Enter a fantasy world of pop culture where you can find all of your favorite characters.

Enter a fantasy world of pop culture where you can find all of your favorite characters.

At the Bankyo Figure Museum in Taki Town, Mie Prefecture, visitors can see over 20,000 figures from genres of Japanese pop culture, such as anime, manga and what is sometimes referred to as “Cool Japan”. For those in Japan who identify as “otaku”, the museum is also a great place to find rare figures from their subculture of choice. For foreigners, it is a chance to take a deep dive into Japanese pop culture and explore the country’s long history of animation, comic books and other vibrant entertainment industries. For cosplay enthusiasts, there is also an option to dress up in costumes rent a photo studio where your experience can be captured in pictures. The director of the museum is the president of Bankyo Pharmaceutical Products, Ltd. and this is his passion project. In fact, the museum is located in one of the company’s factories.

Written by Nathan Raymond
About the Author:
I live in Gifu with my family and I love Japan. I have never been into “otaku” culture, but I was interested in seeing a place that was home to such a massive collection of Japanese pop culture items. 

When I approached the museum, there were some posters in the windows and a welcome sign indicating where to enter. It was very interesting that the figure museum was connected to a working pharmaceutical factory.

Caption: There were so many characters and some of them were familiar to me.

As I made my way around the museum and explored the endless rows of figures, I started to think about pop culture in this country. In Japan, the term “otaku” used to be a derogatory term for someone who is obsessed with a particular pop subculture, such as a specific anime or idol group. In modern Japan, however, the term is used more generally in the same way we would use “geek” in America.

In the sea of figures, I was trying to pick out which ones I could recognize. The first set of characters that I knew was a large group of various Ultraman figures. In Japan, it is nearly impossible to not be aware of Ultraman, even if you didn’t grow up here. The variation of colors and designs was amazing.

Caption: The many characters connected to the famous Ultraman.

Some children may have one or two Ultraman figures, but at this museum there were hundreds of different variations. It was easy to see how a collector could become obsessed with having each new design in order to complete their set.

Of course there were many small figures that could be held in the hand. However, the more imposing figures were human-sized or bigger. Some of the largest figures towered over me and the place started to feel more and more like a fantasy world. 

Caption: Some of the figures were larger than me.

When I was standing next to the figures that were the same size as me or larger, the feeling of the museum changed and it was a little more intense. The fact that most of the figures were in action poses also made it seem like they were a kind of animation army. It was fun to let my imagination run a little wild and enjoy the fantasies my mind could conjure.

Caption: There were many figures of the characters from “Neon Genesis Evangelion”

The very large figures were the most interesting to me because they didn’t seem like toys. To me, they seemed like statues, which gave them an air of importance. I was curious how the president of Bankyo Pharmaceutical had managed to acquire so many collectibles and get them all to this museum to be displayed.

In one area, there was a large group of figures depicting characters from the hugely popular Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise that started on TV and then grew into a media empire. It is considered to be mecha anime and the artistry of the character design is quite incredible.

Caption: There were also many models of vehicles used in movies.

I had never been to any place like the Bankyo Figure Museum before and it was an amazing sight to behold. I was impressed by the museum director’s dedication to his hobby and all of the hard work it would have taken to build this collection.

For fans of any specific pop culture genre, I could see how this museum could be a pilgrimage destination. When I found the section with characters from American movies that I grew up watching, I felt the same joy that anime fans must feel when they see the characters they love.

Caption: There were many different versions of the Incredible Hulk on display.

In addition to the huge collection of figures and memorabilia that fill the shelves of the museum, there is also a cosplay option for visitors who are looking to have a more immersive fan experience. You can choose the costume of your favorite character and have a photo shoot so you have some nice photos from the day.

There is a large selection of costumes to choose from and I thought about becoming Batman, Predator or Robocop for a little while. The costumes for the western pop culture characters had the larger sizes that would have worked for me.

Caption: These life-size movie characters were very cool.

The photo studio had all of the lighting equipment and gear ready to take some memorable photos, but I didn’t have enough time during my visit to get suited up. I could definitely see many fans of different characters wanting to do some cosplay and have photos to remember the day or share on social media. 

Caption: They had costumes for characters from the famous anime “Dragon Ball”.

Most Japanese people enjoy reading and you will often see them on the train with a book in their hands. Of course, manga is the reading material of choice for many people, especially the younger crowd. The museum has a massive collection of manga that visitors can browse.

Caption: Japanese people love to read, especially manga.

It may not come as a surprise, but the Bankyo Figure Museum has its own character and her name is “Keiko”. You can see images of Keiko in many parts of the museum and she fits right in with all of the other characters.

Caption: The museum even has its own character, “Keiko”.

The museum also hosts OTACOS, the largest on location cosplay event in Japan. Participants can do cosplay as their favorite characters, play music and have their photos taken in various locations around Taki Town. Some of the unique locations are the museum studio, in nature, in a classroom and many more.

Caption: The OTACOS festival is a popular cosplay gathering in Taki Town.

Japanese culture has many rules for behavior and societal restrictions. For some people, cosplay is the best way to feel free of these behavioral expectations by imagining an alternative existence for a short time. They can take on another identity and be more confident and relaxed than they may feel as themselves. It is also a chance for people to express another side of their personality visually and celebrate their interests while making new friends.

Caption: You will need a lot of time to check out all of figures on display in the museum.

There was so much to see and experience at Bankyo Figure Museum. I saw so many characters that were new to me and it was fun getting the full Japanese pop culture experience in one place. The great thing about culture is that it is something we can all share. This museum is really all about having fun and letting our imaginations run free. Visitors can also be nostalgic and let their memories take them back to a time when watching anime or movies was their childhood hobby.

Tourist attractions covered by this article