Museums in Japan

Kyoto International Manga Museum

The wall of manga at the Kyoto International Manga Museum (image courtesy of Kyoto International Manga Museum / Kyoto Seika University International Manga
Research Center)

It would be unique, if not adventurous, for a UK university and local authority to get together to create and run a large-scale museum solely dedicated to the culture of comic books. Japan being Japan, this has happened already back in 2006 and, 10 years on, has proved its success. The seed to this rather unusual museum idea was planted in 2003 and took three years of tireless planning before the doors opened to the public. This year marks the Kyoto International Manga Museum’s 10th anniversary.

The Kyoto International Manga Museum is administratively set up as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the Kyoto city council and Kyoto Seika University. Housed on the former site of Tatsuike primary school provided for by the city, the museum is operated by the University and used as part of its research facility. The museum holds a large manga and animation material collections that are actively used for academic research and study. It also hosts exhibitions and other manga-related outreach activities that offer lifelong learning opportunities to the local community while at the same time promoting the creative industry.

The collection comprising of historic to contemporary materials have largely been acquired through donations from individuals and companies. The Museum houses over 300,000 items including post-Edo period materials, journals and magazines, animations, foreign manga and digital publications. Its collection is said to be the largest of its kind and supports academic research on the manga culture. In fact, the Museum is a natural off-spring of research activities at Seika University, which in 1973 created its Cartoon Course in the Department of Fine Arts. This became the Department of Cartoon & Comic Art in the Faculty of Art in 2000, then Organization for Human Contact, Manga Culture Research Institute in 2001, and finally Faculty of Manga in 2006. With a strong research and educational hand, the Museum is actively involved in fostering not only young scholars but a network of institutional links developing collaborative research with both national and international scholars and partners.

The museum’s children’s reading room (image courtesy of
Kyoto International Manga Museum / Kyoto Seika University
International Manga Research Center)

For the visitor, the facility offers spaces and exhibits that provide a good overview of the manga industry through their Walls of Manga and Manga Expo exhibits and featured book sections. Traditions characteristic of Kyoto are also explained through displays including the 100 Maiko (Geisha trainee) illustrations. There are workshop spaces, exhibition spaces, lecture hall and even a children’s library and a playhouse where picture-story shows are performed. The interior is presented with a sense of old nostalgia with its dark wooden paneling and floor to double-height ceiling shelves. In fact, it looks much like an established bookstore rather than a museum where booklovers meet for novel readings.

While many museums are on a constant look out for new ways of engagement with their visitors, the Kyoto International Manga Museum appears to have found a winning combination. It is structured in a way to help change minds of both the public and the academic community to firmly position manga as a resource far more important than printed consumable goods. The Kyoto International Manga Museum is a museum, not a public library or a community project. From a brand leadership point of view, the institutional association naturally lends itself to a higher order. It enhances public perceptions of and appreciation towards manga as a complex art form that opens up new theoretical framework in understanding modern society. The Museum’s established research activities not only add academic gravitas to the subject, but reinforces the position of manga as a rich and diverse form of cultural responses.

The museum forms part of the city’s cultural scenery (image courtesy of Kyoto International Manga Museum / Kyoto Seika University International
Manga Research Center)

The Museum is ranked as one of the top 10 destinations in Kyoto by the Time, and it certainly is a fun and inspiring experience for children, adults and families.

Kyoto International Manga Museum
Karasuma-Oike, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0846 Japan
TEL: +81-75-254-7414 FAX: +81-75-254-7424

Open: 10:00am – 6:00pm (admission until 5:30pm)
Closed Wednesdays (or, if Wednesday is a national holiday, the following Thursday) and New Year’s holiday and maintenance periods