One Piece, Dragon Ball, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure; whatever your paper-based poison, Tachikawa City’s Manga Park has you covered. With an incredible 30,000 comics to relax with for just 400 yen per day, the only way this could possibly be better for manga fans would be if the staff also dressed as your favorite characters and gave free foot massages.
Having opened on March 20, the comic emporium invites visitors to kick off their shoes (quite literally- it’s wall-to-wall wood paneling and tatami mats inside), grab their favorite manga and settle in for a mammoth reading session. Far from battered old hand-me-down comics that you’ve never heard of, the library is stocked with sparkling clean copies of every issue ever produced of Nana, Yotsuba, Hana Yori Dango, Naruto and more.
Situated inside the town’s Kodomo Mirai Center (Children’s Future Center) just five minutes’ walk from the station, the playful library was created both to bring extra business to the south side of the city while inspiring children to form a long-lasting love affair with the printed word. Despite having some 30,000 comics already on the shelves, the staff are continually taking requests from patrons for titles in which they have interest, and aim to have as many as 50,000 manga to choose from within the next few months.
Although some authorities in the West would no doubt sneer at the very thought of supplying children with endless comics, with titles suitable for all ages and spanning themes from princess and high seas adventures to cocktail making and courtroom dramas, there’s literally something for everyone here and much more than just pretty pictures.
Built around the concept of “relaxing at home”, the library also offers large spaces with low tables and tatami-fitted blocks for visitors to sit on or prop themselves up against while reading. Even better, there are dozens of small cubbyhole hideaways for kids or small adults to slip inside (or on top of!), all with padded zabuton cushions, small desks and built-in lights that click on automatically whenever someone enters.
Comics are divided by genre and are kept in order by attentive and friendly staff who are happy to assist in locating a particular title. There’s also a special display area in which visitors can learn – in both Japanese and well-written English – about the history of manga and some of the first known titles.
Having paid the 400 yen entrance charge (200 yen for elementary school kids or younger), visitors are welcome to stay for as long as they like, picking books at random or working their way through an entire series. If the weather’s fine, you can load up a basket with the comics you’d like to read, slip on a pair of rubber deck sandals and head outside.
There are vending machines, water fountains and even a separate dining area dubbed the “Manga Cafe” that sells Japanese classics like home-cooked curry and rice, takoyaki octopus dumplings, ramen and edamame beans, making it quite possible to spend an entire day in the company of books, all for the price of buying a single comic in a regular bookshop. And before you start to wonder whether this is all just one of those “Hey, kids, libraries are cool!” initiatives that made us cringe when we heard about them at school, you should know that the cafe even serves hot dogs, popcorn and — no word of a lie — cold, crisp beer for the grown-ups. I know where I’ll be during the hot summer months…
After browsing the Manga Park’s myriad titles, we felt that it would be rude to leave without sitting down for a bite to eat. Paying at the small ticket-dispensing vending machines, we grabbed a couple of bowls of beef curry and rice and took a breather. For 380 yen, it was pretty good.
The Manga Park is open daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. (8 p.m. on Saturdays). Of course, weekends are already seeing an enormous number of visitors and it can get a little noisy with all the kids on manga overload, but there are plenty of quieter periods where you can sit undisturbed for hours, finally getting through the entire series of One Piece or Dragon Ball that you’d been wanting to read but couldn’t quite bring yourself to make the financial commitment. Tachikawa’s Manga Park is a wonderful example of taxpayers’ money spent well. We can’t imagine many better — or cheaper — places in which to while away a rainy day or put your kids for a couple of hours while you get your weekly shopping done.
Address: Tokyo-to, Tachikawa-shi Nishikicho 3-2-26
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