Leiji Matsumoto’s Galactic Funeral, June 3, 2023

After Leiji Matsumoto’s passing in February 2023, his wife and daughter addressed his countless bereaved fans in Japan and around the world, announcing that in due time a public event would be held to give everyone an opportunity to grieve together. On June 3, they did so in grand style.

Leiji Matsumoto’s Farewell Party: Tetsuya Chiba, Masako Nozawa, and fans send him off with a galactic funeral

From Animage Plus, June 3 (see the original article here)

On Saturday, June 3, a “Farewell Party” for manga artist Leiji Matsumoto was held at the Tokyo International Forum. The event was a “Galactic Funeral,” inspired by the magnificent world of Matsumoto’s works, attended by many fans as well as people related to and associated with Matsumoto.

Leiji Matsumoto passed away on February 13, 2023. He is best known for his works such as Galaxy Express 999, Space Battleship Yamato, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and many others. He was loved by many fans for his stories full of romance and fantasy set in the vast universe, which left a great mark on the history of Japanese manga, anime, and subculture.

The chairman of the “Farewell Party” committee was Tetsuya Chiba, a manga artist and Matsumoto’s close friend for many years. In attendance was Mr. Matsumoto’s wife, Miyako Maki, also a manga artist.

The altar was decorated with blue flowers that remind us of the Earth, and a railroad track rising up the center. At the end of the track was a portrait of Leiji Matsumoto wearing his trademark cap and holding his beloved cat, Mi-kun. Panels of Tetsuro and Maetel were placed next to him.

The sign at the base of the altar reads: “Akira Matsumoto [Leiji’s real name], ranked 6th in the Imperial Household,
February 13 2023. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.” This ranking system, which has a 1400-year history,
consists of 12 levels and is awarded to those who rendered a distinguished service to the nation and the public.

Tetsuya Chiba delivered a eulogy at the altar. Other speakers were astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, Masako Nozawa, the voice actress who portrayed Tetsuro Hoshino, and Masako Ikeda, who portrayed Maetel. Songs were dedicated to Matsumoto, performed by Isao Sasaki (who sang the TV theme song for Galaxy Express 999), and Yukihide Takekawa of Godiego (who sang the theme song for the Galaxy Express movie).

In the exhibition hall, there were panels looking back on Matsumoto’s career, and many of his favorite items were displayed. There was also a reproduction of the engine room of the 999 and a corner where the conductor received letters from fans.

Following the ceremony, members of the public were allowed in to pay their last respects to Matsumoto, who had brightened their youth. The event was grandiose, befitting the name “Galactic Funeral,” and at the same time, it was a warmhearted affair. Thus, the “Farewell Party” reflected Leiji Matsumoto’s personality and style. He was watched over by those who loved his work as he departed into the endless sea of stars.

Attendees were given single flowers to lay on the table in front of the altar

Performance spaces were set up to the left and right of the altar with synchronized slideshows

From Biglobe News, June 3 (see the original article here.)

On June 3, a farewell party was held at the Tokyo International Forum for Leiji Matsumoto, a manga artist who died of acute heart failure on February 13 at the age of 85. About 3,000 people, including voice actors, fellow manga artists, and others who had been close to him, attended the event and shed tears.

Farewell speeches were made by special guests, who were all close friends of Matsumoto’s. There was a panel display looking back on Matsumoto’s life and an exhibit that recreated the engine room of the Galaxy Express 999.

The main celebrities in attendance were Masako Ikeda, Shunsui Ichiryusai, Kounosuke Uda, Naoki Urasawa, Kaname Kato, Isao Sasaki, Michiko Satonaka, Kazuhiko Shimamoto, Takekawa Yukihide, Tetsuya Chiba, Aritsune Toyoda, Akinori Nakagawa, Go Nagai, Masako Nozawa, Moto Hagio, Keiko Ban, Megumi Ban, Kenshi Hirokane, Takeru Takemoto, Yasunori Matogawa, Mamoru Mori, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Naoko Yamazaki, and Rintaro.

