Family Fun: Anpanman Museum (Kochi Prefecture)

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you may be aware that I have a four-year-old daughter. You may also have gathered that she is a BIG fan of Anpanman, the animated television superhero who saves the world with his bean-paste-filled head.

Trust me, I know it sounds bizarre, but it does eventually grow on you.

While we’ve visited the “playgroundesque” Anpanman Museum in Yokohama, our trip to Shikoku late last month revealed that Kochi is actually the birthplace of Takashi Yanase, the creator of Anpanman. And in his hometown of Kami (a small village about 40 minutes drive east from central Kochi), his work is immortalized in a fun and interactive museum.

You’ll know you’re in the right place from the Anpanman-themed manhole covers on the town’s streets as well as the large metal statue of the edible superhero and smaller casts of his sidekicks (and nemeses) that ring the gleaming building.

Anpanman to the rescue!
Anpanman to the rescue!

Start on the top floor, where it seems Yanase’s story begins. Here you’ll find full-color paintings of his beloved characters, half-colored cells from TV reels, sketches for project ideas and tons more. Sadly, there are few English explanations but you can get an idea of who’s who in the Anpanman ‘verse.

No pictures allowed of the top floor exhibit but here is the entrance hall
No pictures allowed of the top floor exhibit but here is the entrance hall

Heading back down, you can either get cozy on the steps with an Anpanman book (they have a mini library and cushioned seats right on the staircase) or make your way directly to the basement. Though not well-signed (follow the arrows for the bathrooms), this is the world brought to life. Walk into a recreation of Uncle Jam’s kitchen, tunnel through the earth with Baikinman or play seek-and-find with all of your favorites in the fantastic model village. Next door, the theater runs showings on loop of Anpanman TV episodes.

The Anpanman model village
The Anpanman model village

Outside, a playground – divided into youngsters (aged 3-6) and older kids (aged 6-12) features Anpanman-themed equipment. It’s free in case you just wanted to play and there is a covered picnic area just next door.

The Anpanman-themed playground
The Anpanman-themed playground

Now here’s the caveat. It takes a bit of planning to get to Kami without your own wheels and even if you do have them, it’s a bit of a drive along two-lane country roads. Also, while the hands-on portions of the museum require no explanation, hardly any of the art and history exhibit is signed in English. I personally would love to have gained more insight into Yanase’s inspiration, his early drawings, the stories behind some of his scripts and what have you. All that is captioned are the large paintings on the top floor. So if you have no idea who Anpanman is, you won’t leave here feeling any more enlightened.

You can find a bit more information at the Kochi Prefecture tourism website or visit the Kochi Tourism office for advice on how best to reach the museum.

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