Yotsuba&! Exhibition of Original Manga Drawings

Hi! I decided to make this blog as an old-school-internet-style way to show off some photos I took during my trip this past weekend to the Special Exhibition “YOTSUBA&! Exhibition of Original Manga Drawings” (よつばと!原画展 / Yotsuba to! Gengaten) at the Tokiwaso Manga Museum in Toshima-ku, Tokyo. I figured some other people online would want an English-language trip report, so here we go! Below are 85 pictures in full resolution. (By the way, if you use these somewhere, please do let me know, and give credit by linking back here – it’d be appreciated.)

The entrance in Tokiwaso Park

Yaaaay, made it!

Quick backstory: I moved to Nagoya, Japan last month and took the Tōkaidō Shinkansen up to Tokyo (only a 1.5 hour ride on the Nozomi train, at nearly 300 km/h!) this past weekend in order to see this exhibition of Kiyohiko Azuma’s work before it closed at the end of the month. I was (and still am) elated that I was able to move to Japan in time and go, just before it wrapped up, especially as I have commitments the following two weekends this month! I went right when it opened at 10 a.m.

The Yotsuba&! exhibition itself is housed in a museum that’s a masterful reproduction of Tokiwa-sō, an apartment building that was inhabited by numerous famous manga artists in the mid-20th century, including Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Dororo), Fujiko F. Fujio & Fujiko Fujio Ⓐ (Doraemon), Shotaro Ishinomori (Super Sentai, Kamen Rider), and Fujio Akatsuka (Osomatsu-kun). The upstairs showcases the original living quarters, and the downstairs floor hosts revolving exhibitions like this one.

Danbo is in one of the rooms! This is a faithful recreation of Tokiwa-sō in the 1950s and 60s, surely!

A big Yotsuba greets you at the end of the hallway, next to the small elevator to head downstairs. Hi!

Heading downstairs and going around the corner, you turn left and find yourself in the main room. But we’ll talk about what’s there later! For now, we’ll turn left again and walk through these sliding doors, which takes us into the exhibition space.

Yotsuba-chan says “Welcome!”

The intro to the exhibition.

The wall text tells us that it’s the 20th anniversary of Yotsuba&! this year, and describes it as a manga that leisurely depicts the daily life of a slightly strange and endlessly-curious girl named Yotsuba. It also talks about how it’s been translated into 14 languages in more than 27 countries, with 14.3 million copies in circulation in Japan and 3+ million elsewhere worldwide, and mentions Kiyohiko Azuma’s well-deserved accolades: the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, 2nd place in the Manga Taishō, and multiple awards at the Japan Media Arts Festival over the years. All fifteen currently-published volumes are mounted on display complete with their obi.

The exhibition is small, U-shaped, and conceptually split up into a few different sections. The first part, spanning the walls of both of the main hallways, shows many of Azuma’s manuscripts, allowing visitors to see details of retouching and edition, and shows how the final text gets added in manually rather than digitally (cut and paste!) A few of these images also show the original hand-written text before it gets typed up and finalized, and how characters are drawn separately from backgrounds and then placed on top. The gallery text mentions that while manuscripts have been submitted digitally since volume 10, Azuma’s drawing is all still done traditionally, by hand.

At the bend of the ‘U’ is a display case of reference photos and props that have been used to create Yotsuba&! – some of which are real, and others which have been fabricated or found by museum staff for illustrative purposes. The gallery text talks about how this “mysteriously helps connect the world of fiction to our real world” (!)

Next up we have a display of Kiyohiko Azuma’s work desk, showing some instruments he uses (both in photos and the physical items) along with a close-up video of him working on various panels. I watched him coloring in Miura’s hair and seatbelt for a while (she’s my fave).

On the same wall, we see five comparisons showing how panels are sometimes altered after the raw manuscripts are scanned and cleaned up digitally for submission, and how panels can differ between serialization (in a magazine – in this case that’s Dengeki Daioh) and when they’re later compiled and separately published as a tankōbon volume. For those interested, the page and volume numbers are all visible in Japanese at the bottom of these photos, and the updated (final) pages are also shown. The gallery text also mentions that couple halftone stickers were produced for this exhibition to further improve the drawings for the sake of display.

At the end of the hallway, against the wall, the following sheet of paper is displayed vertically, allowing it to be viewed from both sides. The gallery notes that raw manuscripts contain more than what can be seen in the final comic; not only are notes and parts of drawings that extend into the margins visible, but pencil drawings are too, which here become “hidden” on the back side.

Across from this, there’s a great display of real rocks juxtaposed with the two-page spread from Chapter 100 (Volume 15)!

The end of this hallway, near the exhibit’s exit, features what’s probably my favorite part: very, very rough sketches made by Azuma to determine the panel layout/composition, and characters’ basic expressions, dialogue, placement, etc. Weirdly, this is called ネーム neemu in Japanese – yes, the English word “name” (derived from its usage as a verb, meaning to specify or mention explicitly). The gallery text mentions how there’s a lot of trial-and-error at this stage, and it often involves many drafts – sometimes it changes a lot, and other times only a little. There are also some character sketches. I loved the very simple and silly Yotsuba faces, so I’m including a lot of pictures here! (And these are the originals, so do not touch!)

