What Real World School Uniforms Inspired the Designs in Sailor Moon?

What inspired these uniform designs?

What inspired these uniform designs?

When you consider just how much inspiration Ms. Takeuchi took from the real world when creating the Sailor Moon universe, it seemed almost certain that the school uniforms in the series must have come from somewhere. However, no matter how hard I looked, I was never able to come up with a solid lead as to what actual schools could have served as the base for the Juban Junior High School uniform design.

That is, until this weekend.

In an interesting turn of events, what I thought would be a quaint, uneventful museum visit wound up solving one of the oldest open questions I’ve been researching off and on since this blog was first started.

And better yet, the question was answered by none other than Ms. Takeuchi herself.

Stick around, we’re about to take a trip down memory lane!

"Sailor-fuku and Schoolgirls" exhibit at Yayoi Museum

“Sailor-fuku and Schoolgirls” exhibit at Yayoi Museum

Though this information is probably only useful to those in Japan (and until June 24, 2018), there’s a fascinating museum exhibit being held right now at the Yayoi Museum titled 「セーラー服と女学生」 (Sailor-fuku & Schoolgirls).1 The exhibit covers the history of school uniforms in Japan and their depiction through time in both photography and pop art, going all the way back to the Meiji and Taisho eras2 through today.

And since they had an exhibit dedicated entirely to sailor uniforms, it was only natural that Sailor Moon would be showcased as well.

While there was unfortunately no new or particularly unique Sailor Moon-related art  on display, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had conducted a brief Q&A with Ms. Takeuchi about her thoughts on school uniforms, including how the Japanese “sailor fuku” has become popular in the west, and the importance of uniforms in modern Japan. Though I’d love to translate all of her answers, unfortunately that falls a bit beyond the scope of this blog article.

A sailor uniform exhibit, showing how to tie school knots

A sailor uniform exhibit, showing how to tie school knots

What we can talk about, though, is the series of questions where Ms. Takeuchi addresses her inspiration for the school uniforms worn by the Sailor Soldiers. Considering that I’ve personally spent a not-insignificant amount of time trying to answer this very question, it was quite a pleasant surprise that find the answer here when I wasn’t even looking.

So then, where do they come from?

Well, first off, she’s mum about Rei’s uniform (as well as the Outers and Mugen Gakuen), so I can’t really say much about that. But Ms. Takeuchi does go on to say that the design for Makoto’s school uniform is entirely made up. She liked the idea of having a brown uniform design — something that seemed unique at the time and like it would make Makoto stand out even more — and also felt that the brown of the uniform went well with her chestnut hair.

The designs for Juban Junior High School (worn by Usagi and Ami, along with Naru and others) and Shiba Koen Junior High school (worn by Minako) were inspired by the uniform Ms. Takeuchi wore back in her own schoolgirl days at Kita Junior High School in Kofu city.3 Though the ribbon used on the uniform is a light blue now, apparently back in her day it used to be a deep red.

Kita Junior High School uniforms

Kita Junior High School uniforms

Even though I can’t find a picture of what the design looked like back in the 70s, honestly, I think it still looks pretty close nowadays.

Ms. Takeuchi then went on to explain that, for the previous three generations, every woman in her family had attended Yamanashi Eiwa Gakuin4 — an all-girls Christian school that a young Naoko was positive she would also attend when she reached junior high school. However, her parents decided that it would be better for her to go to a public co-ed school, which wound up being quite a shock for her when she found out that she wouldn’t be wearing the same uniform as her mother, a design she spend years admiring.

School uniforms are pretty serious business, apparently.

As one last interesting side note, Ms. Takeuchi mentioned that ChibiUsa’s “school uniform” was inspired by old, European-styled uniforms. This was done intentionally to give ChibiUsa a slightly different impression from the rest of the Sailor Team, to reflect the fact that she was from a different time.

Oh, and there’s also the fact that ChibiUsa’s “uniform” isn’t actually a uniform at all, seeing as her elementary school allows the students to wear whatever they want. But no one talks about that…

I'm still not sure what's going on with ChibiUsa's "uniform"

I’m still not sure what’s going on with ChibiUsa’s “uniform”

There’s nothing really ground-breaking or earth-shattering here, but to be honest, there doesn’t need to be for me. I love every little bit of trivia I can find about the world of Sailor Moon, and especially about how the series came to be.

Since we’re already on the topic of school uniforms, I figure now is a good time to ask you: what’s your favorite uniform in the Sailor Moon universe? Though it’s a really tough choice for me, I think I’d have to throw my vote in for Mugen Gakuen. So what about you??

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  1.  See Sailor-fuku & Schoolgirls (PDF)
  2. Meiji: 1868-1912; Taisho: 1912-1926
  3. In Yamanashi prefecture; see Kita Junior High School
  4.  See Yamanashi Eiwa Gakuin

18 thoughts on “What Real World School Uniforms Inspired the Designs in Sailor Moon?

  1. “Old European style…”
    The girls at my school wore that pleated skirt+suspenders combo ChibiUsa wears, but in gray, though the top was completely different (just a turquoise polo shirt, often paired with an navy marine sweater); I’m just 22 years old, so uniforms similar to that still exist at Europe.

    It was interesting to learn more about the different uniforms, not many people talks about them despite how big they’re on the shows aesthetics.

  2. On many countries elementary school students do wear uniforms. Maybe the international inspiration explains it. More likely, between Osa-P and Naoko Takeuchi no girl is safe from getting cute school uniforms…

    Mugen Gakuen looks really striking both colored and B&W. But Rei’s would probably be the most beautiful in real life, and Makoto’s is quite cool and works well with dramatic perspectives and rotations.

  3. Yaaay!! That’s so great that they interviewed her!!

    Personally, I love Makoto’s uniform – especially the unique color – so to find out that it was an original design makes it extra special to me~.

  4. My favourite uniform are ones worn by random characters in the show/manga, cause some look pretty in comparison to what the girls wear, lols, meews.

  5. I love that girls uniforms seems really traditional and close to real ones wore in Japan in comparision to ones wore by Precure characters for example

    • I feel like from around… the mid- to late-90s maybe, anime/manga school uniforms started to get really flashy and over-the-top. But maybe that’s just me being cranky and old?

    • I would love if there were a greater variety in uniforms. We hosted a S. Korean students some years back, and she actually had a bolero type uniform back home similar to Yes!Precure5.

      Many uniforms at least here in the prefecture are just plain boring and so similar to other schools’ ones that you can’t even longer separate them by the uniform, which was supposed to be a main reason for uniforms.

  6. I would love to read what she has to say about the sailor fuku rising into fame in the West. You could translate the whole interview someday.

  7. I think it’s cool that she made up Makoto’s uniform entirely. Love the sukeban-inspired skirt. This is cool! Thanks for sharing!

  8. The story of Naoko going into co-ed school instead of all-girls one immediately reminded me of Rei & Minako Girls´ School Battle. Basically explains the whole story. Minako is in her creator´s position – she wants to try wearing the academy´s uniform, to check out the life in a different, higher-status school.

    On the other side I totally understand, Rei´s uniform is really pretty, my favourite one.

  9. ChibiUsa is a trendsetter, since her uniform looks so close to the one worn by most of the Hugtto PreCures XD

    But this is a very interesting story. Write what you know indeed!

  10. I also love the Mugen Gakun uniforms, so much so that I’ve bought the pieces of clothing in blackwatch plaid because they remind me of those uniforms.

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