Sarazanmai and its spin-off manga Reo to Mabu: Futari wa Sarazanmai both take place in Asakusa, a district in the Taito special ward in Tokyo, Japan. Asakusa is located in the North-Eastern parts of central Tokyo, next to the Sumida River which separates it from the Sumida special ward in the East.
Asakusa is most famous for the Senso-ji Buddhist temple and for being a former entertainment district (Shinjuku took over after WWII). It’s the home of many restaurants and kitchen & food related establishments and has a more traditional Japanese atmosphere than the rest of Tokyo.
Sumida is most famous for Tokyo Sky Tree and Asahi Beer Tower. Tokyo Sky Tree is a broadcast, restaurant, and observation tower. With a height of 634 meters it’s the tallest tower (and second tallest structure) in the world. Asahi Beer Hall is one of the buildings of the Asahi Breweries headquarters. It’s famous for the huge golden structure at the top which is meant to resemble a flame, but is often jokingly referred to as a turd.
Here’s a map of Asakusa and Sumida with a focus on the temple area. I’ve marked the most notable locations that we can spot in the promotional material and manga.
Identified locations in the manga
The first panel in the first chapter of the manga features a view that’s easy to recognize thanks to the giant chef’s head on the top of the building.
The building in question is Niimi Yoshokkiten (Niimi Western-style Tableware Shop), a kitchen tool department store. It’s located at the south of Kappabashi Dogu Gai (Kappabashi Kitchenware Town); a 800 meter long shopping street with over 170 shops specializing in kitchen & tableware.
This is also the location for Reo and Mabu’s Sarakoban, the “plate/dish” neighbourhood police station that they work at. In real life the station is located on the street across the chef’s head (under the teacups, white building with blue details), but here it looks like Reo and Mabu are standing in front of their koban right under the head.
Exterior shots of the koban, like this one from chapter nine compared to google street view images confirms the placement for it. I’m not sure if it’s simply an artistic choice or if something required the change (laws, regulations, the fact that it’s a sarakoban and not a regular koban).
Here’s another panoramic view of the area from chapter seven.
We see Reo and Mabu visit Kappabashi street in chapter three, when they take part in a summer festival lottery and win a scrubbing sponge. Unfortunately the manga doesn’t show us any locations that I’m able to recognize or look up, only a couple generic looking storefronts.
In chapter two Reo and Mabu go look for Sara’s parents around the temple area and we’re shown the famous Kaminarimon Gate, Nakamise-dori Street and the Main Hall of the Senso-ji Temple.
The Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) is the first of the two entrance gates to the Senso-ji Temple. Its main features are the large red paper lantern, a statue of the God of Thunder on the left and the God of Wind on the right.
Following Kaminarimon is Nakamise-dori (Nakamise Street) which leads up to the second gate and the temple. Nakamise-dori is 250 meters long with around 90 shops on either side selling snacks and souvenirs.
Reo and Mabu visit Nakamise-dori several times throughout the manga. It’s depicted again in chapter four when Mabu is on the search for Ningyou-yaki(Baked Doll) cakes and in chapter eight when Mabu was visiting the temple before encountering another handbag thief.
The Senso-ji Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple. It’s the oldest and most famous temple in Tokyo, built around the year 600. It’s dedicated to Kannon.
Apart from chapter two we see the Main Hall in chapter eight when Mabu visits it to pray for good health and being able to keep Sara.
In chapter eight we also get to see the second entrance gate, the HozomonGate, viewed from the Main Hall. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture from the right angle, but you can still easily see and recognize the different structures, like the tree large lanterns and the two waraji (straw rope) sandals on either side of it that are there to provide healthy feet and safe travels for the visitors.
Chapter six takes place entirely at the Azuma Bridge, crossing the Sumida River. The river passes through several wards and has a total of 26 bridges crossing over it. The two we are shown the most are the red Azuma Bridge and the blue Komagata Bridge.
This photo is taken in Asakusa, by the Azuma Bridge looking over at Tokyo Sky Tree and Asahi Beer Tower.
Azuma Bridge is iconic for Asakuza. It was originally built in 1774, but has been rebuilt several times over the years with the current one being from 1931. The red colour matches that of the Senso-ji Temple. It’s a popular spot for photos thanks to the great view of Tokyo Sky Tree and Asahi Beer Hall, as well as to the nearby park where cherry blossom trees bloom during spring. There’s a boat stop right next to the bridge which is popular among tourists.
Here’s Komagata Bridge viewed from Azuma Bridge. Komagata Bridge was built in 1927 to replace a ferry and it’s another popular spot for photos.
In chapter seven Reo visits the Taito City Office. It’s located about 800 meters west from the Sarakoban (and did not fit not on the first map). If you live in Japan you have to visit your local City Office to register various “life updates”, such as every time you move, when you get married, have children etc.
Here you can see where the City Office/Hall is located and refresh your memory of where some of the other major locations are.
Huge thanks to @leafpool121 for letting me use their photos. I’ve also used my own and had to turn to google for a few. Asakusa is a nice neighborhood, although it’s very busy with tourists and other visitors, it’s worth a visit if you ever get the chance to go to Tokyo. Especially now that you can follow the footsteps of Reo and Mabu!