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Mushi Walk I: Takadanobaba Part 1


In this section I describe a walk I took to places associated with Tezuka Osamu and his manga. The first place I visited was Takadanobaba, where Tezuka Productions is located. Find out whom I met and what I discovered.

Mushi Walk I: Takadanobaba Part 1

Pictures and text by Kurosawa Tetsuya

Astro Boy departure melody welcomes you

Takadanobaba station in Shinjuku Ward is a large station which is a junction for the JR Yamanote line, Seibu Ikebukuro line, and Tokyo Metro Tozai line. Takadanobaba is a bustling college town and Waseda University, Gakushuin University, Gakushuin Women’s College, and Tokyo Fuji University are located around the station. This town is also where Mr. Tezuka Osamu had his workplace from 1976 to 1988 and where he created many masterpieces. The present Tezuka Productions’ head office is in Takadanobaba too.

Therefore, there are stores associated with Mr. Tezuka all around the town and many people here cherish his memory. Even after his death, a number of monuments have been created by people who admire Mr. Tezuka. On this occasion, I took a walk to see those.  


Mushi Walk I: Takadanobaba Part 1 (photo 1)

Welcomed with Astro Boy’s melody at Takadanobaba station  


As soon as I got off the JR Yamanote line at Takadanobaba station, I was welcomed with one of Tezuka’s works. Astro Boy’s theme song is used to signal the departure of the trains. It is a classic song that everyone knows, and it was composed by Takai Tatsuo for the first animated TV series. When I was a child, I became absorbed in the program, collected the stickers, and listened to the Sonosheet record until it was worn out.  

Mushi Walk I: Takadanobaba Part 1 (photo 2) My proud collection of Astro Boy stickers
* Click the image to view a larger version

I remembered the words and sang the tune in my head. I was already excited.

But I didn’t rush out of the station yet. In fact, the melody was arranged slightly differently for the inbound and outbound trains. As a Tezuka fan, I wanted to listen to both arrangements before heading for the exit.


Meeting in front of the Tezuka Osamu wall painting

There are two exits from JR Takadanobaba station and the Waseda exit is the bigger one on the Mejiro side. On the east side of the Waseda exit there is a traffic rotary and the statue of the goddess of peace is situated in the center. There used to be a fountain with the statue in the middle. When Waseda University won a Waseda-Keio baseball game, it was a tradition that drunken Waseda students would jump into the fountain. I guess the fountain was filled in because it was dangerous.

Now, crossing the street from the Waseda exit, you can see two big wall paintings with a full array of Tezuka characters under the elevated railway tracks on the north side.

Why are Tezuka wall paintings here? I arranged to meet a person who was involved in the production in front of the wall paintings. This was Ms. Otake Yumiko, who works as a judicial scrivener in Takadanobaba. She was one of the members of the Takadanobaba West Shopping District Promotion Association who pushed for the realization of the wall paintings.

Mushi Walk I: Takadanobaba Part 1 (photo 3) The statue of the goddess of peace, built in 1974 as a symbol of the redevelopment of Takadanobaba. It used to stand in a fountain.


Mushi Walk I: Takadanobaba Part 1 (photo 4) 

Meeting Ms. Otake Yumiko, who lobbied to produce the wall paintings, in front of them.  


Ms. Otake said, “It was in the summer of 1993 that an idea first popped up that we wanted a wall painting in Takadanobaba featuring Tezuka works. Previously, Tezuka Productions had supported regional developments, including the “Atom Festival” to clean the Kanda River. We wanted to go further and produce a material object of social significance. Then, the idea of a wall painting came up.”

But there were several obstacles to achieving this. “Although we obtained Tezuka Productions’ informal consent, JR said that using the wall would cost us an advertisement fee. It took us a lot of time and effort to have all parties concerned understand the importance of the wall painting.”

They once came very close to giving up but many people, including the then chancellor of Waseda University, supported the plan. As a result of their efforts, after four and half years, the first wall painting was completed in April 1998.

“We considered how we wanted to leave Takadanobaba to children of the future and put our thoughts into fifty concepts for Tezuka Productions’ review. Then Tezuka Productions had an internal competition and it resulted in the selection of the painting showing the changing seasons interweaving with life.

The wall painting was once removed in 2005 during renovation work on the station but it was relocated under the elevated railway tracks on the Mejiro side after sidewalk expansion work in March 2008, side by side with the new, second wall painting.  


Mushi Walk I: Takadanobaba Part 1 (photo 5)

The first painting on the JR side depicting coexistence of nature and humans in changing seasonal scener
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Mushi Walk I: Takadanobaba Part 1 (photo 6)

The theme of the second painting that was newly created in 2008 on the Seibu side is the history of Takadanobaba and great literary figures associated with Takadanobaba
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Mushi Walk I: Takadanobaba Part 1 (photo 7) 

Notice the ground patterns. They are from Edo Yuzen dyeing, a traditional craft of Shinjuku Ward
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For your information, the departure melody of Astro Boy at Takadanobaba station, which I mentioned at the beginning, was also suggested by the Takadanobaba West Shopping District Promotion Association and they persuaded JR to use it.

Again, JR initially frowned on their suggestion because they thought it might be difficult for the blind to recognize the tune. But JR agreed to a two-month-trial. It turned out that their worries were unfounded; on the contrary, the tune was extremely well received and JR said they wanted to continue using it.

Today, many stations use their own unique departure melodies. The Astro Boy melody at Takadanobaba station was one of the first departure melodies.  


The Takadanobaba walk will be continued in the second part.  

 Mushi Walk I: Takadanobaba Part 1 (photo 8 - MAP)

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Cooperation: Totsuka chiku kyogikai, Takadanobaba-eki-wasedaguchi no kankyouseibi ni kansuru chiiki kaigi


Kurosawa Tetsuya

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).