The manga, anime, and tokusatsu works of Shotaro Ishinomori are immortal: Kamen Rider, Cyborg 009, Kikaider, Robocon, Sabu to Ichi, Goranger and that team’s Super Sentai brethren, and thousands more.
Ishinomori-sensei himself, though, was not. He passed away in 1998, three days after his 60th birthday.
He was memorialized with a pair of outstanding museums in his home prefecture of Miyagi: the Shotaro Ishinomori Memorial Museum in 2000, and the Ishinomori Mangattan Museum in 2001. In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the Shotaro Ishinomori Memorial Museum held a summer festival on August 21, and I was lucky enough to make the trip up north for it with some fellow Ishinomori fans.
We travelled up to Miyagi a day early to visit Ishinomaki, a fishing port renowned in the mainstream for its seafood, and loved by the subculture for its Ishinomori connections. Ishinomaki calls itself the “Land of Manga,” and is the home of the unforgettable Ishinomori Mangattan Museum.
Ishinomaki Station is decorated with Ishinomori characters everywhere you look. You’ll even pass lifesize statues of Kamen Rider, Cyborg 009, and Cyborg 003 with 001 on its platform.
The outside of the station is covered with characters, too: lifesize statues (that’s Cyborg 002 taking off above), beautiful window art, and huge designs painted on the building.
Colorful art of Ishinomori characters continues on down the streets between the station and the Ishinomori Mangattan Museum. This area is known as the Manga Road, and even the koban police box is in the Ishinomori spirit, graced with an image of Robot Detective K (a photo is in the gallery below).
Cyborg 009 welcomes all to the main stretch of the Manga Road, running through Ishinomaki’s downtown shopping street and across a bridge to the island on which the bulbous spaceship-shaped Museum awaits.
All along the Manga Road, you’ll find lifesize statutes, stone sculptures, metal figures atop post boxes, engraved benches, and banners adorned with iconic characters.
Some of the stores themselves feature Ishinomori characters on their walls or shutters.
Unfortunately, we’d reached Ishinomaki too late to be able to visit the Ishinomori Mangattan Museum itself, so just admired the coolness of its shape from a distance. The last time I was there was in 2006, for its 5th anniversary…and I’ll make sure to be there next year for its 10th anniversary!
The next morning, an hour on the train brought us to remote Ishikoshi Station, where folks awaited infrequent taxis. All were making the 7-kilometer ride to the Shotaro Ishinomori Memorial Museum, in Ishinomori-sensei’s hometown of Nakata-cho. Once there, a lifesize statue of Cyborg 009′s 1966 animated incarnation made sure we didn’t miss the entrance.
The museum building itself curves along a quiet garden with trees and a stream filled with finger-length medaka (a kind of killifish).
The medaka are significant. One of Ishinomori’s manga stories–now animated and shown in the museum’s theater–tells how after he went to Tokyo and became a success, he got homesick, and so brought his two sons for a visit to Nakata-cho to show them the trees and medaka-filled streams he grew up with…except the town had grown and drastically changed. Trees had been cut down. The streams had been paved over. The medaka were gone. He thought everything he’d told his sons about and had missed so much was gone…until the boys pointed out the starry night sky and the wind. Those were the same as in years past, continuing on from then to today and onward… And, the film concludes, so do Ishinomori’s works; he’s no longer here, but what he created abides.
And, at least here at his museum, the medaka are back.
The garden wall is segmented with Ishinomori art, each a two-in-one piece that changes as you stroll past.
Inside the museum itself, photos were only allowed in the lobby. To the left was a gallery where an extensive retrospect of Ishinomori’s original artwork of his heroines was on display; to the right was the fantastic museum, library, and theater.
Back outside, the summer festival was underway on the grounds. There were traditional games such as goldfish-catching, and stands selling cotton candy and masks. Those Kamen Rider W and various Super Sentai masks are a testament to Ishinomori’s legacy.
On the event’s main stage, nearly a dozen groups of kids took part in the Children’s Dance display, each group doing a dance routine to theme songs from shows based on Ishinomori-sensei’s creations. Here are the Riders–the baseball team from the town’s Ishinomori Elementary School–doing a routine to Kamen Rider opening theme “Let’s Go!! Rider Kick!”
After the Children’s Dance, the day’s biggest event got underway: the Anime & Hero Song Concert, featuring, from left to right, longtime greats Akira Kushida (Kamen Rider ZX, Space Sheriff series), MoJo (Machineman, Battle Fever J and Super Sentai series), Takayuki Miyauchi (Kamen Rider Black RX, Metal Hero series), and emcee Shocker Oh!No!
The crowd sang and clapped along as the performers covered a slew of favorites from Ishinomori creations, including Kikaider, Inazuman, and Kamen Rider Black, in addition to singing their own songs.
It was a high-note finish for this hometown celebration of the life and legacy of Shotaro Ishinomori!