Ah, yes… one of those questions that’s been haunting Sailor Moon fans for years: if Haruka and Michiru are high school students, how is it that Haruka is able to drive a car? Upon their first appearance in the manga,1 they are supposed to be first-year high school students, which would put them both at 16 years old.
Considering the legal driving age in Japan is, and has always been, 18 years old,2 it’s a bit of a mystery as to how Haruka gets around this issue and is seen driving around the city. So how do you explain this?
Haruka’s International Driving Permit
Though Ms. Takeuchi never addressed this discrepancy in the manga, it seems that the anime explained away this issue once by stating that Haruka held an international driving permit and a foreign license, which is what allowed her to drive. This is certainly a possibility, to a certain extent, because up until 2002 the Japanese government would allow foreign drivers to use an international permit indefinitely, though after that point it’s been restricted to only one year (after which you’re required to obtain a Japanese driver’s license).3
Unfortunately, this explanation is problematic. Annex 8 of the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic4 clearly states:
“The minimum age for driving a motor vehicle under the conditions set out in Article 24 of the Convention shall be eighteen years. Any Contracting State or subdivision thereof may, however, recognize the driving permits issued by other Contracting States to drivers of motorcycles and invalid carriages of a lower age than eighteen years.”
So even if Haruka were able to have obtained a driver’s license from one of the many countries which have a lower legal driving age,5 she would still not be allowed to obtain an international driving permit in the first place. What’s more, even if it were possible, Japanese law still doesn’t allow anyone under the age of 18 to operate a normal motor vehicle on public Japanese roads. So unfortunately, we’re going to have to put to rest any possibility that she would have been able to actually engage in driving a car in any legal sense.
One thing that is interesting to note, however, is the fact that obtaining a driver’s license to operate a motorcycle is actually easier in Japan, with the legal age being set at 16 years old, so Haruka would be able to have a license for her motorcycles (of which she had several). This, of course, only answers half of the question. What does this mean about Haruka’s career in racing?
Haruka as a Race Car Driver
It might surprise you, but while the very idea that a 16 year old high school girl could be an accomplished race car driver, this part of the story is actually more plausible than the assertion that she could drive a normal car on the streets of Japan.
First off, going with the story provided in the anime that Haruka is a licensed driver in another country (never mind that Japan doesn’t observe it for road driving), it might be safe to assume that she’s also a race car driver in another country. Since we don’t know what country she was racing in we can’t say much more, but NASCAR has allowed 16 year old drivers and younger for much of its existence. Mexican-born driver Germán Quiroga,6 for example, made his debut in the NASCAR Reto Neon series in 1996 at the age of 15.
Across the pond in Europe, Formula Renault7 (an entry-level racing series) allows drivers as young as 16, so it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Haruka had possibly been a championship racer either in the United States or somewhere in Europe. But what about in Japan?
Unfortunately, things don’t quite work out as well for Haruka’s racing career in Japan as they do around the rest of the world. The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), which manages most of the racing circuits in Japan, requires a normal driver’s license in addition to being 18 years old in order to get a racing license8 and Haruka, unfortunately, meets neither of those conditions.
All is not lost, however. Japan has a rather strong tradition in kart racing circuits which are open to younger drivers – as young as 16 in fact!9 This is, of course, quite different from the illustrious, jet-setting, trendy race car driver image we have in our minds for Haruka, but it’s unfortunately the only possibility open to her if we were to try to match up what we know of her back story with the situation in Japan.
Personally, I’m actually quite impressed that it actually is possible for Haruka to have been a race car driver at all (even if internationally, or limited to racing karts in Japan) and that there was even a bit of truth behind this. Obviously this is a fictional world and we need to give some leeway for the sake of story telling, but it’s always comforting to know that there’s some basis in reality. Once again, the world of Sailor Moon doesn’t disappoint!
- See vol. 9, p. 31 of the original manga ↩
- See Japanese Drivers Licenses (Wikipedia) ↩
- See U.S. Embassy Website on Driving in Japan ↩
- See the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (Wikipedia) ↩
- See the List of Countries by Minimum Driving Age (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Germán Quiroga (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Formula Renault (Wikipedia) ↩
- See the JAF’s License Acquisition Requirements ↩
- See Racing Karts (Wikipedia) ↩
17 thoughts on “Could Haruka Actually Be a Race Car Driver?”
I have always been of the opinion that Haruka is actually 18 at debut, and lying about her age to not leave her partner alone in a potentially hostile area.
Interesting theory! Though she’d be a pretty awful liar if she says she’s 16 and then tells everyone she’s a race car driver and speeds off in her car.
