KYOTO – Kyoto, with its long history and ancient temples, has acquired an additional and contemporary attraction for tourists — a manga museum that has become a mecca for comic-book and animation fans around the world.
After opening in 2006 in Nakagyo Ward, the city’s downtown area where both modern office buildings and traditional townhouses can be found, the Kyoto International Manga Museum is attracting 200,000 to 300,000 visitors a year, including some 30,000 from abroad.
What many of these visitors find irresistible is the “wall of manga,” a 200-meter-long wall lined with shelves on which some 50,000 manga published between 1970 and 2005 are stacked up.
The books are part of the 300,000 manga-related items the museum has collected for research and preservation purposes, and visitors are free to read anything they feel like on the shelves.
With Japanese culture becoming popular around the world, the museum has apparently made it onto the list of must-see tourist destinations among foreigners.
Dieter Schaublin, a 29-year-old tourist from Switzerland, was one of those visitors from abroad. He said he had wanted to come to the museum ever since he learned about it in a Lonely Planet travel guidebook and visited soon after he arrived in Japan.
Schaublin, an avid manga fan, owns English-language versions of popular titles such as “Akira” and “Dragon Ball.” He said he learned from the museum that there are a huge number of manga titles in Japan and that the manga culture runs deep.
“We’re hoping the museum will become a place where manga artists, readers and anyone who likes manga all around the world can gather,” spokeswoman Hiroko Nakamura said.
To that end, the museum has strengthened its language services, increasing the number of English-speaking staff and adding English translations to all exhibition panels.
The biggest number of foreign visitors come from France, a strong manga market, followed by the United States and Australia. The museum has prepared pamphlets in French, English, Chinese and Korean.
The museum was built by the municipal government in cooperation with Kyoto Seika University, the sole Japanese university that has classes on manga culture and teaches skills to become a professional manga artist.
It is Japan’s first museum highlighting manga culture instead of focusing on a specific cartoonist.
One of the museum’s most prominent features is the 11-meter-tall statue of Phoenix (Hinotori), the title character in the well-known and popular manga series written by the late charismatic cartoonist Osamu Tezuka, who also created Mighty Atom, or Astro Boy, among many successful works.
The museum also invites cartoonists from abroad and holds a special event to exhibit their works.
The number of visitors totaled about 240,000 in fiscal 2011 and 305,000 in the preceding year, according to the museum.
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