Grace Mineta is the author of the Texan in Tokyo blog. Along with her popular YouTube videos chronicling her life with her husband Ryosuke in Japan she has published a volume of autobiographical comics that build upon them, available on the website My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy. Grace was kind enough to give me some of her time for the UKAnifest Blog and Blogcritics.org via email while she is working on finalizing her second volume of comics, My Japanese Husband Still thinks I’m crazy.
What is your background as a cartoonist, when did you start chronicling your life in Tokyo and why did you choose an autobiographical comic as a means to tell your story?
It's a funny story, really. I never set out to be a cartoonist. I had been writing a semi-popular "all about Japan" blog for about a year and a half when I got married. My husband and I were both in a transition period, so we decided to go on a month-long honeymoon through America and South America before our new jobs started in Tokyo. I didn't have time to write posts anymore, so I started drawing comics about our adventures on our honeymoon, taking a picture of the comic on my tablet, and uploading them onto my blog.
The comics ended up being wildly popular. And I realized I liked drawing our life much more than I liked writing about it.
The rest just sort of happened... After about six months of drawing comics about our life in Japan, someone suggested trying to publish a book. I'm horrible at handling rejection, so I decided to self-publish.
I launched a Kickstarter (crowd-funding campaign) to fund the book in August of 2014. When I hit "publish" on the campaign, the book was less than 20% completed, I hadn't finished the cover illustration, and I didn't even know how many pages the book would have. That's the beauty of crowd-funding, though. People give money to help support your dream project as you complete it (rather than just after). The book ended up being 220% funded ($14,000) in a month.
I guess I just figured I needed to start the book 'now,' or I would keep putting it off for the next couple months, waiting until everything was "perfect."
Many people dream of going to Japan to get involved in the anime or Manga industry. Now being a published comic artist and writer based in Tokyo can you see that as a potential future for yourself as well?
Honestly, I have no idea. My style is very childish, like a cross between an American webcomic and a Japanese Manga book. Even though my books sell pretty well, I don't think my style is "beautiful" enough to ever break into the Japanese Manga industry. That's ok, though. My dream is to get the books translated into Japanese (something my husband works on a bit every night) and wiggle my way into the Japanese market.
Your books and blog chronicle in a humorous way cultural misconceptions that Americans and Japanese people share about each other's countries. Do you encounter any specific stereotypes about being from Texas in particular? I'm imagining the popular belief in Japan that Americans eat red meat with every meal.(Well Texans actually do that right? Brisket for breakfast? As a Midwesterner my Dallas grandpa and grandma taught me it was a land of Bacon and untold carnivorous delight. )
Good question. Stereotypes are... interesting, I guess. The most popular stereotypes I've encountered about Texas revolve around cowboys, meat, and guns. A lot of my husband's coworkers imagine we eat steaks for dinner every night.
Can you give readers an idea what original drawings they will encounter in the eBook that can't be found on the blog?
The eBook is just like the blog... only more. Right now I draw 1-3 comics a day (usually 10 - 15 comics per week). I am only really able to publish comics 5 days a week on my blog, leaving a surplus of 5-10 comics every week.
Those surplus comics make up about half of the book. I love my readers. Of course I wanted to keep giving away comics for free on my blog... but I also wanted to give people an option to pay a bit of money to get "more."
I've seen on a number of English language illustrator and bloggers FAQ pages and now on yours that you get emails from people asking you if you can give them a job in Japan. I assume by virtue of being on a frequently asked page that this happened a lot?
It really does. I get some of the oddest emails from people. Most of them (I assume) aren't actually regular readers - they just find my blog by typing "how to get a job in Japan" or "foreigner working in Japan" and then send the exact same emails to as many bloggers as they can find, hoping at least one person replies.
I used to reply to every single email I got... but these days, I get about 5-10 emails/messages a day. It's not feasible anymore. Not being able to actually engage and reply to my readers is one of the hardest things about "making it big."
Is it true your husband's only complaint about the comics so far is that he wants you to draw him more muscular?
He (jokingly) complains about it all the time! You can't tell from the comics, but he's a little over 6ft tall and is incredibly muscular. He can do sit-ups with me sitting on his back, 50+ chin-ups in a row, and all sorts of other crazy things. When people meet him in real life (after reading my blog), they're always surprised by how tall and ripped he is.