The conceptor of the statue Astro boy!
The statue of Astro boy in bronze is located in the Cenral Park in Hanno-city, which is about 1.3 km away from Seibu Ikebukukro Hanno Station (Hanno is about 40 min ride on Super Ex. train and 50 min. ride on Ex. train from Ikebukuro).The statue looks like as if it is about to fly at any moment.
This statue was completed 26 years ago, in 1983, and Mr. Tezuka himself attended the unveiling ceremony. His attendance was a big topic at that time.Meanwhile I was also at the ceremony as a reporter for a publishing company.
By the way, why was the statue located in Hanno city?This time, I walked around to find out the answer for this question.And more, a new revelation came out through my walk!Now let’s start!
Let’s start from the North Exit of Hanno Station.
Noguchi Seed and Plant Supplier.The panels of Astro boy and Phoenix welcome you.
Firstly I took a bus from the North Exit of Hanno Station to visit one place in mind.After about 15 min. ride for Naguri, I arrived at Noguchi Seed and Plant Supplier specialized in seeds of traditional vegetables.
Mr. Isao Noguchi (65 years old), the owner of the store, was a former employee of Mushi Production, and he was the man who planed and worked hard to establish the statue of Astro boy. I interviewed with Mr. Noguchi as soon as I met him.
Mr. Noguchi said, “I have been a fan of Tezuka Manga since my childhood.In 1964, I got a job at Publishing Section of Mushi Production represented by my favorite Mr. Tezuka.My first job at the company was editing “Tetsuwan Atom Club”, a newsletter for Astro boy fans. After then, I was in charge of “Phoenix” serialized in “COM”, a monthly magazine published a year and half after my joining the company.“
Mr. Noguchi had worked for Mushi Production for two years, followed by his engagement in publication of “Ayako” at Daito-sha. Then he decided to take over his family business, Nobuchi Seed and Plant Supplier.However, Mr. Noguchi’s relationship with Mr. Tezuka had continued ever after.
Mr. Isao Noguchi, who guided me this time
Mr. Noguchi said “Mr. Tezuka asked me to send flowers to plant in his garden since his wife loved flowers very much.I sent him flowers to be transplanted every season thorough a year. Now I do not supply flowers, though.”
Through such exchanges with Mr. Tezuka, he got permission directly from Mr. Tezuka to use Tezuka characters including Phoenix for the neon sign of his store.
(Left) Phoenix on the neon sign grows at night. (Photo provided by Isao Noguchi)
(Right) “Inochi no Tane wo Mirai ni”, a book Mr. Noguchi authored.
Finally the statue has completed!
Guided by Mr. Noguchi, I headed to the statue of Astro boy, walking back the way I just came.It takes about 20 min. on foot directly from Hanno station. If you take a bus, you should take Han 01, 02, 03, 04, 05 or 07 line and get off at “Tenranzan-shita” bus stop. It takes about 3min. on foot from the bus stop. If you go by your car, you should park at the parking lot beside the City Hall which is located on the way climbing up the hill northerly. From the parking lot, it takes only 30 seconds to the statue.
The statue was moved to the Central Park in 2003. Astro boy is standing in the sunshine.
Following Mr. Noguchi, I headed to the park.There was the statue of Astro Boy standing bravely on the grass. Mr. Noguchi told me the whole story till the statue was established.
”The statue was established in 1983, the 10th anniversary year of Hanno Junior Chamber.I served as Vice President of the chamber then, and I proposed the idea as one of the anniversary celebrations.
Now we can find a lot of statues based on characters popular in animations and manga through the country.But it must have been very rare at that time.
“Indeed, since there was no such precedent, many people opposed my idea, saying ‘We will be a laughingstock if we do it.’ Some said ‘There must be something more appropriate for Hanno.’But I had it that Hanno had a cultural background to welcome the statue since several manga artists lived there, and manga was a culture loved by a wide range of generations, from young to adult, and I finally convinced them.”
