Kyoto International Manga Museum
Reading retreat: The history of manga at your fingertips.
Kyoto is not usually associated with manga or anime. We picture this city as a historically rich tourist Mecca of architecture and tradition. The former capital, though, is also home to one of the most important and largest manga museums in Japan. The Kyoto International Manga Museum is a must-see venue for any literary or visual art enthusiast.
The museum is designed for visitors to experience it to its fullest with many reading rooms, rest areas and spaces for kids to play and read. In the midst of a wealth of manga books, you can also see permanent exhibitions, theoretical and practical manga courses, as well as live shows. The museum is what used to be an elementary school built 100 years ago. It’s not flashy, but it has a warm library-like feel to it.
Right off the bat, you’ll be greeted by a large international section. This collection is composed of a number of manga translated into dozens of different languages for everyone to enjoy. The large halls will lead you through three stories of manga. In fact, the museum carries over 300,000 volumes obtained partly through purchases but in many cases, donated by private holders or associations. The first floor of the Kyoto International Manga Museum is mostly dedicated to shonen (boys) manga; the second floor carries a large collection of shojo (girls) comics, while the third floor is dedicated to seinen (young adult) works.
All the volumes on the shelves are accessible to read on the spot. If you’re looking for something specific, search for it in the library databases. You will be able to read manga dating as far back as the 1940s, neatly organized by decade, author, year of publication and title.
Not just reading
But there’s more to the Kyoto International Manga Museum than books. The museum displays original artwork of hundreds of mangaka (manga authors). One of the most amazing things to see is a huge sculpture of the phoenix from the iconic manga Hi no Tori (“The Firebird,” 1956-57). A permanent exhibition presents dozens of molds of the drawing hand of legendary artists, as well as autographed original artwork. (Seen in the main photo.)
Still, if you’re looking for something more hands-on, join the manga-drawing classes taught by a true manga artist. You can also see performances of kamishibai, a show in which a narrator acts out a story as he flips through images drawn on panels. This is an interesting experience for those who would like to see what the precursor of television and the grandfather of manga used to look like in Japan.
Whether you want to read original volumes of your favorite manga, learn about the art and its history or simply visit a memorable place, the Kyoto International Manga Museum is for you.