Tezuka at the Smithsonian, opening events 13-15 November

Photo © Brian Mah

A wonderful weekend was had by everyone at the opening of the Tezuka festival at the Freer and Sackler Galleries. With the support of Tezuka Productions and the Gallery’s sponsors, film programmer Tom Vick has put together a fabulous programme that runs until December. There’s even a pop-up shop where you can buy Tezuka-related books, including my latest The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, and support the Smithsonian through your purchase. If you’re in the DC area, you shouldn’t miss this festival – and if not, use any excuse to get there!

The opening weekend was fun. Fred’s Friday evening talk was packed with information and some wonderful pictures, including a Japanese press photo of a very elegant lady and a little boy playing with a Tetsuwan Atom puppet – the current Empress of Japan, then Crown Princess, and her elder son, the current Crown Prince. It really summed up the breadth of Astro Boy‘s appeal! I’ve always been a Schodt fangirl – I still think Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics is the best introduction to the subject , and  The Astro Boy Essays is required reading for anyone interested in Tezuka, but also in the way anime and manga are woven into Japanese society. Being at this event with him was an honour as well as a pleasure.

On Saturday Fred and I had a panel discussion and audience Q&A with Doctors Natsu Onoda Power and Ada Palmer. Natsu is a teacher, director, playwright and author of God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga. Ada, who founded and maintains the superb TezukaInEnglish website,  teaches at Texas A&M, and is an active cosplayer and convention staffer. Both have written widely on aspects of Tezuka’s work that are often neglected, and it was inspiring to have the chance to share a stage with them. Then on Sunday we watched Marine Express and Fred and I discussed it and answered more questions from the audience.

There’s still lots to come. The Smithsonian’s website has a dedicated page for the Tezuka season, with full programme, booking details and essays from the guests at the opening weekend. Apart from some exciting screenings, two very distinguished guests will be in Washington in December.

Kamishibai master Yassan (Yuushi Yasuno) who works extensively with the Kyoto International Manga Museum, is visiting the Smithsonian on 4-6 December to give a series of performances and workshops. It’s a rare chance to learn about this street entertainment and performance art form, from a licensed Japanese practicioner with almost four decades of  experience in kamishibai.

Yoshihiro Shimizu, General Manager of Tezuka Productions, who worked with Tezuka from the 1960s to his death in 1989, will be at the screening of 1001 Nights on 11 December, and will give a talk about Tezuka and the history of anime on 13 December.

All of this is completely free to attend, although of course donations are welcome to help the Smithsonian continue its work. It makes me feel very proud that the founder of this great museum complex was a British scientist, James Smithson.

Steve and I had a great weekend in Washington. Not only did we see as many of the Smithsonian’s treasures as we could possibly cram into three days, but we met old and new friends and had the chance to celebrate the genius of Osamu Tezuka with them. Brian Mah’s picture of us with Tom and Frederik L. Schodt is a wonderful memento.


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