The Japan News/Asia News Network
Tokyo’s Toshima Ward is the location of Ikebukuro, one of the busiest entertainment districts in Japan. The local ward government is working on an urban development project focusing on manga and anime in an effort to show that the area’s appeal is comparable to other Tokyo districts, such as Shinjuku and Shibuya. (Shutterstock/InfantryDavid)
Tokyo’s Toshima Ward is the location of Ikebukuro, one of the busiest entertainment districts in Japan. The local ward government is working on an urban development project focusing on manga and anime in an effort to show that the area’s appeal is comparable to other Tokyo districts, such as Shinjuku and Shibuya.
On Thursday, Toshima Ward launched an event called “manga and anime ward office.” “We’d like to promote Ikebukuro to the rest of the world as a leading hub of subculture,” a local official said.
A scene from a promotional video produced jointly by Toshima Ward and anime shop chain Animate features an owl that transforms into a boy. “Let’s take off together,” he says to a girl running through Ikebukuro in 2020.
An anime production company that produced the popular anime series Maho Shojo Madoka Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) created the video. Released in January, it has been viewed more than 14,000 times.
Toshima Ward is the home of the first Animate outlet. It is also the location of a street dubbed “Otome Road” that is lined with shops specializing in anime and comics for women. In this way, the ward has long had a strong link to manga and anime.
This year, the ward held an anime-themed Coming-of-Age Day ceremony for the first time, welcoming participants dressed as anime characters or wearing other kinds of costumes.
At the manga and anime ward office event, 25 items are exhibited on the walls in a corridor at the ward office building, including copies of original drawings of popular manga series such as Chihayafuru and Space Brothers.
“We’d like to make the cultural aspect of manga known to more people and give momentum to the development project centering on manga and anime,” said Takashi Ikeda, head of the cultural design section of the Toshima Ward government.
A strong sense of urgency over fears the ward is being left behind is behind the move.
Tokyo areas such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku and Akihabara are known around the world. However, Ikebukuro has failed to fully promote its appeal.
In May 2014, the Japan Policy Council, a panel comprised of private-sector experts, designated Toshima as a ward at risk of disappearing, citing a possible decline in the number of young female residents in the future.
For that reason, the ward is promoting women-friendly development, including child-rearing support measures. At the same time, it aims to make itself into an international district of arts and culture that can attract people from all over the world.
This year, the ward is a participating Culture City of East Asia, a cultural exchange project promoted jointly by Japan, China and South Korea. It is considering screening anime films from various countries and holding other events until November.
Toshima Ward is also the home of the famous Tokiwa-so apartment building where renowned manga artists, including Osamu Tezuka and Fujio Akatsuka, spent their younger days. The apartment building was demolished in 1982 due to its aging condition. Toshima Ward has been working on a restoration of the apartment building, which it plans to use as a center to introduce manga and anime to the world.
The ward raised about ¥308.52 million of the total project costs of ¥960 million through the furusato nozei donation system. The new facility is scheduled to open in March 2020.
“Hareza Ikebukuro”, a new complex featuring a movie theater and a park among other facilities will open by summer next year on the site of the former ward office building near the east exit of Ikebukuro Station. It will have facilities for voice actor events and anime screenings.
Various municipalities across Japan that feature in anime series are trying to take advantage of any boost in their popularity from the shows in their urban development plans.
Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, is the setting of the anime Girls und Panzer, which debuted in 2012. The town’s Oarai Anko Festival is flooded with anime fans from around the country hoping to see live concerts and talk shows by voice actors featuring in the anime.
Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, is the setting of the 2011 anime Anohi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa mada Shiranai. (Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day). Manholes depicting characters in the anime will be installed in various parts of the city before the end of May. The local government is encouraging anime fans who visit the city to look for the manholes while strolling around the city.
Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, the setting of the Mamoru Hosoda-directed Summer Wars, which was released 10 years ago, is considering a city promotion project using the film. The municipal government, a local tourism association and other organizations established the Shinshu-Ueda Summer Wars organizing committee 2019 and plans to hold various events.
Yoshiyuki Oshita, chief director of the center for arts policy and management at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co., said: “Rather than a place people purposefully visit, Ikebukuro has always been more of a transit point. To attract more people, it’s important to create a concept. People raising children have been familiar with manga and anime since childhood, so a town of manga and anime would be an effective approach. If Ikebukuro can offer a place to develop the next generation of manga writers and artists, its efforts will take root as the area’s characteristics and charms.