How Old Was Usagi’s Mother, Ikuko?

Don't ever ask a woman's age...

Don’t ever ask a woman’s age…

In a series like Sailor Moon which has given us so much trouble when it comes to trying to sort out the time line, it’s refreshing to finally be able to take on a question regarding an age which can actually be answered (… within reason) for once. So just how old is Ikuko Tsukino and – by extension – how old was she when she gave birth to Usagi?

Ikuko is, as implied by her name,1 the quintessential caring mother who isn’t afraid of engaging in a little bit of tough-love in order to get Usagi to actually get around to taking studying seriously. Also implied in her name is the Japanese concept of 教育ママ (kyouiku mama; a mother focused on scholastic achievement), a term which has been around in Japanese culture since at least the 1960s,2 though the concept may be more familiar in the west as a “tiger mother” as popularized in Amy Chua’s book by the same name.3

Usagi's growing up!

Usagi’s growing up!

As for her age, according to an offhand remark Ikuko makes in the manga, we can definitively say that she is 36 years old as of the Sailor Stars arc.4 Similarly, she makes a remark in the anime which puts her age at around her “later 30s,”5 so I would say it’s pretty safe to place her at 36 in both versions of Sailor Moon.

If she’s 36 years old when Usagi is first entering high school (and figuring that Usagi is 16 years old at that time), that would put her at around 20 years old when Usagi was born. And I bet you thought Usagi was young when she had ChibiUsa! In 1977, when Usagi was presumably born,6 the average age at the time of first marriage was 27 and 25 for men and women, respectively. As a point of comparison, those numbers are now 31 for men and 29 for women.7

What this does mean, though, is that Ikuko probably did not go to university, though that wasn’t so uncommon in those days. Back in 1977, only around 13% of Japanese women actually went to a four-year university, which is the same rate as that for Japanese men in 1955!8 This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, but it might be an additional reason behind Ikuko’s motivation for pushing Usagi to study hard (and since Usagi became the Neo Queen of Crystal Tokyo at 22, she very well could have gone to university).

Ikuko and six year old Usagi

Ikuko and six year old Usagi

What’s most interesting for me about all of this is that it shows that Usagi’s family is actually on the younger end of the scale, meaning that Ikuko would probably be a fair bit younger than the parents of all the other Sailor Soldiers (well, except Makoto’s…). From the point of view of education, it also nicely emphasizes exactly how impressive and rare it would have been for Ami’s mother to have been attending medical school at that time!

I really do which that we knew more about the family lives of the other members of the Sailor Team, but I guess I should be happy that at the very least the Tsukino’s were fleshed out as much as they were. I’d love to know just how much of their personalities were actually based on the members of Ms. Takeuchi’s family!


References:

  1. Ikuko’s name is literally written with the kanji 育 (iku, soda-teru; to rear, to raise)
  2.  See this article on Kyouiku Mothers and Discipline
  3.  See Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Wikipedia)
  4. See p. 151 of vol. 15 of the original manga
  5. See ep. 130 of the anime
  6. Since Usagi is 14 years old in 1992 when Sailor Moon first came out and it was before her birthday in June, she would be turning 15 in 1992. 1992-15=1977
  7.  See Graph on Japanese Marriage, Divorce, and Age of First Marriage Trends
  8.  See this 2013 Japanese Government Whitepaper on Participation of Men and Women in Education

One comment

  • bun yip (@bunyip232)

    Interesting article… just another one of those things that would have never occurred to me to look into.

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