As much as I love Haruka and Michiru as characters, I have to admit that their backgrounds are absolutely ignored. I know that there was a lot going on in the Death Busters arc and that Uranus and Neptune are supposed to be mysterious by their nature, but they just seem so… other worldly with how little of their background was developed. No mention of parents, family, where or how they grew up, no friends outside of each other…
About Haruka’s lies, I like to think she’s counting on the sheer audacity of the situation and having to not get caught lying only by the questionably sane staff at the Mugen Gakuen (everyone else doesn’t matter as they can’t prove it. At least she thinks so, but in the manga Minako’s police connections could give her a lot of trouble…), plus having actually been in the US.
For the background, I agree. On the other hand, Naoko gave us a possible hint about Michiru in the form of her violin: it’s a Stradivarius, made in Cremona, and that Italian city has a few Japanese violinmakers living and working there alongside the locals and a huge number of Japanese tourists coming there for the violins (enough tourists that the ambassador was at the opening of the local Violin Museum). Opens some interesting possibilities…
Well, she told everyone that she took the license abroad. And I have made the experience that far too many Japanese tend to believe the most incredible stuff about Gaikoku. Apparently, I already get the citizenship by just marrying a Japanese. So believing that you can just use foreign driving licences here would even have more credibility.
And as for age differences, legally there is no real law that says you must be 15, turning 16 in kou1. Even a former studymate of mine was a year older because she didn’t go to school for a year in middle school and had to repeat one year. Not to mention dramas as 35sai no koukousei. And if you pay enough money to a private school, and Haruka’s patrons or guardians had most certainly enough money, seemingly impossible things will become possible. Even in Japan.
The age at which you can enter school is absolutely governed by law. (MEXT source)
While high school is not a part of mandatory education, I’m going to bet that “completing junior high school” is a requisite on pretty much every single high school entrance form. If you hadn’t yet completed junior high school (i.e., you’re too young to have normally completed it) then that means that you’re in violation of the mandatory education laws and need to first complete it.
I also subscribed to the ‘they’re lying about being 16’ theory when I read the manga the first time (I couldn’t watch the anime since I was in the US – so I had what I had :)). Given how mysterious they were portrayed, I always figured it was more of a sham/lie to get close to the danger at hand.
That would definitely explain away a lot of things! This would also explain why the just kinda hang out and raise Hotaru, with no worries about school, from SuperS and on.
The only problem with the “they were lying” theory is that in the anime at least, we see that Haruka was a race car driver when Michiru finds her and she realizes she’s Sailor Uranus, so in the anime she already had an established career.
In the manga, I guess she could have also lied to the racing organization, but considering how outlandishly wealthy she and Michiru were, it seems like something that would’ve gotten noticed. Then again, she also was thought to be a male race car driver, so what do I know? =p But that would mean that they were keeping up the lie later on when they also started attending Juban high school with Usagi and the rest. Hmm.
I guess you could argue that they were keeping an eye on the Star Lights?
In some translations of the manga, they even refer to Haruka as a F1 test driver!
As an F1 fan myself, I find it great but… really exaggerated. OK, a 16yo (boy or girl, but of course a girl would draw even more attention) could in theory drive a F1 in tests. Today it became impossible, because when 17yo Max Verstappen raced, Federation said “never again” and created a 18yo rule.
But yeah, in the 90s it would be possible. So why do I say “exaggerated”, even for a superpowers show? Because a F1 test driver must be available for his team 24/7: as test driver, you are also the spare race driver. The official driver breaks a leg, you go to the airport to replace him. No, don’t pack your luggage, buy everything at the airport! (I’m serious, this happens once a year in F1)
This is not a job you can combine with “super soldier Earth depends on”. Also, when they take a gap year in their career to go back to high school… seriously, Japan’s promising F1 driver (eh, test driver also means you are tested as a future race driver) taking a gap year, and no journalists ask for explanations?
Of course all these arguments also apply for the Starlights: successful singer and super soldiers, this sounds like a sleepless life.
Interestingly enough, both of the translations are generally correct, though both picked up on different nuances. The nuances were really not all that important, but one of them misses that these are white roses, which the other catches. Also, the second link (TokyoPop’s translation?) is more accurate in that they ask whether it’s true that they live together, which the Japanese implies the speaker thinks so, but the other translation makes it so that they’re simply speculating. Conversely, that translation makes it sounds like no one knew she wasn’t in Japan, while the other picks up on the fact that people were under the assumption that she had actually moved abroad and wasn’t coming back.
Yeah, I could talk for hours about comparing translation nuances.
Anyway, you’re right, the original Japanese does say that Haruka is an F1 test driver, which is absolutely absurd. As much as I appreciate the realism Naoko tried to put into the manga, I have to say that she just didn’t even bother when it came to Haruka and Michiru. I guess it all comes together to make them sound cool, but for me, it just blows the whole situation out of the water by being totally ludicrous.
