Tour the Toshima City Tokiwa-so Manga Museum

A unique museum that recreates the legendary Showa Era (1928-1989) apartment building ‘Tokiwa-so’.

Toshima City Tokiwaso Manga Museum

This is where the budding manga artists spent their days working, eating, and relaxing. Take a glimpse into their world and get to know how the residents of this apartment lived.

A vintage telephone box

The artists would often use the public telephone located in front of the nearby Ochiai Telephone Exchange Office to call their editors. Not every house in Japan had a phone at the time; written letters or telegrams were also common forms of communication.

                       Two styles of ‘Tokiwa-so’   The sign at the corner of the path leading to the entrance has the words ‘Tokiwa-so’ written in large letters on it. The nameplate for the original Tokiwa-so was remade several times – the pillar you see at the museum has two styles of characters written on it to represent these changes. A great place for a photo!                     

The “face” of Tokiwa-so: 2nd floor balcony

Only the room immediately above the main entrance had its own balcony. This room was slightly larger than the others and had a different design; it was not occupied by a manga artist, but by an ordinary family. 

Tokiwa-so’s windows

The low ‘handrails’ that can be seen outside each window were not found on the original building; they were added later on. In fact, the windows are a little special: each evening, they light up, one by one. 

Perhaps by the artists, starting out on a long night of work... 

Attention to detail: exterior walls

One of the most difficult aspects of recreating Tokiwa-so was determining its original color; most photos of it were in black and white, so it was hard to tell what color the roof and walls were. 

The color you see today was decided upon after discussions with manga artists familiar with the building at the time and other experts.

Toshima City Tokiwa-So Manga Museum Permanent Exhibit First Floor DioramaOriginal Source: 豊島区立トキワ荘マンガミュージアム

Floor plan of where the artists lived

 Rooms were situated on either side of a central hallway. It is said that the artists would signal the time to eat for those in adjacent rooms by tapping on the walls. 

The layout of each room has also been based on photos and interviews. Who lived in these rooms? Let’s go exploring...    

The story of Room 23

An elevator now operates where Room 23 was situated. It was a room added later as an extension. Investigations into the building’s history showed that Tokiwa-so had various work done on it through its life, including the rebuilding of the exterior steps.

Faithfully reproduced living spaces

The rooms have been recreated based on the habits and lifestyles of Tokiwa-so’s residents. In fact, they were produced by a top-ranked team of artists who specialize in creating Showa-era sets for movies! 

You really get a feel of what life was like for the manga artists at the time. A detailed look in each room presents some interesting discoveries.    

A manga artist’s view

Tokiwa-so was originally a wooden structure but, in line with current building codes, its recreation has a steel frame and the walls are of a double thickness. Visitors can view typical scenes that the artists would have seen outside reproduced in them.

Look up!

If you raise your gaze, you will see the pattern on the ceilings. The original Tokiwa-so had ceilings of wood-printed plyboard; these have been faithfully reproduced on this perhaps overlooked part of the museum. 

Original artwork by Hideko Mizuno

The fusuma sliding doors in Rooms 15 and 19 are adorned with artwork by Hideko Mizuno based on her recollection of life at Tokiwa-so. 

 The design of each room’s fusuma was different, perhaps due to being replaced at different times. One has sparrows on its fusuma – can you find them?

Aged by craftsmen

This building was built quite recently, but it appears to be much older, doesn’t it? 

It has actually been made to appear as the original Tokiwa-so did around 10 years after it was built, with all the associated signs of aging; the exterior walls have been altered to look as if they have been stained by rain and grime. 

Special attention to detail was also paid inside, with each fixture and item showing the marks of regular use that you would expect.

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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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