Osamu Tezuka is often referred to as a ‘god of manga’ in Japanese manga history. After he left the legendary Tokiwa-so in October 1954, he moved into Namiki House in Zoshigaya, Toshima ward where he resided for two and a half years until his marriage. I visited Namiki House and walked around the surrounding area where young Tezuka spent his time.
Osamu Tezuka: From Takarazuka, Hyogo to Tokyo ~The Tokiwa-so Era~
In 1952, Osamu Tezuka moved from his family home in Takarazuka City in Hyogo prefecture to Tokyo to focus on his career as a manga artist. His first living and working quarters were above a greengrocer’s store in Yotsuya. As he established himself as a popular manga artist, many editors from publishing houses visited him for job offers or to pick up his manuscripts, which caused complaints from neighbors, and eventually caused him to move out. Kenichi Kato of Manga Shonen told him about Tokiwa-so, then a newly-built apartment, in Shiina Machi, Toshima ward. Tezuka moved into Tokiwa-so in 1953. Kato often took many up-and-coming manga artists including Fujiko Fujio (a manga-writing duo of Doraemon fame), who were big fans of Tezuka, Shotaro Ishimori a.k.a Shotarou Ishinomori, and Fujio Akatsuka with him when he visited Tezuka, and Tokiwa-so become a dream haven for aspiring manga artists. It’s well-known that he left his deposit for the room to the next occupants, Fujiko Fujio, so that they didn’t need to pay themselves. The episode was also depicted in detail in Manga Michi, an autobiographic manga of Fujiko Fujio (A), who was one half of the Fujiko Fujio duo.
Tokiwa-so was a 15-minute walk from Shiinamachi station on the Seibu Ikebukuro line, whereas Namiki House, his next apartment, is a 15-minutes walk from Ikebukuro Station, which is the next stop from Shiinamachi station. It’d take 50 minutes from one to the other on foot. However, I took the Arakawa Toden streetcar line to visit Namiki House because it still offers a view of Tokyo from when Tezuka was living there.
Osamu Tezuka: Life after Tokiwa-so ~Namiki House Era~
Around the time Tezuka moved into Namiki House, the main public transport system was streetcars. Nowadays, large business and shopping districts in central Tokyo, such as Ginza, Nihonbashi, Shibuya, and Shinjuku, are connected to each other via subways. In the 50s, it was a streetcar that moved people around. In 1955, the year when he moved into Namiki House, 40 streetcar lines were in operation with 1.75 million users daily. The nearest station to Namiki House is Kishibojin station, a mere three minutes’ walk from the apartment. Editors who visited Tezuka to pick up his manuscripts would ride the streetcar and get off at this station.
The once prospering tram lines were scrapped starting from 1963, and the Arakawa line is the only surviving streetcar today. I recommend taking the Toden Arakawa streetcar line to Kishibojin station on your visit to Namiki House, as if you were one of editors.
After getting off the streetcar at Kishibojin station, I walked down the street that is shown on the right in the picture above. A street with lined zelkova trees soon came into sight. Note that if you get off on the opposite platform, use a level crossing to go across the tram tracks, which is not shown on the picture but is just below where the picture ends.
Toei Arakawa Streetcar Line Map
Namiki House, where Tezuka once lived, was situated along this zelkova-lined street.
I walked down the street and it took only a minute to get to Namiki House.
The house was situated at the end of an alleyway on the right-hand side of the tree-lined street. The building with the white wall in the picture is the apartment in which Tezuka lived and created his manga.
The picture above shows Namiki House. It’s an apartment which was built nearly 60 years ago. It was only a year old when Tezuka moved in, just like Tokiwa-so, which was also a year old when he settled in. Unlike Tokiwa-so, Namiki House still stands, though it needed renovation due to dilapidation. It was sympathetically renovated to preserve its character in 2008, and Namiki House is still popular, with its 12 rooms fully occupied. Tezuka lived in Room 210, a room of little over nine square meters, for two and a half years. During that time he created Astro Boy and Princess Knight. Fujiko Fujio (A)’s autobiographic manga Manga Michi has chapters of him visiting Namiki House to do some work as Tezuka’s assistant. It depicts Tezuka playing an upright piano in his room gracefully and playing classical music from his massive record collection. It sounds like Namiki House was a prestigious apartment in his day.
Room 210 in Namiki House is still popular and privately occupied today. Although the apartment has been exposed by the media on many occasions, the place belongs to the residents and outsiders are not allowed to enter. If you happen to visit, please respect the residents in Namiki House and don’t make noise outside the building. Please note that it is trespassing if you enter the gate of the apartment.
Zoshigaya: Tezuka’s Everyday Space
Near Namiki House, there is a cream-colored building, which has been standing there for long time. The ordinary house was turned into ‘Zoshigaya Annai Dokoro.’
An information desk offering sightseeing information around Zoshigaya is situated on the first floor, and a gallery which holds temporary exhibitions of pictures and photographs in connection with the area is upstairs. It also displays traditional toys which have been manufactured in this area since the Edo period.
Zoshigaya Annai Dokoro
Address: 3-19-5 Zoshigaya Toshima ward, Tokyo
Postal Code: 171-0032
https://www.toshima-mirai.jp/zoshigaya/ (Japanese only)
The history of ‘Zoshigaya Kishibojin’ goes back to the Azuchi Momoyama period in the late 16th century. The area was called ‘Inari no Mori’ (a forest of Inari, a messenger of a Shinto goddess) and people who lived around there erected a temple in 1578 which enshrined Kishibojin, a goddess for safe birth and child rearing. It has been lovingly taken care of by the local people.
The Ginkgo tree inside the temple grounds is said to be 700 years old and has been designated as a national natural treasure. The tree seemed in good health on the day of my visit. It’s said that Tezuka often visited here to get fresh air, and the editors sometimes waited for him to finish his manuscripts here.
During the Edo period, almost every worshiper of Kishibojin would buy osen dango, rice dumplings on a skewer. It was sold within the temple grounds as a popular souvenir. Traditional Japanese sweet shop Habutae Dango (est. 1819) revived osen dango in a few years ago. You can eat them in Daikoku-do within the temple grounds or take them home. They close the shop when the dango is sold out, so you’d better visit them in the morning to be sure. When you eat them in Daikoku-do, you will be served a free cup of tea.
Open: Weekends and national holidays and on the 8th, 18th, 28th
Opening Time: 11.00 – 17.00
Kishibojin Honden in the picture above was built in 1644 during the fourth Shogun Ietsuna Tokugawa’s reign. A daughter of the Lord Toshitsune Maeda in Ishikawa prefecture, then called Kaga, collected money to erect a temple. The Shogun helped to financially to improve it and it became what you can see now. It was registered as a tangible cultural property in Tokyo in 1960. It was dismantled and rehabilitated in order to restore it to how it looked during the Edo period. Kishibojin Honden represents the history and tradition of the Edo period.
On a Final Note
I followed Osamu Tezuka’s steps from Tokiwa-so to Namiki House. Tezuka moved out of Namiki House when he got married, and started living in Fujimidai which is accessible via the Seibu Ikebukuro line. He established his own studio, Mushi Production, near his home. The TV anime series Astro Boy was made in the studio and introduced Japanese anime to the world.