Leiji Matsumoto’s wife Miyako Maki: “His work will live on in your hearts.”

From Nikkan Sports, June 3 (see the original article here)

Leiji Matsumoto’s wife, Miyako Maki, a manga artist, and her eldest daughter, Makiko Matsumoto, delivered speeches on behalf of the organizers.

Ms. Maki said, “Leiji Matsumoto continued to do the work that he really loved. I am very happy to know that he has left something in your hearts. As a cartoonist who shares the same passion for their work, I am very happy and sympathize with him. I hope that his work will continue to live on in your hearts. Thank you very much for today.”

Makiko said, “From now on, he will embark on a long journey. He used to say, ‘We will meet again in the distance, where the Wheel of Time connects.’ I have no idea when that will be. It may be so far in the future that it could be called eternity, or it may come in a different way than we think. But one thing is certain, it is our responsibility to take care of, watch over, and nurture the characters and stories left behind until that time. I believe it is our duty and our promise to him.”

Masako Nozawa (Tetsuro) at Leiji Matsumoto’s Farewell Party: “It’s a little early to go on a trip.”

From Nikkan Sports, June 3 (see the original article here)

Masako Nozawa’s comment:

Mr. Matsumoto, three months have passed since you left on your trip.

His customary smile comes to my mind immediately. I have not been able to pinpoint it yet, but I first met him about 45 years ago when I first played the role of Tetsuro Hoshino in Galaxy Express 999. He had a friendly smile and spoke to me in a friendly manner, so I was able to get to know him immediately. I still remember that I felt at ease.

I can’t even begin to count the number of memories I have of him, but I think it would have to be the Galaxy Express 999 event that crossed the entire country. We traveled all over Japan together. At each event, he was always drinking with the staff members until late at night. He was a man who loved to talk. I remember as if it were only yesterday that he always had many smiling faces around him. I remember two years ago, we were together for an interview and talked about how we would see each other again. It seems a bit early to be leaving on a trip already, doesn’t it?

I will always miss you, but I’m sure you will meet the conductor on the 999, and you’ll have a good time drawing your favorite manga while traveling. Please watch over our world from space. I am so happy to have met you and Tetsuro. Thank you very much.

JAXA Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki

Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki reveals Leiji Matsumoto’s words: “I want to draw the Earth as I saw it with my own eyes”

Naoko Yamazaki’s Farewell Speech

From Yorozoo News, June 4 (see the original article here)

Mr. Leiji Matsumoto, I understand that you are now traveling through the sea of stars. I feel sad that you’ve gone so far away, but when I look up at the sky I feel as if you are there, giving me a pep talk.

If I had not found your work, I would not be where I am today. I have a strong memory of encountering Space Battleship Yamato when I was just beginning to remember things. My brother and I watched the movie together, and we were thrilled and excited by the vastness of the universe. Galaxy Express 999 made me think about the importance of life through a journey to various stars. I feel as if I grew up together with Tetsuro. I used to hum the theme song while carrying my bag on my way home from school. My admiration for the intricate mechanical depictions of the engine rooms of Yamato and 999 later led me to study space engineering. I wanted to build such cool spaceships, and someday I wanted to be on board one. That became my goal.

Not long after I was certified as an astronaut, I was so happy to meet you in person at the celebration party for your Purple Ribbon Medal, I felt as if I was in heaven. I felt as if I had been touched by the wheel of time and was filled with emotion.

I am not the only one who was influenced by him. There are many people involved with space, such as Astronauts Mamoru Mouri, Astronaut Soichi Noguchi, and the Japan Space Children’s Club, of which you served as president for many years. It is immeasurable how many people not only in Japan but also around the world have been influenced by you. In such a situation, I am afraid that I, as an inexperienced person, have to give a speech of condolence,

Please allow me to express my gratitude. I have learned so many things from the way you lived your life. Your works connect various people and thoughts, transcending time and space. This is because you yourself were always in awe of nature and the universe, appreciative of your family and surroundings, and cherished the connections between people.

