Showa Retro-Kan Exhibition, Tokiwa-So Street, Toshima City

Welcome to Jinsei-Yokocho

I recently had the opportunity to visit a free temporary exhibition called “Showa Retro Kan” (昭和レトロ館) on the 2nd floor of the Toshima Municipal Showa History Cultural Museum (豊島区立昭和歴史文化記念館) on Tokiwa-So-Doori (トキワ壮通り), about two kilometers west of Mejiro station. I walked there since Mejiro-doori is an interesting street to explore, but took one of the frequent buses back.

A Showa-era drinking spot near Ikebukuro station

A peek inside a Showa-era room

Tokiwa-so or Tokiwa house (トキワ壮) used to be an apartment building where many famous Japanese manga artists used to live in the 1950s and 1960: Osamu Tezuka stayed there at the beginning of his career, as well as Fujiko Fujio, the team behind Doraemon. Although the original building no longer exists, there are a number of related interesting sights in the area.

Oden food cart on a bridge over the Kanda river

A public bathhouse in the Waseda neighbourhood

The exhibition is divided into five rooms. The first three have some Showa era photos and room replicas – I had seen similar displays in other museums. However, the fourth room had a toy replica of Ikebukuro station and it was interesting to spot all the different lines that run through one of the busiest stations in the world; also in the same room is a small diorama of what the station looked liked about 100 years ago, when Ikebukuro was mostly fields.

A toy replica of Ikebukuro station

One of the busiest stations in the world

The largest and most interesting room was the last one. It had two larger dioramas: one of “Jinsei-Yokocho” (人生横丁), now renamed to “Mikuni-koji” (美久仁小路), a drinking spot a stones-throw from Sunshine-doori; the other near a sento or public bathhouse in Waseda. I really love miniature models and took my time checking out all the details. The room walls had then and now pictures of various places in Toshima.

Is this one of the residents of Tokiwa House?

Peeping toms…

There are some interesting things to see on the 1st floor as well. A selection of manga that can teach you something; I was familiar with a few of them like Natsuko no Sake and Space Brothers, but I was able to find some new titles to check out. A small shop has some of the manga on sale, although not the ones I wanted. Opposite the shop is probably the cheapest manga cafe in Tokyo: for 500 yen you can spend all day there reading manga (Japanese only).

The exhibition runs till March 31st 2023

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