HIMI, Toyama Prefecture--Fujiko Fujio A has been a household name at home and abroad for decades since creating "Ninja Hattori" and other popular manga series.
But the 83-year-old artist has never turned his back on his hometown, which is more than happy to celebrate its hero.
Statues modeled after manga characters and local mascots created by Fujiko are set up across the city center.
In fact, the entire area is becoming a popular tourist spot and is referred to as "Fujiko Fujio A Manga World."
Welcoming visitors at the Kozenji temple in the city’s Marunouchi district are stone statues modeled after Kaibutsu-kun, "The Laughing Salesman" protagonist Fukuzo Moguro and other characters.
In the temple kitchen is a portable partition featuring "Moguro Daruma," which is drawn by the artist.
Fujiko, whose real name is Motoo Abiko, was born in this temple.
"I asked him to draw the painting because we couldn’t show anything to people who visited this place after they learned that he was born here," said Fujiko’s nephew and chief priest Koichi Kikuchi, 50.
Fujiko was born in 1934. His father, who had been chief priest, died while rebuilding the temple after it had been destroyed in a fire in 1938. Because Fujiko was too young to become the next high priest, his family moved to the neighboring city of Takaoka. There he met Hiroshi Fujimoto, aka Fujiko F. Fujio, with whom he formed the manga writing duo Fujiko Fujio in later years.
It was about 25 years ago when Fujiko’s characters started being set in his hometown. Tatsuya Hayashi, 60, who runs a menswear store in the Himimachi shopping area near Kozenji, took the initiative.
In 1992, the city government set up a clock featuring statues of characters from "Ninja Hattori" on a bridge over the Minatogawa river running near the shopping district, naming it the "Niji no Hashi" (rainbow bridge).
Hayashi was inspired and decided to "utilize his manga works and characters in his hometown." He asked Fujiko to come up with a set of original anthropomorphic characters inspired by fish from Toyama Bay, including Brince, a pun on "buri" (yellowtail) and prince, around 1996. Statues modeled after the fishy characters were set up across the shopping district.
In 2007, the Himi Shiokaze Gallery opened to display manga manuscripts hand-drawn by Fujiko as well as other materials. Some tourists even come to the city just to visit the Manga Road, a section in the city lined with character sculptures.
"I’m glad that the town has become bustling with the power of manga," Kikuchi said.
Featuring characters from the ninja manga and anime series, the Ninja Hattori Train has also been running daily on the JR Himi and JR Johana lines since March 2004.