The Enormous Collection of the Koshi Manga Museum

A museum where you can read manga to your heart’s desire

By Koshi Manga Museum

Koshi Manga Museum AppearanceOriginal Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

A Museum Where You Can Read Manga to your Heart’s Desire

The Koshi Manga Museum opened in the summer of 2017 as the second manga museum in Kyushu.
This facility was established in Koshi City, a bed town of Kumamoto City where the population is still increasing, but this is no mere “museum”. It houses an enormous collection of approximately 40,000 manga materials. In one sense, it is a library, with approximately 15,000 books of manga lining the shelves, but at the same time, it is a museum, displaying rare works that can’t be acquired today.

You can freely enjoy everything from the old-timey manga from the 1960’s to manga that is popular today.

Koshi Manga Museum Bookshelves in the Free ZoneOriginal Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

A Place to Read Convenience Store Manga for Free

Within the museum is the Cube Zone, which requires a charge, and the Free Zone, which is free of charge.
On display in the Free Zone are manga magazines and convenience store manga, which are only available at convenience stores. One feature of convenience store manga is that they have been edited so that you can begin reading popular works without regard to the number of volumes. Convenience store manga are not sold at book stores, and after a certain time period has passed, convenience store managers remove them from the shelves. This is why they are actively collected by the museum, as often times you cannot buy them later if you miss your chance to buy them. Grab one and enjoy, as they allow the reader to experience a somewhat different format from standalone manga books.

Koshi Manga Museum Free ZoneOriginal Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

Koshi Manga Museum Cube ZoneOriginal Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

Small Relaxation Rooms Where You Can Read Manga As You Like

In the Cube Zone, square spaces called “Cubes” are set up where visitors can read manga. Before the museum opened, locals gathered and a workshop was held, with participants being asked their opinions on what kind of a museum would be good and what kind of places they would want to read in. The Cube concept was born out of the many requests, not for desks and chairs that remind one of studying in a library, but for spaces to relax. The Cubes are based on rooms with tatami mats and narrow closets where participants read manga as children, and they were designed by Masahiro Saigo, a professor at Sojo University. When you enter one of these small rooms, made using Japanese cedar from Kumamoto Prefecture, you will feel at ease thanks to the warmth of the wood.

Koshi Manga Museum Cube Zone Wall-shelfOriginal Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

Book Shelves for Finding Nostalgic Manga, Separated by Decade

In the Cube Zone, manga are organized by artist and decade starting from the 1960’s, and the best sellers from each decade are lined up as a special collection. Based on the assumption that manga is mainly read between the ages of 10 and 20, the shelves are set up so that if you go to the shelf for the decade ten years after your birth year, you can encounter nostalgic manga. The manga lining the shelves are changed out once a month. The staff hold book selection meetings regularly, contributing jointly to the themes for special collections and ideas for book selections, while also sharing requests from visitors. The museum handles a wide range of manga, from old to new, without a bias towards any particular decade. This makes it great that in addition to coming across fondly remembered manga, you can also pick up manga from various decades that you might not have ever encountered before. It’s also great for multiple generations to talk about the manga that they each have fond memories of.

Koshi Manga Museum Cube Zone Wall-shelfOriginal Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

Koshi Manga Museum Cube Zone "Ninja Manga Recommendations"Original Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

A Collection of Rare Yokai and Ninja Manga Materials

The museum has a wide collection of manga for young girls and boys, but the biggest allure of the museum is the fact that you can see crazy manga materials about yokai and ninja. Most of the manga books here are from the collection of Director Hiroshi Hashimoto. As he himself has collected books based on these two themes for many years, the museum has many timeless works related to yokai and ninja, from valuable old loaned manga to popular modern manga. He says that, “Most of the manga artists who were active in the 1960’s used ninjas as a theme at least once. That’s how much the ninja were heroes in Japan.”

Koshi Manga Museum Cube Zone "Display Corner"Original Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

Director Hashimoto is a collector of ninja manga, and Assistant Director Suzuki is a fanatic about yokai. Hashimoto says that this is why there aren’t any other facilities that have this many manga materials in these two genres. Rare materials are lined up in the exhibition corner, and, while you cannot look inside the books, if you look at a single book for long enough, you can’t help but feel a sense of romance. Hashimoto tells us about his thoughts on yokai, ninja, and manga.

“Yokai, ninja, and manga are all cultures that developed uniquely in Japan and are something to be proud of. They are some of Japan’s brands. While this is true in Japan, as well, I think they are things that the world ought to turn their attention towards again. I call this 'Yo-nin-man Museum' by combining the three names.”

