Monday, September 27, 2010

Tezuka's Legendary Wood Panel

Fans of Osamu Tezuka definitley must check out this article, "Tezuka's heroine bats her eyes at crime reporters" from the Asahi Shimbun website. It's all about how a wooden panel from the Tokiwa-so apartments, where many young manga artists once stayed, was rescued by Tezuka before the site was demolished. Tezuka drew an illustration of Princess Knight and a portrait of himself on the panel and gave it to the reporters that alerted him to the Tokiwa-so demolition. To this day, that panel hangs in the Ikebukuro Police Station press room.
A framed wooden ceiling panel sits in the press club inside the Metropolitan Police Department's Ikebukuro Police Station in Tokyo's Toshima Ward.

It shows a sketch of the heroine of Osamu Tezuka's manga "Ribon no Kishi" (Princess Knight), and a self-portrait of the artist in his inimitable style.

As the anecdote goes, Tezuka (1928-1989) drew the pictures on the panel, which measures roughly 70 centimeters by 30 cm, after removing it himself from the legendary Tokiwa-so apartment building, where he and other manga artists had once lived.

The building was torn down 28 years ago. The artist managed to rescue the board thanks to the help of club reporters.

In the top right of the panel, the artist wrote a special dedication: "For the reporters at the Gohomen Kisha Club (the press club for district 5)."

An Asahi Shimbun article on the demolition said: "(Tezuka), wearing his trademark beret, was surrounded by fans who had heard about the demolition and went upstairs to revisit Room 14, which held so many memories. As he had requested, he received wooden panels from the ceiling, which were richly imbued with the smoke from all the cooking that had gone on in that room."

The press club is one of the seven at major police stations in Tokyo. The rooms serve as bases for crime reporters.

How did a panel from Tokiwa-so end up in the press club on the seventh floor of the Ikebukuro Police Station?

Shigeyuki Koide, 59, senior staff writer at the Yomiuri Shimbun, happily recounted the events that took place on Nov. 30, 1982.

"We just happened to drop in at a ramen shop near Tokiwa-so that day," he said.

Koide was 31 and in his first year on the city news beat. After covering a fire in the morning, reporters from the press club went to the Chinese restaurant Matsuba for lunch.

After their meal, the reporters noticed Tokiwa-so covered with scaffolding, with the window frames already gone. They heard that the building was about to be demolished.

The reporters sprang into action, calling up manga artists who used to live in the apartment to get their reactions.

One reporter called Tezuka, creator of "Tetsuwan Atomu" (Astro Boy), who had lived in Room 14 of Tokiwa-so.

Tezuka said he would come down to get some of the ceiling boards. He promised to meet the reporters in front of the apartment late in the afternoon the next day.

On Dec. 1, at his office in Shinjuku Ward, Tezuka handed in 20 manuscript sheets for the manga "Hidamari no Ki" (Trees in the sun) to his editor from Big Comic magazine.

He was two days late for his deadline, and due dates for other serials were fast approaching.

But Tokiwa-so couldn't wait. Tezuka headed off to his rendezvous.

"As I waited for (Tezuka) to return, I was surrounded by angry editors," recalled Takayuki Matsutani, 65, president of Tezuka Productions Co. "I didn't want him to leave the office. Still, I wanted him to take a breather."

The manga king was about an hour late when he arrived at Tokiwa-so. He immediately went upstairs, even though the apartment was dark because the lights were removed.

In Room 14, he got on a stepladder to get at the ceiling, while reporters shone flashlights.

One asked, "Are you sure you can just tear it up like that?"

An unfazed Tezuka replied: "Don't worry. I've talked with the landlord."

He soon ripped several boards out of the ceiling.

When Koide handed Tezuka a felt-tipped pen, the artist drew the dashing Princess Sapphire, who in his famous tale pretends she is a prince to inherit the throne.

Saying, "And me," Tezuka added a self-portrait.

It was Tezuka's way of thanking the young reporters who alerted him about the demise of his special place. The reporters carried the panel back to their press club and displayed it on the locker.

The board has since witnessed more than 200 reporters at the Gohomen Kisha Club come and go, chasing down stories and learning their trade.

Shinichi Suzuki, 76, an anime artist who also lived at Tokiwa-so, compares the press club to Tokiwa-so.

"I look at it this way: Anyplace, be it a school or a company, becomes a Tokiwa-so to the people who grow up there and are successful in the future."