Manga, Exhibitions, Museums
In 2009, two significant projects related to manga were carried out in European museums: ‘Manga: Professor Munakata’ s British Museum Adventure1 ’ at the British Museum in London, and ‘Cartoons: The Louvre Invites Comic-Strip Art2 ’ at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. While the former concentrated on the new work of HoshinoYukinobu set in the British Museum, the latter invited five
comic artists to create artwork using the Louvre as their primary setting, among which one of them was Araki Hirohiko, a Japanese manga artist popular for his series JoJo no Kimyō na Bōken (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure). Indeed, exhibiting manga is one of the hot topics for museums in Europe today. Not only does it challenge the established exhibiting method in museums, it also raises questions on the distinction between so called ‘high’ culture and ‘low’ culture, an agenda somewhat untouched but tacitly understood inside the museums walls.
In Japan, the trend of holding manga exhibitions in museums and department stores had already become prominent by around 2000, but it was perhaps not until 2008 that contemporary artists and their works had begun to be featured; the touring of ‘Inoue Takehiko: The Last Manga Exhibition3 ’ had been so successful that it inspired both publishers and contemporary manga artists to become
involved in museum business. In recent years, exhibitions featuring Araki Hirohiko, Otomo Katsuhiro4 and Oda Eiichiro5 have especially attracted attention.
Manga Museums in Japan
However, another manga and museum related feature in Japan should be noted here; that of the Manga Museums, which are constructed for collecting, preserving and exhibiting uniquely manga related materials. Throughout the country, fifty to sixty institutions that can be said to fall under this category have been established, mainly as a community cultural center of the cities they reside in. The oldest having been opened in 1966, and two or three of them constructed as early as the 70s and 80s, the majority of them were constructed after 1990. To be more precise, there are two peak periods in which they began to crop up; first around the mid-90s and the second at the beginning of
After Tezuka’ s death in 1989, there were discussions among related people on how to inherit his works as well as the manga culture of postwar Japan, leading to the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazuka city, which opened in 1994 and is a pioneer in this field. Some other cities followed the idea of Takarazuka in making a manga related cultural institution crowning artists that come from their cities. The second boom is apparently related to the expectation towards Cool Japan. Most of them tend to be constructed for the purpose of regional promotion and to achieve positive economic effect form ‘soft power’ contents.
However, while the Japanese government’s campaigning of Cool Japan and Japanese popular culture as ‘soft power’ have contributed greatly to the recent popularity of manga in and outside Japan, manga has since long been a medium deeply integrated in the Japanese people’ s everyday lives; not only kids and teenagers at school, but also grown-ups read them in the commuting train. It is one of the most common and popular media among people. And it is from this point of view that we have carried out our projects focusing on some manga related cultural institutions.
Leaving aside the boom, we know little about how these manga museums and exhibitions are actually doing, and how they are being consumed by the visitors. In fact, when we consider the fact that manga is a mundane everyday object we see everywhere, one must raise the question of why is it necessary to have them inside museums. There is also the question of how manga is actually represented inside the museum. Because manga takes the format of a book, which one needs to open and consume personally, exhibiting them in public spaces is a challenging task.
Moreover, most of these institutions are suffering in terms of visitor number and financial cuts, but it seems that what should really be discussed in order to improve the situation remains untouched.
Manga Museums and Their Audiences
Our team has conducted audience research, in the form of visitor surveys, in order to examine the manga consumption of audiences within the manga museums. This project was carried out with several objectives in mind.
－ To understand what the actual visitors are doing, hence understanding what consumption of manga involves.
－ To see the scope of what the ‘manga experience’ truly is.
－ To think about manga related cultural institutions beyond the argument of Cool Japan and regional
－ To further the discussion of manga audience beyond the usual otaku culture argument.
From 2009 to 2012, we have conducted audience research on three sites: the Kyoto International Manga Museum (September, 2009), the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum (August-September, 2011), and the Hiroshima Manga City Library (September, 2011). Here, three very different types of institutions were chosen in order to examine closely what the combination of manga (its characteristic as medium) and museum space would bring forth. Using methods combined with tracking and timing, sojourn time survey, questionnaire survey and staff interviews, and by comparing the three surveys across institutions, we have tried to understand how manga is represented in different types of institutions, and ultimately how that has affected the visitors’ behavior and their method of manga consumption.