According to a story appearing in the Japan Times Online, the Kyoto International Manga Museum attracts "200,000 to 300,000 visitors a year, including some 30,000 from abroad." The museum, which opened in 2006, features a "wall of manga," called, appropriately enough, the Wall of Manga. It's about 200 meters long and features over 50,000 comics dating back to the 1970s. There's even a computer search kiosk available so you can locate the exact manga you want to read. Pretty helpful if you know the one you want. But if you're not intimidated by the sheer size of the Wall, you can approach it and choose a volume at random. Whatever catches your eye. Yeah, you can read the manga. Take it off the shelf, open it up, start reading.
Since the museum's website claims about 10% of its visitors come from overseas-- bearing out the Japan Times story, I suppose-- they even have a number of international manga. That's comic books to you and me, Russ. The largest group is made up of Japanese comics in translation: 970 in English, 670 in Korean and a whopping 1330 in Chinese! Also represented are German, Italian, Spanish and Catalan and "other European languages." There are around 400 volumes of homegrown North American, European and other Asian comics, too. I wonder if they have that one Wolverine where he had an eyepatch and used his claws on those dudes...
"Summer School" at the museum just started today, August 1st, and runs through the 26th. I'm not out to earn my PhD in manga, but I'd love to attend some of the art instruction classes. They're in Japanese only, naturally. The museum accepts donations of materials, as well. If I leave Japan again that's what I'll do with my rapidly growing comic collection-- donate it to the Kyoto International Manga Museum so people from Japan and around the world can enjoy my impeccable taste in sequential literature.
Even though I've lived in Japan off and on since before this museum opened, I have to admit I still haven't made my pilgrimage. While I've been to Tokyo and scoured Akihabara, Shibuya, Harajuku and Ikebukuro for comics so many times I've lost count, I don't go to Kyoto very often. Twice. And both times I encountered cold weather and nasty rain. Kyoto and I just haven't been able to see eye-to-eye on what constitutes a pleasant visit. One of my good friends went to the museum, though, and he's not even a comic book reader. Before his visit, he'd read Ghost World, and that's about it. The museum deeply impressed him. Then he went down the street to a local bookstore and bought some English-translated manga for himself. Knowing my love for comics he texted me while he was doing it like some kind of pervert performing some weird and gross act we won't even begin to try to imagine and having to share it to increase his sick, disgusting pleasure, and like a similarly perverted individual I jumped right in to join him and demanded he buy the first two volumes of Ai Yazawa's Nana for me.
And that's how I became addicted. Addicted enough I need to hit Kyoto and visit this place. Unfortunately, I can't do it during my summer break. I'm already committed to yet another Tokyo junket, but that's mostly for business. My passport needs renewing! But since I recently became engaged and my fiancee is returning to Japan in October so we can start our life together-- I know, it's sickeningly sweet-- there's more than likely a Kyoto trip for two in our near future. Now she could give a rip about manga but she cares about me, so we'll stand in front of that Wall of Manga and maybe she'll share with me the ones she read when she was a kid.