You often said, “The future is already in the hearts of today’s children.” You encouraged, believed, and loved children all over the world. In 2009, the year before I went to space, a branch of the Japan Space Youth League was formed in my hometown. I was impressed by the fact that you personally attended the formation ceremony held in a room of a community center. I will never forget the warmth in your eyes as you looked at each and every child. You also said to me, “Please take a good look at the Earth.”

When I was on the International Space Station, I felt as if I was a little closer to your thoughts as I faced the shining blue Earth while listening to music from your works. You told me that after I returned from space, you would like me to visit you and share my report. Thank you for your warm welcome. I was also touched by your kind and bashful smile toward your wife and daughter. My father was also a Kyushu boy, so I felt a sense of kinship.

After that, I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with you at an event. I was also honored to take over as chairman of the Japan Space Boys and Girls Club. It was a blessing to have such a good relationship with you. Whenever we met, you were always as fresh as a boy. You said you wanted to go to Mars, even if it was just a one-way ticket. You also said you wanted to draw the earth as you saw it with your own eyes.

I wish you could have left more of your feelings in your works, and I wish you could have guided me more. I am saddened that you have left us. But you are now traveling to stars, much farther than Mars, aren’t you? You’re a very curious person, so I can’t help but feel that you’re thinking about how to connect your next work to the other side of the universe.

I hope to see you again someday in the distant future, at a place where the Wheel of Time touches. I would like to devote myself to passing on your dream to the next generation.

Mr. Leiji Matsumoto, thank you so much for your wonderful works, your encouragement, and your guideposts in my life. Please watch over us and our future from the sea of stars.

A farewell speech from Tetsuya Chiba

Mr. Leiji Matsumoto. It is already 65 years since I first met you. It was the year after we graduated from high school. You had just arrived in Tokyo by night train from Kokura, Kitakyushu, Japan. You were a beautiful boy with a red face, your cheeks a little black and dirty. I think it was the soot from the smoke of the night train,
but you still looked good in your school uniform with its collar.

At the time, I had just made my debut as a manga artist. We were both newcomers who were still struggling to sell. You were located near the red gate of the University of Tokyo, where the western sun shines. You stayed at a cheap boarding house called “Yamakoshikan” while drawing manuscripts to bring to publishers. You were always, always hungry. But your aspirations were higher than most, and one day you would win a big serialization.

These “biography panels” with family photos and career highlights ran along the wall to the right of the altar

When you got paid for your work, you ate a Zabuton-style steak at a top notch, three-star restaurant. You let me eat some too, and we talked about our dreams while secretly showing each other sexy nude pictures in 18-plus magazines. We practiced drawing pretty girls and beautiful women every day.

We both took twists and turns, drawing short stories, illustrations, and helping out a busy senior cartoonist. Despite the hardships, our training paid off little by little, and we managed to make a living as full-fledged manga artists.

Oh yes, Matsumoto-san, was a close friend of mine, but he still had secrets. Before I knew it, he was married to a beautiful woman, Miyako Maki, who was also living in Hongo. After that, he started his own family, and it was smooth sailing. He then went on to work on Sexaroid and Otoko Oidon, followed by Captain Harlock, Space Battleship Yamato, and Galaxy Express 999, which were big hits one after another.

The manga world also made a great leap forward, entering the era of weekly magazines. In 1979, we were both so busy with deadlines that we didn’t have time to sleep. We were just about to turn 40 years old, reading about fighter planes and battleships, spaceships and cockpits, when Mr. Matsumoto, who loved such mechanics, suddenly called me one day and said, “I want to fly on the Concorde, the supersonic airliner.”

