Fujiko Fujio (A) Talks about Life at Tokiwa-so
Tokiwa-so (トキワ荘) is an apartment building in Shiinamachi, Tokyo, where now legendary but then up-and-coming mangaka such as Tezuka Osamu, Shotaro Ishinomori (Ishimori) and Fujio Akatsuka once lived, worked together, shared knowledge, and basically meeting up with colleagues and pitting their skills against each other.
In 1954, two young mangaka, Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko, moved into Tokiwa-so. The duo, better known by their pen name of Fujiko Fujio, worked alongside the likes of Tezuka, and went on to create Doraemon, which became one of the best-selling manga in the world. While Fujimoto, also known as Fujiko F. Fujio, passed away in 1996 due to an accident, Abiko, Fujiko Fujio (A) is still active in the manga scene.
An interview with Fujiko Fujio (A) was recently published in Shueisha's Jump Square magazine. In the interview, Fujiko Fujio (A) talks about the days he spent at Tokiwa-so, as well as his memories of his colleagues:
Osamu Akimoto: I've heard stories about Tokiwa-so from when I came into the manga business. You must have enjoyed those days.
Fujiko Fujio: Sure, we lived together in an apartment house named Tokiwa-so. Those days had a big influence on me. In those days, being a mangaka was an unrealistic job. Mr. Tezuka was the shining star for us, however, nobody knew what future the manga industry would have. I was encouraged by all the struggling friends around me.
Actually, all of them were my rivals. A guy getting the job would mean another one must be kicked out, because the number of magazines and spaces on them were limited. When I went to the washroom at 2 or 3 am at night, the lights of the rooms in which Fujio Akatsuka or Shotaro Ishimori lived in were turned on, and I thought, "Oh, they are still working." I felt some envy for they were working as mangaka; on the other hand, we were pleased when one of us published his work on some magazine. And so, I encouraged myself.
A: All of you were like a family.
F: Even after we saw success and fame, we felt just like in those days whenever we meet again. Tera-san (Hiroo Terada) had a big influence on us, like a big brother. We received a lot of help from him.
A: I heard Mr. Terada was pretty strict.
F: He was very strict. He loved authentic child comics, he hated any violence in manga. When a title that Tera-san hated got a No.1 popular manga placing on a magazine in which Tera-san had worked on, he went to see the head editor and told him to "stop it." The chief editor replied:,"This title is very popular right now, we can't." Tera-san said, "Then I'll stop working for you." He halted all works.
He was a unique character, however, all of us relied on him. We even borrowed our rent from him. We secretly called him "Terada bank." At the end of every month, I used to talk with Fujimoto. "How should we make the money for the rent of the coming month? We can't borrow it from Tera-san again..." In time we talked about such things, and Tera-san came and said, "Dude, you don't have rent for the coming month, I can loan it to you." We replied "Oh, thanks, but we have a plan, no thank you." However, at the due date, we couldn't make it and went to see Tera-san finally and asked "Oh, sorry, but can we borrow the rent?" Most of us were like that. We may not have been able to survive without his help. He was not rich either, but he was really nice.
A: You were invited by Mr. Tezuka to Tokiwa-so, were you?
F: That is right, but at the beginning when we came to Tokyo, Fujimoto and me were sharing a room at the second floor of a watch shop; only a two-tatami room (6 feet x 12 feet). When a desk was in the room, our back was touching the wall. At night, we took the desk out and set our futon, Fujimoto was a tall guy, his feet stuck out of the room... In those days, Mr. Tezuka offered us a room.
A: It was a turning point of your life.
F: Mr. Tezuka was going to move to another apartment, and said, "If you want, you can come to a room I'm living in right now after I move out." Of course we replied, "Sounds great, thank you very much." But...hey, wait, we would have to pay 30,000 yen as a deposit, and we didn't have it. We went to see Mr. Tezuka to decline his offer, "We have a one year contract for the room we live in now, so we have to..." I assume Mr. Tezuka knew our worries. He said, "If you're worried about 30,000 yen, I can withhold my deposit." Therefore, we were allowed to live in Tokiwa-so. Of course, later we paid back his deposit.
A: If Mr. Tezuka didn't invite you, you wouldn't be able to meet Terada, Ishimori, Akatsuka, and others.
F: Sure, after that, every time when a room was unoccupied, we invited hopeful rookies from appliers of manga awards, such as Akatsuka, Ishimori. They became our companies and members of the "New Manga Gang" (A mangaka group, they collaborated on manga, doujinshi, etc.)
A: Today, young people are finding it harder in having the opportunity to be with others who are struggling as well.
F: All of us lived in the same apartment. We all gathered in Tera-san's room, Tera-san served us a cup of booze, we chatted about movies, novels, girls....We didn't talk about manga, but in time, our companies increased.
A: What is the most memorable thing you recall in your life at Tokiwa-so?
F: I was the first assistant artist of Mr. Tezuka. The day we arrived in Tokyo, we went to Tokiwa-so to see Mr. Tezuka. An editor of Boken-oh (a manga magazine from the 70s) was there. When we were in Mr. Tezuka's room, the editor went out to a phone booth to call his company, then an editor of Shonen (another manga magazine from the 70s) came in and say "Now go!" Mr. Tezuka scooped up his scripts and told us "We have to go." We didn't know what was going on, but we followed him. A taxi waited for us at a back street, it carried us to a hotel in Kanda. Boken-oh's editor came back and Mr. Tezuka was nowhere to be found. Boken-oh's editor chased after us. We could hear his voice at the hotel reception. He said to the counter clerk, "Mr. Tezuka must be here!" Finally he cried, "Tezuka Sensei, I know you are there!" and he threw stones at our room's window.
Translator's Note: "Hotels" are used to let popular mangaka like Tezuka work for a magazine secretly. In those days, Tezuka didn't have enough time to work for all the magazines he was working for, so each editor had to watch Tezuka so he can't escape.
A: Those days were kind of insane.
F: Mr. Tezuka worked on a storyboard in a taxi. I felt carsick.
A: In a driving taxi?
F: Yeah, with the board on his knees. The editor helped him, but his work was so messy, lines were twisted and he couldn't paint the ink properly. I couldn't help but say "I have to do it." Later we stayed in that hotel for over a week.
F: That was a great experience for me. I was ordered to draw a blizzard on the last page of "The Empire of Jungle," in a scene where the explorers were freezing to death in Moon Mountain.
A: That was great.
F: I went to my friends to show it to them and said, "I drew this!" I felt pretty proud about it.
A: I think the mangaka giants in the early days of manga all had great stamina, they could work on many serialized titles all at the same time.
F: We enjoyed working for various magazines, even if it required a lot of hard work.
A: You must have been inspired by your friends.
F: That's right, I said to myself "I need to show progress too, challenge myself to undertake something new..."
Translated by T. Ohara