The Kyoto International Manga Museum – Tips for Visiting the Kyoto Manga Museum

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Any fan of Japanese manga will enjoy a visit to the Kyoto International Manga Museum. Built into an old elementary school downtown, the Kyoto Manga Museum is one of the best places to learn about the history of manga in Japan. 

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The Kyoto International Manga Museum

Opening in 2006, the Kyoto International Museum serves as a place to read and preserve Japanese manga for all who love and appreciate it. In partnership with Kyoto Seika University, this Manga Museum has collected tens of thousands of manga volumes in multiple languages. For many regular patrons, the Kyoto Manga Museum is more of a library and a place where they can lounge and relax by reading unlimited amounts of their favorite medium. But the Kyoto International Manga Museum is more than a library. It’s a place where the artistry and global culture of manga are studied and nurtured in new generations of artists. In my column for the Japan Times, I’ve written about some of my favorite points regarding the Kyoto Manga Museum. This post is to add some supplemental info for those interested in visiting. 

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Tips for Visiting the Kyoto Manga Museum

Many people first become interested in Japan and Japanese culture through anime and manga. Whether it’s Doraemon, Dragonball, Death Note or some other manga series, Japanese manga have exercised the country’s soft power in ways few other art forms have. If you’re a fan and plan on visiting Japan, then I suggest visiting the Kyoto International Manga Museum.

In fact, you don’t have to be a comics fanatic to enjoy the Kyoto Manga Museum. Take it from me: despite more than a decade in Japan, I have only a passing knowledge of the art form and its most famous progenitors, and my kids never consumed the way many of their classmates in Tokyo did. That said, a few hours in the Kyoto Manga Museum can be a fun and interesting excursion for just about anyone. It’s easy to access and provides a nice alternative to the temples, shrines and traditional side of Kyoto. 

Use the Coin Lockers

You’ll find coin lockers just as you walk into the Kyoto Manga Museum. If you’re carrying a daypack or shopping bags, this is a great opportunity to put them down for a little while. 

Don’t Miss the Gift Shop

For Japanese manga and anime fans, you’ll find loads of cool stuff here. Yet casual fans such as myself may also find a few items here worth picking up. For example, on my last visit, I bought a few plastic folders for my brother and sister-in-law. For my sister-in-law, I bought a folder with the cat bus from Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” on it (she’s a cat person). And for my brother? A folder with Godzilla traipsing through Hokusai’s “The Wave” print…just because it was cool. Then for a friend’s young daughter, I picked up an animated flipbook. The Kyoto Manga Museum Gift Shop is right at the entrance/exit, so save your shopping until the end, get it over with and put it all into a coin locker. 

Check the Schedules First

Depending on the day you visit, there may be a variety of services or performances worth checking out. Check the times when you arrive (or before) to make sure you don’t miss any of them. For example, on the weekends there are actual manga artists at work in a studio. There are also opportunities to get advice on drawing from professional artists, but these slots fill up fast. Then there are the daily kamishibai (紙芝居) performances, which we highly recommend.

From my Japan Times column:

Our favorite room at the Kyoto International Manga Museum, however, is neither international nor dedicated to manga. Instead, it’s for kamishibai, the quintessentially Japanese “paper play” storytelling format that utilizes charismatic narrators with stacks of hand-drawn cards. Kamishibai is still commonly used in Japan to entertain children, but in the early to mid-20th century, it was mainstream entertainment. In fact, it’s arguably the precursor to today’s manga and anime. By the late 1940s, there were as many as 50,000 kamishibai performers in Japan, however, popularity plummeted with the rise of television.

There are daily kamishibai performances at the Kyoto International Manga Museum: twice on weekdays and three times a day on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays. Skilled performers can keep an audience rapt with only a stack of drawings and their own rhetorical gravitas. This is no small feat today, where moving images on screens and billboards incessantly scream for our attention. Danmaru, the kamishibai artist we watched during our last visit, used a mix of Japanese and English and had an international group of onlookers in hysterics. Everyone was engaged and completely focused on him. Performances are around 30 minutes but it was over before we knew it. This was easily the highlight of our visit.

Read the entire column at the Japan Times website

Directions to the Kyoto International Manga Museum

Visiting the Kyoto Manga Museum is fairly easy, especially if you’re coming from Kyoto Station, where anyone with a JR Rail Pass will likely arrive in the city from. From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Line (Green) three stations north to Karasuma Oike Station. Take Exit #2. When you walk out of exit #2, take a right and walk to the corner. Now turn left and walk about 100 meters and you’ll see the Kyoto International Manga Museum on the left. 

Kyoto Manga Museum Hours & Admission

It’s important to remember that the Kyoto Manga Museum closes on Wednesdays. If Wednesday is a national holiday, then it will close on Thursday. Aside from that, the doors are open from 10 am to 6 pm, with the last admission at 5:30 pm. The gift shop is outside the entrance so you can visit without paying to go in. Adults cost 800 yen. High school and junior high school students cost 300 yen. Elementary school students cost 100 yen. You can also buy yearly passes for 6,000 yen (adults), 3,600 yen (HS & JHS students) and 1,200 yen (Elem students). 

See Nijo Castle Before/After the Kyoto Manga Museum

If you’re in the area around the Kyoto International Manga Museum and wondering what to do next, then we suggest Nijo Castle. Just a short walk away, this is one of the best things to do before or after the Kyoto Manga Museum. Nijo Castle was built in the 17th century and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. It’s a fascinating window into the shogun era and you can get a lot more out of a visit with a tour. 

Ideally, we think seeing Nijo Castle is best before the Kyoto Manga Museum. Why? Well Nijo Castle is popular, and we think arriving earlier is better, but it depends on tour times. Also, you’ll be on your feet walking at Nijo Castle, while you can spend a lot of time at the Kyoto International Manga Museum sitting down. 

Tickets & Tours via Klook: Nijo Castle Tickets & Tour

Tours & Tickets via Voyajin: Nijo Castle Tickets & Tour

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Disclaimer: This Kyoto International Manga Museum post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you book a Kyoto tour or a hotel in Kyoto through our links, then we might get a small commission. You pay nothing extra. Also, everything you see here is just my personal opinion. I only recommend places, activities, and gear that I believe will genuinely help you find what to do in Kyoto.