In the middle of a quiet residential area of Kawasaki’s Tama Ward, a new must-visit landmark building has opened its gates: the Doraemon Museum, officially called the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum (藤子F.不二夫ミュージアム). Fujiko F. Fujio is the pen name of one of the most successful, well-known comic artists in Japanese manga history, who has given birth to many famous cartoon characters during his
career. Doraemon is his signature work. The museum was opened on September 3, 2011, Doraemon’s birthday, and has since its inauguration attracted throngs of visitors.
The museum, a reinforced concrete building, has three stories and a total floor area of about 3,600 square metres. Inside, original drawings of Fujiko F. Fujio’s artwork are exhibited; there is a comprehensive manga library, a complete reproduction of Fujio’s studio, areas where children can play, and a photo spot on the roof, where visitors can take their pictures with Fujio’s most famous characters.
Having moved to Tama Ward in 1959, Fujiko F. Fujio was deeply rooted in Kawasaki, where he created countless characters for children to fall in love with. In 1981, he was awarded Kawasaki City’s Cultural Prize (川崎市文化賞). After Hiroshi Fujimoto’s death in 1996, his wife wished to return something to those who have supported her late husband’s work, and conceived the idea of setting up a museum close to where Fujio created his most famous works.
Who was Fujiko F. Fujio?
Fujiko F. Fujio is the pen name for Hiroshi Fujimoto (藤本 弘). He was born in Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture, where he had a fateful encounter with his work partner Motoo Abiko (安孫子素雄), who got transferred to the same school when they were both eleven years old. Since both of them were inspired by Osamu Tezuka, the father of Astro Boy (鉄腕アトム), it was natural for them to partner up and start drawing cartoons, which they later submitted to publishers. In 1951, they debuted with a publication in the Mainichi Elementary School News Paper for children.
In 1954, Fujimoto and Abiko moved to Tokyo to strive to become professional cartoonists. They came up with the pen name “Fujiko Fujio”, combining their family names. This was the start of their most fruitful collaboration. In 1961, Fujimoto moved to Ikuta, Kawasaki City where he churned out one masterpiece after the other, such as Obake no Q-Taro (オバケのQ太郎), Pa-man (パーマン) and Doraemon (ドラえもん).
In 1987, the duo broke up, and Fujimoto changed his pen name to Fujiko F. Fujio to set himself apart. He continued to work until his death in September 1996. He was only 62 years old, when he was found dead at his desk. According to his family, he was still holding his pen.
Who is Doraemon?
Doraemon (ドラえもん) is a robotic cat from the 22nd century, sent back in time to befriend and assist a clumsy boy named Nobita, who is bad at school and always being bullied by his classmates. In order to change the fate of Nobita and his future offspring, Doraemon comes to his aid. Nobita gets to rely on Doraemon to solve his daily hassles and misfortunes at school and at home.
In the story, Doraemon – while being a robot – and Nobita establish a normal human relationship. One of the indispensible elements and charming aspects of the story are the fantastic gadgets (dōgu) Doraemon produces from his belly pocket. Doraemon selects gadgets according to the nature of Nobita’s challenges, ranging from bamboo-copters (タケコプター) to a door that leads to anywhere (どこでもドア), to name just two.
Doraemon’s popularity overseas
The manga version, the animation and a movie of Doraemon have been translated in many other languages, gaining popularity especially in East and Southeast Asia. Already by 1970, pirated versions were published in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. Even in Korea, where Japanese culture was not yet officially tolerated, pirated versions were circulated. Therefore, many Korean and Chinese fans used to believe that the Japanese character was a copy of their Doraemon. Pirated versions are still rampant across several Asian countries. According to one of the then producers of Doraemon, the animated version of Doraemon was so popular in Southeast Asia that viewer ratings more often than not exceeded seventy percent!
Other than Asia, the cartoon was aired in Central and South America, Europe, in the Arabic-speaking world, Russia and Israel. In the United States, in 1985 Turner Broadcasting System secured the broadcasting rights for 50 episodes, however they have never been aired. Rumour has it that the TV producers disliked Nobita’s obvious dependence on Doraemon, which might have an averse influence on US children. The book version was published in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, and France. In Vietnam, the pirated version sold over ten million copies. Based on the estimated lost royalties, a Doraemon Educational Children Fund was founded in Vietnam.
Visiting hours and admission:
- Admission: 1,000 JPY adults, 700 JPY High School and Junior High School students, 500 JPY children (tickets can be purchased at Lawson convenience stores)
- Hours: daily, admission four times a day, at 10:00, 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00
- Transportation: public transportation is recommended since there is no parking; a shuttle bus runs from Noborito Station on JR Nambu line or the Odakyu line. You can walk from Shukugawara Station of JR Nambu line. One way costs 200 JPY for adults, but you can buy a day pass for 400 JPY. There is a bicycle parking, so you can go there by bicycle, too.
- Restaurant: There is a café in the museum, but it is quite crowded and admittedly a bit pricy.
- Address: 2-chome 8-1 Nagao, Tama-ku, Kawasaki-city, Kanagawa Prefecture, 214-0023; 〒214-0023 神奈川県川崎市多摩区長尾2丁目8番1号; Phone: 0570-055-245 (9:30-18:00).