'Ashita no Joe’ is a story set in Sanya, a slum in Tokyo.
'Sanya’ is the common name for a district in northeastern Tokyo, and there is no official address of 'Sanya.’
The Omoigawa River that runs next to the Tange Gym and the Namida-bashi Bridge that crosses it existed.
Ashita no Joe (5) P193 (c)TakamoriAsao ChibaTetsuya 2012
However, the Omoigawa was demolished and replaced by Meiji Street, and the Namida-bashi was also taken down.
Today, the name remains only on the 'Namida-bashi crossing,’ an intersection that was created where the bridge used to be.
This is an article about the history and present Sanya and the Namida-bashi bridge.
“Namida" is tear in Japanese, Namida Bashi means bridge of tears.
In 'Ashita no Joe,’ Danpei explained to Joe “This is the place where people who have failed in Tokyo come with crying. That’s why this bridge is called 'Namida bashi.'"
However, the name 'Namida-bashi’ was delivered from a more distressing source in reality.
About 4 or 3 hundred years ago, there was an execution site beyond the bridge.
Every criminal being taken to the scaffold was crying on this bridge, so people came to call it “Namida bashi."
It is easy to imagine that it was a lonely and desolate place with no popularity.
In fact, Sanya had not only an execution site but also a temple where harlots’ corpses were thrown.
First of all, its geographical location was not good.
When the execution site was there, Asakusa used to be a busy downtown.
Heading north a little, there was a secret zone for adults, a large red-light district, Yoshiwara, and further north, it was Sanya. Next to bright Asakusa and dark Yoshiwara, Sanya had been treated like a city’s garbage can.
You may think of Sanya as a skid row. You are right. A lot of very cheap accommodations of less than four square meters per room still exist in Sanya.
In the mid-20th century, Sanya faced an extremely chaotic situation.
During WWII, the Asakusa area was hit by violent air raids, therefore, the streets in Sanya were full of people with no house, and naturally, it had become a slum.
After the war, many of the homeless men became day laborers and many small inns were built for them. It was the birth of the biggest skid row in Tokyo.
Although Namida Bashi, which represented this town’s pitiful past, was demolished, the atmosphere of Sanya is different from any ordinary town, even today.
For example, most space of Tamahime park is allocated for homeless people.
Ashita no Joe (14) P91 (c)TakamoriAsao ChibaTetsuya 2012
Some strange precautionary statements for drivers saying “Watch out for those who are sleeping on the street" are displayed. I have never seen such a notice in Japan other than in Sanya.
The other morning, a cop was waking up a drunken old man sleeping in front of a convenience store. I have never seen such a…
Viewing a lot of trash or cigarette ends on the roads may make you doubt if it’s really Japan in the 21st century.
Why do I know well present situations in Sanya?
I had worked in a company there. Because I wanted to be in Joe’s area, of course. Those days were exciting…but, I recommend you not to go there alone, especially at night.
Ashita no Joe (7) P17 (c)TakamoriAsao ChibaTetsuya 2012