Tezuka Osamu Museum
Anime and manga lovers alike make the pilgrimage to the Tezuka Osamu Museum, a permanent retrospective on the beloved father of Japan’s world-renowned comic and animation art forms. But even the uninitiated will find something to enjoy and learn from the story and history of this Japanese legend.
Osamu is heralded for his creation of iconic Showa-era manga characters like Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. Astro Boy, which features the titular android character, was adapted by Osamu from manga into one of the first successful Japanese animated television series.
It later crossed the Pacific where it became a staple of American cartoon television in the 1960s, setting the precedent for what is now known as anime. Kimba the White Lion, the first color animated television series in Japan, followed soon after.
Many children from later generations will recognize Osamu’s iconic drawings, even if they don’t know the man behind them. The Tezuka Osamu Museum offers an opportunity to dive deep into the history of manga, anime and Osamu’s rich career.
Takarazuka - The Home of Osamu
The museum is located in city of Takarazuka in northern Osaka Prefecture. The childhood home of Osamu, the town is known for its greatest attraction: the Takarazuka Revue. Housed in the Takarazuka Grand Theater, this musical theatre troupe composed entirely of woman—the actresses play both male and female roles—has been celebrated for over a century.
The theater was built in the early 1900s by the wealthy industrialist Ichizo Kobayashi, president of Hankyu Railways.
Kobayashi founded the troupe in hopes of attracting new visitors to the city via Hankyu trains.
Soon after, the Takarazuka Revue became a national phenomenon.
To this day, Hankyu railways is the best means of transportation to get to the heart of Takarazuka. It’s only forty minutes to Takarazuka Station from Hankyu Umeda Station. From there take a stroll down Flower Street (Hananomichi) a paved promenade lined with colorful flower beds and small boutiques. You’ll intermittently see tiles on the path with portraits of Osamu’s more famous manga characters leading you to the museum entrance.
On the way you’ll pass the Takarazuka Grand Theater. The day I visited, a crowd of fans were surrounding the stage entrance waiting for the troupe’s actresses to arrive for that afternoon’s performances. At the end of flower street, you’ll arrive at the museum. The building is difficult to miss since a beautifully sculpted figurine of Osamu’s Phoenix character stands guard by the entrance.
Osamu himself was a ravenous fan of the Takarazuka theater and would attend performances with his mother.
The museum’s permanent exhibition reflects on how the theatricality of these shows influenced his work,
alongside many other influences. The signature large sparkling eye of Osamu illustrations—now a visual
trope of modern anime and manga—are said to be inspired by the stage eye makeup of the troupe performers.
Osamu originally treated drawing as a hobby and, interested in biology, went to medical school. It was only after completing his degree that Osamu made an abrupt career change to follow his artistic passions and entered the word of comics and animation. He brought with him a deep knowledge of physiological, anatomy and science.
Each stage of Osamu’s life is housed in a pod that resembles an item from the futuristic world of Astro Boy. As you move through the exhibit you move throw Osamu’s life and career. While the exhibition is written in Japanese, the front desk has a laminated booklet with full English translations.
One highlight of the museum is the screening (every twenty minutes) of a more obscure or difficult
to find Osamu work. The day I visited, they were screening a dialogue-less comedy short from early
in his career. It followed a young street urchin obsessed with a star musical theatre actress.
Undoubtedly, the piece was pulled from personal experience. Beyond the permanent exhibition,
perhaps the most exciting feature of the museum is the viewing stalls, where all of Osamu’swork is
archived digitally and available to watch.
Life-size figurine versions of characters are also scattered through the museum building. Whenever you come across an Osamu character his authorship is immediately recognizable. It’s an iconic visual style that has deeply influenced story manga of today, so much so that its crossed oceans and language barriers to make Tezuka Osamu a world-famous name.
If you’re leaving from Osaka, Takarazuka is only forty minutes from Hankyu Umeda Sation via the Hankyu Line.
If you’re leaving from Kobe, transfer at Nishinomiya Station to the Hankyu Imazu Line,
which offers a straight shot to Takarazuka Station. Once you’ve reached the station, walk the Flower Street path to Tezuka Osamu Musuem.
I’m an American journalist and editor based in Tokyo. After nearly 20 years living in Japan, I’m still discovering new and exciting places in Japan outside of Tokyo and off the beaten path, such as the ancient “Kumano Kodo" pilgrimage trails and the charming seaside fishing village, Kada.