Kyoto, better known for its traditional arts, is now home to two of Japan’s premier manga institutions: Kyoto Seika University, which is the only university in Japan to offer an undergraduate major in manga; and the Kyoto International Manga Museum, which recently opened.
The latter opened on November 25th in a renovated former elementary school in central Kyoto, on Karasuma Dori just north of Oike Dori. The museum was the brainchild of Seika officials, and is Japan’s only museum devoted entirely to the modern art form born in Japan.
The old school has been beautifully renovated, leaving much of the original structure as it was. The former classrooms now serve as galleries, performance spaces, libraries, and there is a room on the history of the school; corridors have drawings on most of the available wall space.
The outside too is lovely. The school playground has been covered in that rarest of commodities in Japan: a lawn. Children and adults roamed the green space not sure exactly what to do, but enjoying it nonetheless. The exterior of the building as well was thoughtfully redone in a color befitting Kyoto.
The Museum has also clearly considered one of its core constituencies—young people. When you enter the facility on the first floor, the first attraction is a drawing area. Pens and pencils and paper are provided and set out on large tables; children (of all ages) immediately gravitated towards the tables. Next, farther in and next to the elevator, is an artist who will do manga-style portraits. Last, in all of the galleries, there are shelves and shelves of books and magazines that are there to be read and handled. Young staff were there to guide and help.
Including a basement, the Museum has four floors. The basement is a library and research facility; the first floor consists of the entrance, a café, a museum shop, and a library for pre-schoolers. The second floor is where the main galleries are. Large open rooms feature manga from around the world. The third floor is a “research zone,” with some manga better not seen by pre-teens.
Tickets are 500 yen for adults, 300 for junior and senior high school students, and 100 yen for elementary school age children. Children not yet in school enter free.
Perhaps the only criticism is that there is virtually no English guidance or information. As the medium is visual, this is perhaps petty. However, many non-Japanese visitors--clearly tourists--were in attendance the day we went, and no doubt would benefit from knowing about the magazine cover or drawing they were looking at.
Kyoto International Manga Museum
Karasuma-Oike, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan
Directions: The Museum is a one-minute walk from Karasuma Oike subway stop, which is on both the Karasuma and the Tozai lines.
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Thursday, November 30, 2006