Wow - You Live in Japan

Another in a series of comics about being in Japan

Second in a series of about seven comics I did a while back about living in Japan.

By the way, a Japanese guy translated this comic and wrote a bit about it, and said some flattering things, which is nice. If you read Japanese, you can check out his blog post here: 「かいこれ」というのブログにこのページを日本語で翻訳してくれました!

A two panel comic showing two different images of Japan, one fantasy, and one real.

So, one thing... that's supposed to be me with the black bandana on. I used to wear a bandana a lot. Not every day, but enough that I thought I'd make it my identifying characteristic when doing a cartoon version of myself. Largely because I'm not good enough at caricature to distinguish myself with facial features and things that take skill.

Unlike the other comics in this series, this is not based on a specific incident, but it often happens that I'll come across people who have specific expectations of Japan that have little to do with the reality. I think, or maybe only hope, it's slowly, glacially, diminishing, just as the world gets smaller, but there is still no lack of fantastical tropes about what Japan must be like. You'll still get people asking if panties are sold in vending machines , or weeaboos asking which anime inspired you to come here, or people who have seen all manner of wacky game shows or stupid memes and think Japan is non-stop zaniness.

You can kind of see in the images I chose for the stereotyped Japan that I'm actually a little disconnected from what people with an outside perspective probably currently associate with it. Godzilla, sushi, and ninjas are probably never going to go away, but I don't know if anyone really thinks of Osaka Castle (which I chose just to be evocative of the romanticised traditional Japan) or Tokyo Tower (which I don't think anyone knows of outside of Japan). Almost certainly there are people who would look at it and be surprised that I left out something particular, like Dragon Ball , or kabuki theatre , or whatever. In any case, Japan, for me, has almost nothing to do with all of that cultural frame of reference, whether pop or traditional. The components of my life experience that are external and tangible in the environment are somehow simultaneously mundane and enjoyable, but near impossible to convey whenever anyone asks me what Japan is like. All I know is that to look at Tokyo, where I live, just by standing on the street, it's gritty and somewhat uninviting. Most of Tokyo is pretty ugly on the surface, architecturally and environmentally.

Update, November 30, 2014: A number of people have contacted me about this comic, with largely positive comments, but also mentioning that they think that the Japan I depict in the left panel is "actually" good, or "better", or in one way or another sort of making a statement in opposition to a point of view they perceive in my comic. A point of view that wasn't my intention. I wasn't trying to say that one version of Japan is good and one is bad, or that one is interesting and one is boring. Just that one is fantasy and one is real. Which one you prefer is your call, but only one of them can you actually be in.

Also, no one seems to have noticed that ninja are a thing you have to deal with in real Japan.

Other comics in this series

Colours in this comic were done in part by Eddie Jensen . He made a great base on which I was able to tinker and create effects that I liked. Anyway, Eddie's a good guy who makes a comic called Grappleseed. Please take a look at his work when you get the chance.