Snoopy has enjoyed a presence in Japan for over 50 years. His popularity has not waned, but other Peanuts characters such as Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and Woodstock have gradually become known to readers through the Peanuts comic strips published in newspapers and collected in books, and they have risen to take their places beside him. Having welcomed many Japanese fans to the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa over the years, we recognized that they might in turn welcome the opportunity to see Sparky’s original strips in a gallery setting in Japan. In 2013, we coordinated the exhibition Ever and Never: The Art of Peanuts at the Mori Arts Center Gallery in Tokyo. The success of this exhibition led us to open Snoopy Museum Tokyo, first in a three-year residence in Roppongi, and now, in its brand-new location at Minami-machida Grandberry Park in Machida City, Tokyo.
Having first seen drawings and then photos of the Snoopy Museum Tokyo in progress, I was eager to be there for the opening in December 2019 and knew that Nakayama-san, Daisuke, and their team would have produced an exciting space for Peanuts lovers and Snoopy fans alike.
It officially opened with a press conference featuring myself, Paige Braddock, Karen Johnson (director of the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa), Nakayama-san (director of Snoopy Museum Tokyo), and of course, Snoopy.
The Museum sits at one end of a shopping plaza and a huge landscaped park. The architectural lines of Snoopy Museum Tokyo entrance are soft, mirroring the entrance of the Santa Rosa Museum.
The spacious museum occupies three floors. The ticket booth, gift shop, and workshop spaces are on the first floor. While we were there, there were “How to Draw Peanuts” and candle-making (Snoopy holiday shapes) workshops.
After purchasing their tickets, visitors immediately take an elevator to the third floor where they are introduced to the Peanuts characters and the Museum by a 360-degree animation projected on the walls. The animation shows Charlie Brown decorating his house for visitors followed by “Welcome to Snoopy Museum Tokyo.” Then visitors move into the biographical gallery.
The biographical gallery includes several surfaces with images of Sparky drawing the characters. They are the same images visitors can see in our Santa Rosa Museum on the television in Sparky’s studio. These images of Sparky drawing also include the voiceover from the original film. His personal history is shared through photographs on the walls illustrating his childhood, family, military service, and career before Peanuts.
The spacious second gallery introduces each character in bold and colorful ways and cannot help but engage the visitor. The beautiful artwork expresses the personality of each character without having to use words.
The next room draws the visitor into a virtual sculpture gallery. These are magical representations of Snoopy taken directly from the comic page.
For scale, here is Paige Braddock, Chief Creative Officer at Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, in the gallery.
Visitors go down one floor to the original comic strip gallery. The opening exhibition, The Beagle Scouts are Here!, contains 40 or so strips with the theme of the Beagle Scouts and their adventures.
Snoopy became a Beagle Scout in 1974. He set out on a hike determined to be observant and learn about the web of nature: sunlight, air, plants, water, soil, birds, and microorganisms.
Snoopy was so engrossed in his surroundings that he quickly became lost. When he heard someone approaching, he wasn’t sure if it was friend or foe.
Imagine his surprise when it was a friendly face selling Girl Scout cookies.
Soon we see some bird members of his troop of scouts.
Schulz used Snoopy as a leader to point out all the common foibles of leadership. The Beagle Scout theme also allowed him to introduce new characters such as the scouting birds, resulting in abundant sight gags.
On the same floor as the original strips is the “Yellow Room,” in honor of Woodstock. This is a comfortable room for visitors to relax—read a book, take a nap, hug a fuzzy pillar, and rest up before going down one floor to the gift shop.
Peanuts Café is light and airy and has many of the special dishes from the original Brown’s Café at the Museum’s former Roppongi location. Here the café is a standalone restaurant and can be visited by any shoppers in the mall without entering the Museum. I suspect it will become a popular gathering place.
Outside of the Museum, and open to all, is the library next to the Peanuts Café. This space also has a downstairs area that is infant and child friendly, adding to the ambiance of the entire area.
The ice arena, which is in the shopping mall, is mentioned in the Museum and ties in with the Peanuts comic strips, many of which reflect Sparky’s passion for ice skating which he learned as a boy in Minnesota.
A visit to the Museum and a turn around the ice-skating rink makes a beautiful start or finish to a day at Grandberry Park!