Koshi Manga Museum Cube Zone "Gallery Corner for Understanding Manga History"Original Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

Koshi Manga Museum A collection of rare manga materials on "Yokai and Ninjas".Original Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

Koshi Manga Museum Cube Zone "Display Corner"Original Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

Gallery Corner Where You Can Understand the History of Manga

Towards the back of the Cube Zone, a variety of rare materials are on display, including picture story shows (which existed before the word “manga” came into existence), illustrated books, rental manga, and more. Hand-written explanations are placed here and there, and you can understand the history of manga if you follow along in order. The manga you own may seem somewhat different once you see how it came to be in the format it is now over so many years.

Cover of the local history manga "The Tree of Catalpa: The Story of Koshi Gijuku" produced and published by Koshi City, Kumamoto Prefecture.Original Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

A Desire to Show What Can Be Learned from Manga

Using manga as the subject, study sessions are held at the Koshi Manga Museum regularly to expand learning. The museum also has set up an area featuring local manga about Koshi City and the history of other areas. They also rent out some shelves to corporations and have set up an area introducing manga related to corporations. For example, a bank could introduce manga about finance or the economy, and a motorcycle manufacturer could introduce manga featuring motorcycles. These ideas came from a desire to show many people how much can be learned from manga. Director Hashimoto says that, “Manga can expand your knowledge and stir your curiosity. You can learn about geography, history, and philosophy through manga.”

Koshi Manga Museum Cube Zone "Company Manga Section"Original Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

Associate Professor Tsuyoshi Ogawa from Sojo UniversityOriginal Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

A Logo Full of Hope

The logo for the Koshi Manga Museum is based on the speech bubbles seen in manga. Tsuyoshi Ogawa, a professor at Sojo University who devised the logo, incorporated the desire for the museum to become a gathering place within the tail of the speech bubbles.

“The name Koshi in Japanese literally means ‘ambitions match’. And I think this museum is a place where people with the same interests gather through manga, as well as a place where communication is born. With this in mind, I thought of a logo where the tails of the speech bubbles appear to draw close to one another. Also, one of the speech bubbles is 5-sided and the other is 4-sided. ‘Goshi’ (meaning 5 and 4) is a pun on Koshi. Many of the logos in Koshi City use these two numbers.”

Mr. Hiroshi Hashimoto, director of Koshi Manga MuseumOriginal Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

As a Place to Nurture Professional Manga Archivists

Director Hashimoto understands the market value of manga from his experience in running a used book shop, and he also understands manga’s value as a material from the immense knowledge gained through his lifetime of collecting, and because of this, he worked in the Manga Department of the Agency for Cultural Affairs’ Project to Promote Collaboration in Media Arts. He says that this museum functions as a place to develop human resources that can accurately convey the value of manga.

“Knowledgeable archivists are essential in communicating manga as a part of Japanese culture. The Koshi Manga Museum is also a place to nurture these kinds of professionals in manga archiving. I am thinking of creating programs to nurture librarians, curators, and archivists specializing in manga in coordination with other manga-related facilities.”

Mr. Hiroshi Hashimoto, director of Koshi Manga MuseumOriginal Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

The Director’s Thoughts are a Part of this Community-based Manga Facility

Nowadays, with the progression of digitalization, it’s no longer rare to read from a tablet, and the movement away from paper manga is significantly increasing. Director Hashimoto talks about a sense of danger that was present in planning the Koshi Manga Museum as a community-based facility and making it possible to encounter manga as much as possible.

“I have learned a lot from manga in my life, and I want children to read many paper manga. There is no book store in Koshi. Without a book store, there are fewer opportunities to encounter manga. In creating the Koshi Manga Museum, I had a sense of responsibility, where I had to create a place where manga could be read at any time.”

Koshi Manga Museum Manga Artists' AutographsOriginal Source: 合志マンガミュージアム

The museum is not just a place for manga-lovers to gather, but is also a place for children to experience the joy of reading manga and a place to develop their manga literacy. The reason why a discount annual pass was created and the environment was made so that local children could easily use the museum was a desire to save the manga culture of Japan. This museum is filled with a passion for the future.

Credits: Story

This article was produced in September 2020, based on the interview conducted at the time.

Cooperation with:

The Koshi Manga Museum

Photos: Shinsaku Yasujima
Text: Orika Uchiumi
Edit: Saori Hayashida

Production: Skyrocket Corporation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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