Ikoku Meiro no Croisée- episodes 3-4

19th century: Europe goes Japanophile!

Episode 3. Japan’s Labyrinth

Summary: As the title says it’s all about Japan this time. Yune starts ironing while Claude is forced by need to accept an order about a new sign without the payment being sure. He needs ideas so he goes around the house. When he crosses the hall, he stops and opens conversation with Oscar and Yune about Japan: the architecture, the size of things, what houses are like, other strange to French people customs like sumo. Yune also shows Claude cups and bottles in which sake is served. Claude can’t really connect with that different culture. His efforts of imagining Japan are just funny. On the other hand a rich spoiled brat in the name of Alice, also the to-be owner of Gallery de Roy, who obsesses over Orient learns about Yune and goes crazy to meet her.

Back to a desperate for ideas Claude: he sees Yune writing down something and snatches her paper (how rude!) , but Yune soon realizes that of course he doesn’t know Japanese, so she talks a bit about the naming traditions in Japan after she’s been asked and writes down her name that will become a great source of inspiration for Claude. Claude manages to sell the sign for the music shop that bears the ideogramme for sound and so as a thanks to Yune goes to purchase a proper, more lasting letter paper. Rain starts falling, Yune rushes to her master’s aid and after the rain stops both enjoy the sunset accompanied by the sound of Paris- the church bells tolling.

France vs Japan:

  • Architecture and tableware: The houses are made out of wood and paper rather than concrete and their ‘carpets’ are made out of woven straw in Japan. Like Japanese people that aren’t -or better weren’t- that tall so were their houses. They were big enough though to contain a garden (especially prosperous houses) and a well. The tableware are also like miniatures and made out of porcelain. French drink their wine in glass. See Japanese garden and Japanese House
  • Entertainment: we get introduced to sumo, a ‘sport’ (hence wrestling between overweight men) with religious roots and origami, the art of paperfolding that doesn’t appear to be only a japanese phenomenon. See Origami and Sumo
  • Nature and man: Shinto being an animistic religion, born on pieces of land embraced and separated by sea, cultivated in the Japanese a strong tie to nature and appreciation for it for many centuries. Japanese developed a sense of beauty relying solely on nature and we can see such samples in names (Yune meaning the sound of boiling water), in the specially made umbrellas to enhance the raining sound, the appreciation towards the bells’ tone and of course the gardens. See Wagasa, Bangasa, Janome and Shinto
  • Climate: In France rain doesn’t last as long as in Japan, Oscar and Claude say. I guess they refer to the japanese monsoon season during summer. See japan_climate

Anime vs Manga:

Japan’s Labyrinth is a combination of chapters 1.2 and 2.2. with the anime flourishing them with details: the iron part, the sumo, the baba cake, origami, the talk about japanese language and the emphasis that Japanese put on nature (see bells and the umbrella). New things, little beautiful tidbits 🙂

The transition from pre-industrial to industrial age is a painful one and it takes greater part in the anime than in the manga. We are given again and again problems and comments about the shops in the Galerie facing crisis and shutting down. Big malls pop up and competition is hard.


Episode 4. Water and Lights

Summary: Bath, luxury and a promised dinner could be an alternative title for this episode. Yune hasn’t given up her efforts of eating cheese, so she tried making it more tasty for her by adding soy sauce- that ‘rotting’ thing as Claude called it, but honestly it’s so delicious, I can’t understand him. Anyway, that’s how the episode starts. They also made a promise for a beef stew seasoned with soy sauce for dinner. A little bit later Yune can’t hold herself any longer without a bath and secretly fills a tab with water, places it on the kitchen floor and when she gets ready, Claude appears, she panics and bloom! all the water on the wooden floor. Bath is an everyday habit for Japanese but not for the lower classes in 19th century France (where they don’t use so much water often- water shortage?). Claude wants to treat Yune kindly and offers to take her to the public baths. Before that happens the Japanophile brat goes into the store, sees Yune and swoons like mad. Claude snatches Yune away for awhile and by the time they discover that the public baths are closed, Alice on her carriage has spotted them and bags them. In the end Yune, not wanting to be rude and ignoring Claude’s prejudjement, accepts the invitation.And so Alice spoils Yune with tea and bath, she even promises her to return her kimono without having to pay anything, in order to make her stay with her from now on. Yune though remembers her promise to make dinner and with her stubborness (head on the floor for a long time) managed to convince the young ojou-sama to bring her back to Claude. And I must say I’m quite happy that the effort of knowing more about a new culture isn’t one way- Claude puts some effort, too, with the soy sauce 🙂

France vs Japan: 

  • Bath: an everyday habit in Japan, maybe due to the well each house owns. In France the poor can’t afford this luxury and go rarely in public baths. Otherwise they are criticized as a waster by neighbours .In Japan they have onsen (spring baths) where people bath naked- before WWII they even had mixed baths (now only old people go to such mixed baths). The shame of being nude came with the Westerns. See Bath
  • Drinks: Tea was the most widespead drink back then in Japan. Tea made a great journey and came into Europe, where English people loved it. In France, according to Alice, tea is the drink for women, since men prefer coffee. See tea
  • Giri/ amae: I mentioned this in the previous episode a bit. Here comes up with not only the need to keep a promise but also in the form of obligation to return the affection Oscar and Claude gave Yune. See Giri means obligation

Anime vs Manga:

This episode corresponds to chapter 3 of the manga. There are not big differences. The adaption is quite faithful. In the manga we see other ladies in Alice’s pavillon that stare amazed/bewildered the Japonais and so Yune questions the appropriateness of her attire. Also, Alice is more annoying and pushy, even saying that she wanted Claude to bow to her in order to give Yune back.

In the anime we see Yune in the big four-legged bath tub. She also gets acquainted with Camille, Alice’s sister. Yune is enchanted by the eye colours of Parisians. In the TV version Alain, a typographer, is introduced in the scene where Claude is worried, if Yune will come back.

Btw I discovered in a mangafox discussion that Gallerie de Roy does exist and it’s in Brussels not in Paris!


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