Touring the Mangaka Hometown: Niigata City
For a lot of people planning to travel (or live) in Japan, part of their great interest in the country has a lot to do with anime and manga. While many with this particular interest plan their trips around well-known hubs of manga and anime culture such as Akihabara in Tokyo or the International Manga Museum in Kyoto, not a lot of people consider some out of the way destinations to enrich their experience.
Photo: Shinya ICHINOHE on Flickr
Niigata: the name might not strike a bell, but did you know that many famous manga artists call this prefecture their hometown? Some well-known artists who were born and raised in Niigata include Rumiko Takahashi (Urusei Yatsura, Ranma ½, and Inuyasha), Nobuhiro Watsuki (Rurouni Kenshin), and Takeshi Obata (Death Note and Bakuman). Niigata is also the hometown of many great professionals in the animation industry, including directors for Studio Ghibli, Sunrise, and Gainax.
In fact, since so many great people in the industry had been born in Niigata Prefecture, Niigata City has cultivated manga culture over the years. Aside from having a museum and a special center dedicated to manga and anime, manga and animation courses are taught at local vocational schools and even in a number of high schools. And there's no better place to see how much manga has influenced Niigata than in Niigata City itself.
So, if you're into manga and animation and looking for a place to visit that's off the beaten path, check out these spots around Niigata City:
The Niigata Manga and Animation Museum
Located rather close to the station, the Niigata Manga and Animation Museum is small but full of interesting things to check out, with many interactive exhibits. The museum also houses special exhibits from time to time, showcasing the work that goes into popular shows and publications.
The Niigata City Manga House
While the Niigata Manga and Animation Museum is an attraction people with varying interests will enjoy, the Niigata City Manga House is a place for those who truly want to immerse themselves in the manga culture. Aside from exhibits and small events open to the public on the first floor, workshops and talks are held in the second floor concerning manga culture and production.
The Shinji Mizushima Manga Street
Along this street where you can find various shops, you can also find a collection of statues immortalizing characters from the baseball manga Dokaben by Shinji Mizushima. The end of this street also leads to the Japan Animation and Manga College which is surrounded by a variety of shops catering to the needs of budding animators and manga artists.
Photo: Yuichi Sakuraba on Flickr
To get to these three spots to visit, you can hop aboard Niigata City's special tourist loop bus adorned with art from Rumiko Takahashi's Inuyasha. You can even take your trip further by timing it with the city's annual Anime and Manga Festival, a city-wide celebration complete with voice-actor shows, anime music concerts, and cosplay! Though Niigata might seem like a total unknown compared to the rest of Japan, it's a diamond in the rough for those who are truly into anime and manga culture.