Art, Culture, Experience,

Rediscover the city of Tokyo through manga and anime! Visit the exhibition “MANGA⇔TOKYO”

The anime movie ‘Your Name.’, the manga ‘Sailor Moon’, and Sega’s ‘Yakuza’ video game series ー these famous works that represent Japan’s modern pop culture are all set in the city of Tokyo. So, how is Tokyo portrayed and what kind of stories set around Tokyo can we enjoy from the various works? The answer can be found at the “MANGA⇔TOKYO” exhibition at The National Art Center, Tokyo!

The National Art Center, Tokyo designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. The museum also makes an appearance in the animation movie ‘Your Name.’ directed by Makoto Shinkai.

The official characters Yoriko and Vippie are super cute.

Multilingual explanations are available in English, Chinese and Korean!

Once you enter the exhibition space, you will be overwhelmed! In the middle of it is a huge miniature model of Tokyo. This city model was first exhibited at the ‘Japonismes 2018: les âmes en resonance’ exhibition held in France in 2018.

The huge 17m x 22m (= 55ft x 72ft) city model of Tokyo

Behind the model is an enormous screen that is used to show clips of anime, games, or tokusatsu (special effects) movies set in Tokyo. For each location featured in the work on the screen, the actual area in Tokyo will be spotlighted, making it easy to see where the story actually takes place.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku in the spotlight. The work introduced here is the anime series ‘Terror in Resonance’.

“Tokyo”, a city been destroyed over and over again?

The theme of the first exhibition area is “Repetition of Destruction and Reconstruction”. Historically, Tokyo has been destroyed several times, including the many big fires of the Edo period and the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. But each time, the city was reconstructed, growing bigger and bigger.

Even in manga and anime, Tokyo gets damaged by monsters or god-like destroyers who suddenly appear ー just as natural disasters in real life. One example of a work in which Tokyo repeatedly gets destroyed is the famous tokusatsu (special effects) movie series Godzilla. in Godzilla, it is always Tokyo’s latest spots and tourist attractions that tend to get destroyed.

A panel that introduces the many areas of “Tokyo” that have been destroyed by Godzilla.

Fires of Tokyo portrayed in one of Osamu Tezuka’s mangas. (Hidamari no Ki)

“Tokyo” from the Edo period to the present day

The next exhibition area shows Tokyo portrayed in various manga, anime, and games. Through original drawings and videos, you can trace the city’s history. The theme of the works changes depending on the era they are from and the expression method and style is also different for each work. Seeing all the small differences and the huge variety of creativity is very interesting!

Various kinds of displays show how the city is portrayed in each featured work.

Did you know that Sailor Moon is set in Tokyo’s Minato Ward?

Tokyo Eden (1998) was created after Japan’s bubble economy years, but it still has the vibe of that era. The manga shows many locations in Minato Ward, such as Tokyo Tower, Rainbow Bridge, and the fancy Shirokanedai area.

Japan’s economy has been in recession and stagnation since 2000. That is one reason why more works depict social issues recently, rather than epic works showing the glittering side of Tokyo. Scenes picturing the daily life of Tokyo is increasing becoming more and more common.

From fiction to the real world

In Tokyo right now, fictional works have come “alive” in the real world. Flooding the streets of Tokyo, they are integrated as apart of our everyday lives. You might see a train that is “hi-jacked” by a manga, anime, or game, with nothing else but ads for this one product inside the train car. Collaborations with convenience stores and shrines are also usual nowadays. The exhibition features some of these example scenes from everyday life in Tokyo.

A “hi-jacked” train

The streets of Tokyo are full of characters.

It was a very exciting exhibition that made me re-realize how much artistic and cultural value lies in Japanese manga and anime. The days when manga and anime were regarded as “content for children only” are long gone. Now, they are mirrors of society and time ー and even influence the real world.

A large number of merch sorted by works, including original items from the exhibition!

Japanese manga, game, and tokusatsu culture are not only fascinating on its own, but they also allow you to trace the history of the city of Tokyo. This exhibition is a must-see!


Date: August 12 – November 3, 2020
* To ease congestion, this exhibition requires everyone – including those who already have exhibition tickets – to make an online reservation for a “specified date/time ticket”.


7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/6HmtYcgiyXgyXJLSA
Nearest Stations: Nogizaka Station, Roppongi Station

* Body temperature checks will be conducted upon admission. Those with a fever of 37.5 degrees or higher cannot enter. Furthermore, please wear a mask, refrain from talking as much as possible, and cooperate with other visitors to keep a safe distance from each other.


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I was born and raised in Kiel/Germany. When I was 16 I came to Japan for the first time. I fell in love with this beautiful country, so I returned after my university graduation. Since then, I have been living in Tokyo - and I don't plan to change anything about that ;-) My hobbies are taking a stroll around the city, taking photos and drinking coffee.

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