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Anime Aunties Visit Japan
What I Learned at the Tokiwaso Manga Museum

by Lynzee Loveridge,

In the midst of the modern Toshima ward in Tokyo, there's a two-story, multi-flat building with an appearance straight out of the 1950s. It sits behind a wrought-iron gate, flanked by children's play equipment. The outer façade is subtle. Visitors walking up to the building wouldn't immediately surmise that it's a replica out of time, a recreation of one of manga's most important landmarks. Nestled in a Japanese neighborhood is the Tokiwaso Manga Museum, a detailed replica of the sharehouse that Osamu Tezuka, Fujio Akatsuka, Shōtarō Ishinomori, Fujiko Fujio Ⓐ, Fujiko F. Fujio, and more manga artists called home.

The Tokiwaso Park entry gate
Photo by Jacki Jing

The manga artists that lived in Tokiwaso
Photo by Jacki Jing

The original building was located in Toshima, but was demolished in 1982. Through the efforts of anime and manga fans, the museum opened in July 2020. The original apartment building is often spoken about in fandom circles due to the talent birthed from its creative environment. Many of the creators would come together to form Studio Zero in the 1960s, leading to animation production work on their own anime, like Doraemon, Hoshi no Ko Chobin, and Osomatsu-kun.

Going in, I knew to expect the mangaka's rooms to be quaint. I didn't expect exactly how quaint they were. From the outside, Tokiwaso looks like a rather spacious building, but that space is split into 13 rooms on the second floor. Visitors enter through double wooden doors and approach the (intentionally) creaky stairs leading up to the manga creators' rooms. Everything is recreated in meticulous detail, from the stained urinals in the bathroom to the unkempt communal kitchen (who did the dishes around here?). There is no shower or bathtub; residents would need to find a public bathhouse to wash up.

Room size reference: Dustin is 7ft (or approximately 2m) tall.
Photo by Jacki Jing

The communal kitchen at Tokiwaso
Photo by Jacki Jing

At first, it seems serendipitous, not just that so many manga creators, but specifically so many influential manga creators ended up in the same apartment building at the same time. This was in part due to Gakudōsha's Manga Shonen magazine. The manga serial magazine operated until 1955 and was home to Tezuka's Kimba the White Lion and Manga Classroom series. The magazine editor introduced Tezuka to the building while he was apartment-hunting in Tokyo. He moved into Tokiwaso where rent was 3,000 yen (equivalent to 18,669 yen in 2023, or US$133) per month. In 1954, the top floor was home to Tezuka and Hiroo Terada. In two years, the group would grow to include the Fujiko Fujio duo (recruited to the building by Tezuka), Fujio Akatsuka, Shōtarō Ishinomori, and Shinichi Suzuki and Naoya Moriyasu. Suzuki and Moriyasu shared a room...somehow.

A reproduction of Tokuo Yokota's room. Check out the rabbit ears on the TV. Before Yokota moved in, the room was shared by Shinichi Suzuki and Naoya Moriyasu.
Photo by Jacki Jing

The rooms are small but give an enlightening look at the individual creators that called them home. Ishinomori's rooms stand out among his peers. The Cyborg 009 and Kamen Rider creator rented two rooms in Tokiwaso, one for himself and one for storage. Just kidding, the second room was a workroom that also housed his assistant, Johji Yamauchi. Ishinomori did run out of space in his own room, so Yamauchi's workspace and living area also stored Ishinomori's avalanche of books and film canisters.

Johji Yamauchi's room and workspace.
Photo by Jacki Jing

While their accommodations were modest, during the '50s and '60s, Tokiwaso was hopping with not only manga artists and their visitors but also ordinary residents and families. This was due to a boom in postwar construction that led to more apartment buildings along with convenient public transit in the area. Inside the museum, visitors can look at information displays that discuss the cost of living at the time.

33 percent of the budget was spent on food. 31 percent on alcohol. Did this help keep the creative juices flowing?
Photo by Jacki Jing

The residents' rooms may have been meager, but they weren't afraid to splurge on extras. Compared to the average Japanese citizen at the time, the mangaka spent more than average on entertainment like movies and books. The alcohol budget was impressive, too.

Manga fans interested in learning more about the medium's greatest artists and those looking to see what life was like as an artist in Japan over 50 years ago have a lot to discover here. Below the living quarters, is a stunning array of the artists' manga, filling a wall-to-wall bookshelf in the Manga Lounge. At the front of room, a miniature replica of Tokiwaso is on display with functional lights.

The Manga Lounge is overflowing with creativity.
Photo by Jacki Jing

The building also hosts rotating exhibitions. While we were there, there was a temporary exhibition focusing on Gō Nagai, the creator of Devilman and Mazinger Z. Both series celebrated their 50th anniversary last year. Nagai did not live at the Tokiwaso apartment, but he lived in the Toshima district as a child, where he attended elementary and middle school. Prior to making his professional debut, Nagai worked as an assistant to Tokiwaso resident Ishinomori and would later found Dynamic Productions with his brothers in 1969.

A photospot from the previous Go Nagai exhibition. It features the terrifying turtle monster Jinmen from Devilman.
Photo by Jacki Jing
Note: The Gō Nagai photospot is not currently on display at Tokiwaso.

With rotating exhibitions, a spacious Manga Lounge full of works by legendary manga creators, and the meticulous attention to detail to recreate a place out of time, The Tokiwaso Manga Museum is fascinating in a way that can only be appreciated if experienced in person. We highly recommend you take the time to stop by. Visitors can find the Tokiwaso Manga Museum a 5-minute walk from the Ochiai-minami-nagasaki subway station on the Toei Oedo line or approximately a 10-minute walk from the Higashi-Nagasaki station on the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line.

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