KYOTO--“The Wall of Manga” at the Kyoto International Manga Museum can be overwhelming at first sight.
About 50,000 manga volumes line the museum’s hallways and main exhibition room, one of the largest concentrations of manga in the world, but the books on display amount to only a fraction of the institution’s 300,000-strong collection.
"I was like, 'Wow, there are so many manga books. I'm glad I came here,'" Ryutaro Kobayashi, 11, a fifth-grader visiting from Kyoto's Shimogyo Ward in December, said with a smile.
The boy sat in the hallway on the first floor of the museum and read a manga about food called "Toriko."
His mother, Tomoko, 40, was absorbed in "Kochira Ai! Otoseyo" (This is Ai! Respond, over), a mountaineering manga targeted at young girls, and had comic books piled beside her.
She said she had been bought the manga as a child but had never read the final volume.
"I was reunited with something I had forgotten," she said. "I can be the heroine every time I read manga. I think I can stay here for hours."
The museum, which opened in November 2006, is jointly operated by the Kyoto municipal government and Kyoto Seika University, which has a Faculty of Manga. It attracts about 200,000 to 300,000 visitors annually and has become a significant new attraction in the ancient city. Between 600 and 700 annual passes, which cost 6,000 yen ($78) for adults, are sold each year, a spokesperson said.
It is housed in a converted elementary school building from the early Showa Era (1926-1989) in Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward. The atmosphere is part of the charm of the museum.
Visitor numbers had been growing before the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. But numbers dropped drastically, especially among those from overseas, following the March 11 earthquake, according to the spokesperson. Visitor numbers have only recently started recovering.
In addition to its original function as a library to collect and organize comic books, the museum's activities revolve around research into manga. One such project is called "Genga Dash" (Original manuscript Dash).
Museum staff scan original manga manuscripts into computers, adjust the colors and do test prints to reproduce the documents as faithfully as possible. Scratches and scribbles are also reproduced.
The project reflects a solo project launched by manga artist Keiko Takemiya, who currently serves as head of the Faculty of Manga at Kyoto Seika University. So far, 508 sheets of duplicated manuscripts from 14 "shojo" manga artists are preserved at the museum. Shojo manga are written exclusively for girls and usually feature female protagonists.
"It may be difficult to display original manuscripts because they could deteriorate and be lost, but we can put them on display with the Genga Dash project," researcher Kayoko Kuramochi, 28, explained. "We can gain understanding of the historical background and production process (of a manga work) because the duplicates are so elaborate, and they also offer people aspiring to be manga artists an opportunity to learn."
The duplicates are scheduled for public display this year in France and Hungary, she added.
In a cafe inside the museum, autographs and illustrations drawn by manga artists who visited the site are all over the walls. The energy of manga culture can be felt throughout the museum.
Manga artist Tochi Ueyama, 57, who is best known for his "Cooking Papa" series, is a frequent visitor.
"This is a manga paradise. It sees manga as a form of culture, as it should, and explains the greatness of Japanese manga. But it is also great that anyone can just drop by and read (comic books) in a casual way," Ueyama said.
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