He invited me to go with him to fly around the world in the stratosphere on the edge of space. I was not interested in the stratosphere, the Concorde, or mechanics, and more importantly, I worked more slowly than most people. I was working seven days a week on a deadline for a weekly magazine, so I refused to go, but he had already arranged a tour and booked everything from travel tickets to hotels.

I had never been in such a panic before. But when I asked him about the details, he told me that we would be joined by a number of people, including female manga artist Hagio Hajime, and Yoko Asagami, who voiced Yuki Mori in Yamato. I was greatly worried, but I had no choice but to take a break from the serialization and go along.

After that, we played baseball together, had sports days, played golf, etc., all while we were both working late and had little time, but we pushed ourselves to work hard and play hard. Even after he turned 80 years old, he was always in good spirits. He said to me, “Chiba-chan, I want to ride on a spaceship one of these days. I want to get on a spaceship and eat beefsteak in zero gravity.” He was always full of energy.

About two years ago, I heard the news that he was sick when he went to Turin, Italy, for an event to meet his fans. I was really devastated when I heard the news. I heard that he had recovered and was feeling much better after returning to Japan. But now that we were in the age of Corona, it was difficult to see him again.

On February 13th of this year, watched over by his wife, Miyako Maki, and his daughter, Makiko, he left for the favorite galactic world that he always dream about.

Needless to say, I am very proud of the great achievements he left behind in the field of manga and animation. He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, the Purple Ribbon Medal, and the Chevalier of the French Order of Arts and Letters. The list is endless.

A long time ago, a boy rode a night train from Kokura in Kitakyushu to Tokyo. He left a wonderful footprint in his 85 years of life. Now, so many fans, friends, and associates gather to thank him, to admire him wholeheartedly, and to bid him adieu….

Mr. Matsumoto, it is very hard to say goodbye to you now, but…

It was a great life, applauded by people all over the world.

Thank you for your long life. I, too, will try just a little bit harder. I will follow you into the galaxy. Then we will eat Zabuton-style steak together.

Until then…

Yukihide Takekawa performs Sayonara from the Galaxy Express movie. See a video clip here.

Isao Sasaki performs the theme to the Galaxy Express TV series

The Pash Quartet performed a variety of anime themes (links to videos below)

Galaxy Express TV series | Space Pirate Captain Harlock | 999 movie (1) | 999 movie (2) | Yamato (1) | Yamato (2)

Director Rintaro and Writer Aritsune Toyota

Isao Sasaki visits the Galaxy Express 999’s “engine room.”

This display was a photo-spot, set up across the room facing the altar

Wall of commemorative nameplates from friends, colleagues, and affiliated companies

This display was set up opposite the wall of biography panels

Visitors in the lobby outside the main room

Message cards were provided to visitors, who were encouraged to write farewell notes and pass them to the 999 conductor

999 train seats with the conductor in residence

Display case with Matsumoto’s cap, glasses, and art supplies

Farewell sign reading “Far, far away in the circle of time.”

Newspaper coverage, June 4: Daily Sports, Sports Nippon, Sankei Sports

Find video news reports of the event here and here.

Fan-made videos: 3-minute montage | 24-minute montage | Pash Quartet performance | Piano performance, Galaxy Express themes

Photos posted on Twitter by Leiji JP | Isao Sasaki | PashQuartet | Aritsune Toyota | nishinob | SuccessAge55 | rakuraku__no/ | kasabuta999/ | akai_takami | bang_ipp | mizuki_naoko | yaguchi_takao | reijirosan | cosplaykoechan | shin_bungeiza | gakudosha | P50411029 | THE_UDONEEDS | mayakuni1 | mottin_nakamura | no_leica_nolife | nekobin | Tora3_Skywalker | walkon7 | sousui | NK1971kame | dajya_ranger | junnosuke_n | creator3077 | YasumasaNoro | tukasa_suzukaze

Special thanks to friend of the website Minoru Itgaki

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