magazine, it continues to be enthusiastically received by people across time and borders.
Through the lens of basketball, “SLAM DUNK” depicts the positive growth of high school students across 276 chapters, serialized over a span of six years. At the time, it shone a spotlight on basketball, a sport that was less mainstream compared to baseball and soccer, and sparked a major boom. This, coupled with the airing of the manga on television, led to a sudden increase in the number of players.
Notably, its cumulative circulation in Japan exceeds an astonishing 120 million copies (!!).
In December 2022, the film adaptation “THE FIRST SLAM DUNK,” directed and scripted by the original author, Takehiko Inoue, was released. As of May 2023, it has made over 14 billion yen in box office revenue in Japan alone and won the Best Animation Award at the 46th Japan Academy Awards.
The movie is now being shown not only in Japan but also in South Korea, Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, and other mainly Asian territories. In China, the pre-sale tickets alone broke through 2.25 billion yen, setting a record for the highest pre-sale ticket sales for a foreign animated film shown in the country.
It’s also slated for a premiere screening at the Anime Expo, the largest Japanese pop culture event in North America, which will be held in Los Angeles on July 3, 2023. This will be the kick-off for screenings in various locations across North America, the home of basketball.
Interestingly, although the globally popular manga “SLAM DUNK” is set in Kanagawa Prefecture, there’s some buzz among a subset of fans due to the presence of several characters bearing the names of places in Fukuoka.
It’s important to note that these are merely fan-based speculations and remain firmly in the realm of rumor. However, for your enjoyment, we’ll introduce some of these intriguing theories!
Hisashi Mitsui X Mii-no-Kotobuki, a sake brewery in Tachiarai Town, Fukuoka
Hisashi Mitsui, the prodigious three-point shooter on the basketball team at Kanagawa Prefecture’s Shohoku High School, the setting of the story. His name originates from Mii-no-Kotobuki, a venerable sake brewery located in Tachiarai, a town in Fukuoka’s Mitsui District.
The manga’s author, Takehiko Inoue, has openly stated in a 2008 interview for “Manga Begins” that he enjoys drinking the pure rice sake made from Fukuoka-produced Yamada Nishiki rice, and named the character after the brewery. (*The Mii-no-Kotobuki brewery does not offer tours or direct sales of sake.)
The brewery’s president, Mr. Inoue, a big fan of the manga, initially found the connection surprising. Later, they began selling sake with a label paying homage to Hisashi Mitsui’s red jersey and number, specifically targeting Slam Dunk fans with “Junmai Ginjo Daikarakuchi Mii-no-Kotobuki +14” starting in 2013. The sake’s alcohol content is 14%, mirroring Mitsui’s jersey number, and the release date is intentionally set on Mitsui’s birthday, May 22nd.
You can purchase the Japanese sake featuring the Hisashi Mitsui homage label (Mii-no-Kotobuki) at select liquor stores, such as the Tomozoe Main Store. Currently, due to the success of the movie, both domestic and international orders are pouring in and stocks may be limited…
In some izakayas in Fukuoka, it is also served by the glass, so give it a try if you spot it!
Hanamichi Sakuragi & Kaede Rukawa X Fukuoka’s Ukiha City “Nagarekawa Cherry Blossom Avenue”
The protagonist of SLAM DUNK, Hanamichi Sakuragi, and the ace of the same team, Kaede Rukawa, are rivals. Despite their frequent confrontations within the series, there is a famous cherry blossom avenue called “Nagarekawa Sakura Namiki” along the Kose River in Ukiha City’s Nagarekawa district.
The pronunciation of the district’s name “Nagarekawa” differs from that of the character Rukawa, but in kanji, they’re the same: Rukawa and Sakuragi, cherry trees on Nagarekawa… It almost feels as if it embodies their fated rivalry, their refusal to pass the ball to each other, but occasionally showing incredible teamwork. In spring, the cherry blossom avenue continues for 2 km and is a popular spot for hanami in Fukuoka.
Nagarekawa Cherry Blossom Avenue
• Nagarekawa, Ukiha Town, Ukiha City, Fukuoka
Akira Sendoh X Fukuoka Prefecture Asakura District Chikuzen Town “Sendoh Tumulus”
Akira Sendoh, who doesn’t appear in the movie but is a popular character among readers as the ace of Shohoku High School’s rival basketball team in the original work. In Chikuzen, Asakura District, there is the “Sendoh Tumulus,” a late-Kofun period circular tomb and a nationally designated historic site that includes Sendoh’s surname.
Surrounding the tomb are rare cylindrical clay figures and a shield-bearing warrior figurine, known for their near-pristine condition upon excavation. Surprisingly, doesn’t the figurine’s distinctive hairstyle, resemble Sendoh’s spiky hair?
There are fans within Fukuoka Prefecture who believe that the expression of Haniwa resembles Fukuda Kiccho (nicknamed Fuku-chan), a good teammate of Sendoh who has an offensive power comparable to Sendoh’s.
• 111-2 Hisamitsu, Chikuzen, Asakura District, Fukuoka
• Free admission
• Parking: 20 spots (free)
• Access: Disembark at the “Hisamitsu” bus stop, about a 15-minute walk
Incidentally, there is also a bus stop called “Sendoh” in Sawara-ku, Fukuoka City. Coincidence or something more?
Takamiya Nozomi, Okusu Yuji, Noma Chuichiro X Fukuoka City Minami-ku Noma, Okusu, Takamiya Districts
The three characters – Takamiya-kun, Okusu-kun, and Noma-kun – make up the “Sakuragi Corps” formed by the four best friends of the protagonist, Hanamichi Sakuragi. They always come to cheer during games. In the Minami-ku of Fukuoka City, there are place names “Noma”, “Takamiya”, and “Okusu”. While these names can be found anywhere, their adjacency has led to speculation about a connection with “SLAM DUNK”. Perhaps there is some commonality between these friends of Sakuragi who fervently support him and these neighboring place names?
Fukuoka City Minami-ku Noma, Okusu, Takamiya
• Okusu: Disembark at the Nishitetsu Bus “Okusu” stop, it’s a short walk
• Takamiya, Noma: Disembark at the “Takamiya” station on the Nishitetsu Tenjin Omuta Line, it’s a short walk.
Get off at the “Okusu” bus stop. There are many shared cycle ports set up, so you can feel free to explore on foot or by bike. The Noma intersection, where you can see the Noma road sign and a signboard with “Takamiya” written on it at the same time, could be a photo spot for fans of the Sakuragi Corps.
These are just rumors among fans, but feel free to use these stories to enhance your enjoyment of your stay in Fukuoka. However, the story about the sake “Mii-no-Kotobuki” is a fact publicly stated by the author, and many “SLAM DUNK” fans have started to appreciate Japanese sake because of it.
Use the Fukuoka Now original Google Map, which includes all the spots introduced here, and visit places you wouldn’t usually go to – you might make some new discoveries!?