Right by the exit, Azuma’s illustrations for previous iterations of this exhibition from the past few years are framed, along with a showcase of a 13-minute video titled “HOW TO PAINT” on loop, showing the (20×!) sped-up process of coloring in one of these images. The gallery text mentions how all color illustrations for Yotsuba&! (including the volume covers) are digitally colored.

And sadly, we’re at the exit of the exhibition area… but don’t fret, there’s still more to come!

“Thanks for coming!!” says Yotsuba-chan! Bye-bye!

What’s really cool to me is, when you look closely…

…you can see Azuma’s rough sketch pencil lines on the wall!

Out of the exhibition hall, now back in the main room, the floor-to-ceiling wall directly across from us shows all of the international publications of Yotsuba&!’s first volume. The gallery text mentions the minutiae of localization – how book size and paper quality differ, and also how “translation fidelity” varies greatly, with some countries’ publishers hand-lettering onomatopoeia and SFX and others only translating dialogue. There’s also another illustration by Azuma, and some figurines of Yotsuba and Danbo.

[Edit 11/13: A reader pointed out to me that the American/English volume on the shelf seems to be the original ADV Manga publication, as evidenced by the series logo – but the blown-up page that’s showcased is from the Yen Press version, per the dialogue font. Interesting!]

I saved the best for last. Turn around, and… SO MANY YOTSUBAS!!! And this is the interactive part, too – you’re invited to draw your own with colored pencils and put it on the wall!

Other visitors hard at work, drawing. There were kids and adults both, and a mix of Japanese and non-Japanese visitors!

The blank canvas. Of course, the green colored pencil was the shortest.

A little library: “Please read freely”

“Try drawing lots of different expressions!”

Here’s a selection of my twenty favorite Yotsuba drawings from the wall. I asked the museum staff and they said they clear it out almost every day, since new ones are being added by the hour!

“What’re we gonna play today?”

kawaii xd

This Yotsuba looks motivated!


“Fried shrimp and shrimp tempura are a little different!” The SFX at the bottom is a “do-doodoo!” for the dazzling glow.

“Wrong Yotsuba.” (This is the outfit of another fictional Yotsuba, Yotsuba Nakano.) “An anime adaptation would be nice…”

She looks like Scout in her ham costume.

Classic Azumanga Daioh “あ!” face.


“I’m gonna become a mangaka!!”

Accomplished, with ribbons in her hair!

“Ah, I’m sorry…”


Nervous, or sick, or…

“Flower Cupid!” (A Japanese flower delivery service)

“Y-You’re not hiding anything from me, are you?”


“Yotsuba rockin’ out”

This was the only other one besides mine without green hair!

My Yotsuba. “At lightspeed!” I had a lot of fun working on it!

Finally, on the way out of the museum… merch! There were a few tables full of stuff and it wasn’t even that expensive and I wanted to buy it all. There was also this 2024 calendar that I didn’t manage to get in the picture (but apparently you can get it online?) and some canvas bags that also escaped the edges of my photos. I liked that they had opened-up samples of all the items, like the notepads and glasses cases and train pass pouches, so you could see what you were getting before buying it.

(I didn’t see the “no photos” sign until after… oops. But the museum staff seemed chill.)

The exhibition was well-advertised by nearby businesses in Toshima-ku too.

And that’s all! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed going and putting this together! Here’s the stuff I bought (though the button badge came free with the ¥500 admission price, and I had bought all the volumes very cheaply from BOOK-OFF a couple weeks prior…) I grabbed extra posters for friends, so if you’re desperate for one, do let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

My brand-new little Yotsuba shelf! I’m especially happy with the pencil bag.

Two clear files (folders) and a T-shirt. Luckily it didn’t run small & fits me well!

I enjoy the spirit of Yotsuba&! so much – it’s so life-affirming and happy, and really reflects the way I operate in the world, too. Enjoy everything! Today is the most enjoyable day! And it’s true: this day, indeed, was very, very enjoyable.

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6 Responses to Yotsuba&! Exhibition of Original Manga Drawings

  1. William (TheRealJuralumin) says:

    Love it! So wish I could have gone, but your blog is the next best thing, thank you for sharing it!

    • eli says:

      Thank you so much for the comments and kind words here & elsewhere – I hope it helped you to experience it vicariously and to the fullest! Happy to see you here as well :D

  2. mrmanager says:

    ahhhh this is so cool!!!! i’ll have to go myself someday

    • eli says:

      Thanks!! (Look, now I have my own webzone too!) Yes, you must – luckily since 2019 there have been variations of it popping up in various places almost every year!

  3. Muhammed Adil says:

    What a nice read. Looking forward to more of this

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