The project proposal delivered to the relevant parties then
”To squeeze out the budget of 3,000,000 yen for the statue, we decided to hold “Manga Festival.”The feature program of the festival was an auction.I contacted manga artists who I used to know and explained the purpose of the auction.Those who agreed kindly provided us with their autographs, which we auctioned off to make money.Several manga artists including Mr. Hisashi Sakabuchi, Mr. Takeichi Terasawa, Mr. Shinji Wada and Ms. Moto Hagio contributed to the auction. We were so greatful.”
“This festival was held both in 1981 and 1982, for two consecutive years. Mr. Tezuka himself participated in the festival on the 2nd year.He quickly autographed on more than 100 Shikishi boards and presented them to visitors selected in a drawing.”
Finally the statue was completed and the unveiling ceremony was held on May 29, 1983. It had been three year since the start of the project.
Photos taken at the unveiling ceremony of the Statue of Astro boy
May 29, 1983
(Left) Mr. Tezuka and Mr. Noguchi (left) before the ceremony
(Center) Mr. Tezuka looks very happy besides the statue.
(Right) I was interviewing with Mr. Tezuka.
Photo by Keiji Nakayama
Mr. Keiji Hirose, a cast artist, was making the statue at his factory in Hanno city.
Mr. Tezuka asked Mr. Hirose how long the statue lasted.Mr. Hirose answered it would last 500 years.Hearing that, Mr. Tezuka was so pleased.(Photo provided by Isao Noguchi)
The thought kept in the plate on the base
How was Mr. Tezuka’s reaction to the statue?
”Mr. Tezuka was pleased to see it, saying ‘This is really good.’He was smiling all the time at the unveiling ceremony.Actually Mr. Tezuka had received a lot of offers from various places about setting the statue of Astro boy since then.But he turned down every such offer, saying ‘There is the one in Hanno.That’s enough.’”
That’s why the description on the plate says “The only statue in the world”.By the way, the statue was originally located at a different place, wasn’t it?
”Yes, we rent a space at the corner within the premises of Nonin Temple for 20 years, because the statue was Junior Chamber’s private business, so it could not be set at public facilities. Originally the statue was located at the place just across the street. By the way there is one difference between now and then. Did you notice?”
Comparing the present statue with the picture taken then, I noticed the plate of “Tetsuwann Atom, Tezuka Osamu” was not attached on the base in the picture.Why was it?
“To tell the truth, we could not put the plate because of budget shortfall.I told it to Mr. Tezuka in the car on the way back home after the ceremony.Then, Mr. Tezuka held out the envelope with the honorarium for his lecturing at the ceremony, kindly saying ‘Please use it for the plate.’ I was moved to the point of tears.”
Mr. Noguchi telling the memory about the plate
This is the place the statue originally located.Mr. Noguchi is taking a pose of Astro boy.
Hearing what Mr. Noguchi said, I was moved very much too.It’s a very touching story of Mr. Tezuka’s deep thought to the statue and Mr. Noguchi’s enthusiasm.
hen the ownership of the statue was transferred to Hanno city and moved to the present place on November 15, 2003, the 20th anniversary from its establishment.Mrs. Etsuko Tezuka, Mr. Tezuka’s wife, participated in the unveiling ceremony then.
Next time I will introduce interesting stories about Mr. Tezuka and Hanno city while visiting more places related to Mr. Tezuka with Mr. Noguchi. And I will tell you about another statue of Astro boy in Hanno! See you then.
* Click the image to enlarge.
Born in 1957 in Tokyo. Freelance writer and manga story writer. The first Tezuka manga he encountered was Astro Boy and since then, for over 40 years, he has collected manga works of the Showa period and toys sold at mom-and-pop candy stores. He has written many Showa-retro related books and articles. Tezuka Osamu Fan Club membership number 364 (inaugural class).