Enthusiasts of cosplay, or 'costumed play', gather every Sunday at Kyoto International Manga Museum to show off their outlandish outfits and pose for photos.
Published on February 15, 2008
Since achieving worldwide popularity in the latter half of the 1980s, the Japanese phenomena of manga and anime have become highly valued. In the US and Europe, universities offer manga seminars and exhibitions to go with Japanese cultural courses whereas in manga's native land, it has been recognised as art.
In Kyoto City, regarded as the home of the Japanese comic book industry, Kyoto Seika University has pursued the substantial development of manga with its own Faculty of Manga, the first in the world. To supplement this serious academic research, Kyoto City has established the Kyoto International Manga Museum.
Located in the heart of the city on the site of a former primary school, the museum boasts stunning white building and spacious green lawn. The building's four floors are packed with fun and fantasy for fans of all ages, boasting the largest collection of manga materials in the world - approximately 200,000 volumes of manga books.
Starting from the basement, the Material Room introduces you to the realm of manga history, from its beginnings in the 1940s following World War II, to the present day. The first floor is a playground for young manga fans. The roundshaped Children's Library brimming with manga for kids while the Workshop Corner allows you to experience manga drawing, instructed by artists and students.
What the first and second floors share is the Wall of Manga. A series of bookshelves cover a total length of 140 metres, filled with manga for everyone. Find a comfortable seat in one of those cushioned chairs, grab a volume and immerse yourself in a fantasy world as long as you want. This floor also hosts the Manga Laboratory, which allows you to use computers to read manga and shows the type of manga that is likely to emerge in the future.
The highlight of this floor is the street picture storytelling show, a disappearing performing artform regarded as the seed of Japan's modern animation.
The kamishibai, or paper theatre, originated in Japan in the 12th century. In the 1920s and 1950s, performers would travel from village to village on bicycles with a small wooden stage mounted on the back. The storytellers sold candies and snacks to the children, then launched into a dramatic performance using only the paper cards, their voice and a small spotlight. There were once estimated 25,000 kamishibai storytellers all over Japan. Unfortunately television and films lured audiences away, and the paper theatres gradually disappeared.
An artist known simply as Yassan is among a small handful of kamishibai storytellers left. He performs at 1pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm daily with an additional matinee at 11.30am matinee on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays.
The third floor of the museum is dedicated to researchers and devoted manga readers. Research rooms are packed with journals and academic entries on manga, dissecting their development, changes and the future of the art. The seminar chambers host talks by artists and scholars.
Have coffee break and grab a bite at the cafe on the ground floor. If you come on Sunday, you will get to observe the cosplay promenade joined by a string of cosplay boys and girls in fancy dress, mimicking their favourite manga characters. The event is held every other Sunday and is attended by up to 50 cosplay groups from Kyoto and neighbouring cities.
Kyoto International Manga Museum
KarasumaOike, Nakagyoku Kyoto, Japan
Daily, 10am to 8pm (admission until 7.30pm)
500 yen for adults; 300 yen for students and 100 yen for children (+75) 254 7414 www.kyotomm.com