I must admit I’ve also felt they just lied about their age. Show me a hs 1st grader who would be as self confident and knowledgeable as Haruka and Michiru are. Especially in a country like Japan where they do all to keep kids kids by forbidding everything. What 16yo in Japan would have a matured relationship as the two have? When looking at the 2, they remind me of US American highschool series. I was surprised how grown-up American school kids were till I learnt that most actors were in their early 20’s. It’s most likely similar with Haruka and Michiru.
Being at least 18, mostly more like 20-23 years would explain the racer carrier, the helicoptors, the relationship, their living alone in a hyper fancy apartment without any Sebastian or Wan or Yuna D Kaito to look after them. And it would explain why they are so ambiguous when asked about the driving license. They don’t want people to know their real age.
I guess my biggest issue is that, to the extent possible, my goal with this blog is to never go to the “they were lying” answer unless we have any proof that it was a lie.
Once you open Pandora’s Box, it kind of makes it impossible to discuss anything about the series if you could just say that every statement made throughout the series could just be a lie.
As for the driving license issue, the news media explicitly states that she’s a 16 year old race car driver, if I recall correctly. So I think it’s more of a fair assumption that in the world of Sailor Moon, she’s simply allowed to drive at 16, rather than make a bunch of work-arounds to try to shoe-horn in “Haruka being older and secretly lying about her age to sneak into Mugen Gakuen.”
Seeing as Haruka was a well-known celebrity, there’s no way that the school would have been unaware of her racing and driving career.
The last nail in the coffin for this “they’re older” theory, in my opinion, is the fact that both Haruka and Michiru attend Juuban High School in Sailor Stars. Assuming they were lying about their ages just to sneak into Mugen Gakuen, they no longer have any reason to keep up appearances.
Of course, if anyone has any compelling evidence, I’d be open to hearing about it. But thus far, I’m still unconvinced.
There’s no other real age discrepancies with them elsewhere in the story/stories — beyond usual ‘underage anime characters doing things only older people do’ which too common a shoujo cliche to be a hill to die on IMHO — compared to, say, how the live-action had Mamoru own a bike but not a car.
As for proof… I figured the proof they were lying — or rather, just the writers playfully handwaving — was Haruka’s blatant cheap dodge of the question, Makoto remaining unconvinced, and Michiru’s dubious look and dismissive comment at the response? Like… it’s framed in a funny way, but I don’t know how much more that could have been telegraphed beyond someone outright impolitely calling her a liar.
As for “age discrepancies,” there are actually a ton of them in the story, but all those are just related to poor planning/writing rather than being any outright lying on any characters’ part.
Haruka and Michiru, for example, should technically be the same age as the Inners.
How Old Would the Sailor Senshi Be Today?
Honestly, it seems more believable to me that Haruka was just illegally driving. Famous people kind of flaunt the laws all the time, so it’s not necessarily anything new. The idea of her actually being two years older causes so many problems in the storyline that it simply doesn’t make sense.
When i look so at the Race driver career from Haruka i just think, she is a racer but no explains about her career? Huh!?
She is 16 that means she can maximal have a B license (silver) for the F3 world cup.
So her chooses for a series to driver are not great because she is a “junior-driver” whit 16. She can drive Kart (even superkart 250CC class1 if she has enaugh balls for that), or a National Formula 4 championchip (allowed age 15-21) but the F4 *exist first since 2014* soo…..the next is the F3. But she can choose Gt5,4 and 3 too. Okey okey in the 90s the race regulations whit the age and licenses was not so like today but as a 16year old as a F1 test driver is like a sensetion (lool at max verstappen!) So realisticly she can be “just” a Nationalchamp (and a future jewel) until she is 18+ because of license&co.
“The last nail in the coffin for this “they’re older” theory, in my opinion, is the fact that both Haruka and Michiru attend Juuban High School in Sailor Stars. Assuming they were lying about their ages just to sneak into Mugen Gakuen, they no longer have any reason to keep up appearances.”
They clearly continue the ruse to keep the team together and have more eyes on Usagi. Especially given the events leading up to the Shadow Galactica’s appearance. You know, Mamoru’s alleged death that leaves Usagi in a massive funk.
I figure they intend to follow their princess around until she graduates, so bork the system, they’re “highschoolers” again.
By again, I mean I definitely think they’re actually 19-20 years old and lying thru their teeth to the whole world. They have a mission they would kill (anyone including themselves) for… what’s a little lie?
But this is what always gets me: is there literally any reason at all to believe they are lying? There’s just no proof in the series to support that.
And if Haruka was lying and pretending she was younger, she gives that all away by being a famous race car driver. It’s not like Mugen Gakuen didn’t know that they were the same Haruka.