Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yoshihiro Yonezawa Memorial Library



Yoshihiro Yonezawa was an author, manga critic and an artist. He was also the co-founder of Comiket, the big doujinshi market currently held at Big Sight twice a year, along with Harada Teruo and Aniwa Jun in 1975 when they were all university students. The philosophy was that in the 1970s, only mainstream manga was being published and that the only way for experimental works to see print was if they appeared in fanzines. Hence the promotion and subsequent success of doujinshi.


(Library entrance on the left, exhibit entrance on the right.)

Yonezawa was also an avid collector of anything that caught his interest, especially if it had to do with some "subculture" or other. Manga and anime are still considered to be subcultures in Japan, as are cosplay and figure modeling. But, Yonezawa had wide-ranging tastes, so the 4000+ boxes of materials he left behind when he died of lung cancer in 2006 contained a lot more than just fan materials. According to the wiki entry, there's over 140,000 items in the collection that had been donated to Meiji University. Meiji finally opened its Yoshihiro Yonezawa Memorial Library at the end of October, 2009.


(Exhibit entrance)

So far, only a fraction of Yonezawa's collection is on display. The first floor of the building has some display shelves set up as an exhibit talking about Yonezawa himself, in zones. One zone shows some of the manga in the collection, divided into shonen and shojo, arranged chronologically by publication date. Another zone has some figures and toys, a third has examples of his published writings, a fourth illustrates some of the subcultures he followed, and there's also a section on the history of Comiket. On the second floor is the reading library, with several hundred manga to choose from, for 300 yen per stay.


(Part of the exhibit space.)

Initially, former-Prime Minister Aso had planned for the creation of a special building dedicated to the promotion of anime and manga world-wide, both as a tourist attraction and as a centralized service for animators and artists. Dubbed the "anime pantheon" and "manga museum" by its detractors, the plan was scrapped a few days after the DPJ swept the elections this Fall. To take up the slack, Meiji University is planning its own manga museum, with a 2014 completion target date, which will include more exhibits of Yonezawa's collection. The proposed building can be seen on Meiji's website.


(Front window. Note the ad for the Naiki Library, left box, third shelf from the bottom.)

One of Yonezawa's friends was Tori Miki, the artist that created all of the illustrations that appear throughout the library, well as the library's logo. Tori Miki is the creator of "Frozen Food Agent" and "Kuru Kuru Kurin", which have appeared in this blog in the past.


(More exhibit space.)

Meiji University has its main campus within the Yamanote train loop, a short walk from Ochanomizu (from Shinjuku, take either the Chuu-ou or Sobu lines towards Tokyo station; from Akihabara, take the Sobu one stop west to Ochanomizu). Exit the Ochanomizu station from the west side, ignore the first street light right in front of the station and turn right at the next light. Continue past the 7-11, and just as the street makes a slight turn to the right, you'll see a set of stone steps going down the hill to your left. Go down the steps and when the path ends in a T-intersection a block later, turn left again. The library will be on your left at the next corner. The exhibit space on the first floor is free; the reading library on the 2nd floor is 300 yen. Put any bags and backpacks in the lockers just outside the elevator, or give bags that don't fit to the clerk at the library check-in desk.


(The sign in the elevator asks you to put your bags in the lockers, or give them to the people at the check-in desk on the 2nd floor.)

The descriptions of the exhibits are in both Japanese and English, but none of the staff when I was there spoke English. Highly recommended if you are interested in manga history, or if you want to read hard-to-find manga, but only if you're already in the area. Open Friday to Monday (2 PM-8 PM Mon. and Fri.; 12-6PM on Sat. and Sun.)

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