City sets up ‘otaku’ complex

by Satoshi Iizuka

Kyodo News

KITAKYUSHU — The city of Kitakyushu is seeking to boost international exchange for “otaku” enthusiasts of Japanese subculture by creating an arts-business complex including a “manga” comic museum and a variety of shops by around 2012.

The city will try to set up the museum in the spring of that year in order that the envisioned complex near Fukuoka, a major gateway to other parts of Asia, can attract foreign otaku (geek fans) of manga and “anime” animation, especially those in China and South Korea, officials said.

The museum will be set up in a building near JR Kokura Station as the centerpiece of the complex and display materials such as original pictures by Reiji Matsumoto, who created “Ginga Tetsudo 999″ (“Galaxy Express 999″) and other space sagas, according to the officials.

Matsumoto, as well as other artists, including Tsukasa Hojo, who is noted for romantic comedies such as “Cat’s Eye,” hail from the port city.

Joji Kono, who heads the city’s museum project, said the complex will not only introduce traditional manga culture but house shops selling character figures and others on the theme of “cosplay” costume role playing.

Hirohito Miyamoto, an expert on manga history at the University of Kitakyushu, struck an optimistic note about the project, saying, “The public art facility and shops can complement each other well.”

The city first announced the project of opening a manga museum in a planned commercial complex in 2007 but the sluggish economy forced the construction plan to be canceled, leading the museum to be put on hold.