W ith his winning of the prestigious Alpha Blogger Awards 2010, Tokyo-based cartoonist Junichi Inoue is now recognized as one of the most influential Japanese bloggers.
His blog carries comic strips of amusing episodes about a new life with his young, Chinese wife, Yue, who is in her mid-20s and struggling with cultural and language difficulties in Tokyo.
Hits on the website have risen sharply, especially after last September, when Sino-Japanese ties became strained by a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea — a group of uninhabited islands claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing.
Inoue, a 40-year-old anime and manga otaku (geek), became convinced that a real-life cartoon depicting a Chinese woman living in Japan would be a hit because Japanese people’s interest in their giant neighbor has grown bigger and bigger.
“Everyone wanted a (real-life) Chinese character through which they could understand what the Chinese people are like. It was very strange that there was no manga featuring real-life Chinese characters,” he said.
“The number of Chinese-Japanese couples is the largest among international marriages in Japan, but there had been no manga about a couple like that,” Inoue added.
The first volume of the printed edition of “Chugoku Yome Nikki” (Daily Records of a Chinese Wife), whose English title is “A Chinese Wife and an Otaku Husband,” will go on sale Friday.
Junichi hails from Miyazaki Prefecture and Yue (which is not her real name) is from the Inner Mongolia region of northern China.
The two of you met each other for the first time at an omiai (match-making) party arranged by friends and relatives in China in 2008. How was the meeting arranged in the first place?
Junichi: I had been making (manga) figures at factories in China. I had worked for some time in Guangzhou (in southern China), so I’d become acquainted with a factory manager there who was associated with the family of Yue’s sister, who had married a Japanese man.
Yue: My sister in Guangzhou proposed an omiai party and I agreed because I just wanted to see what an omiai was like.
What were your first impressions of each other?
Junichi: At first glance, I thought I would never get married with her because she was too young and too beautiful for me. I had done omiai four times in Japan and was turned down each time before that. I thought this meeting would never work (laugh).
Yue: I thought he might be a good person because I like a man of few words. Jin-san (Junichi’s nickname) didn’t speak at all. He neither smokes nor drinks, and he was very quiet during the meeting.
Junichi: I didn’t say much because I felt very awkward. (Yue and her sister) didn’t understand Japanese well, so I had no choice but to speak very slowly. (Yue had learned some Japanese in 2003 when she stayed in Japan for a few months.)
What was your impression of Japan in general?
Yue: The images of Japan in historical dramas on Chinese TV are not very good (because they focus mainly on Japan’s war with China.) But when I actually met people, I found they were all very nice.
Junichi: When her sister got married to a Japanese man, her parents were strongly opposed to it. But he behaved in such a kind manner that the parents have come to trust Japanese people.
When you first came to Japan did anything surprise you?
Yue: I liked fashion in Japan (even) before coming to Japan. After I arrived, I was surprised to find even some Japanese men were using makeup. And the towns in Japan are very clean. You don’t see any trash on the street.
Which language do you usually use at home?
Junichi: All Japanese. I knew some Chinese, but I’m getting worse and worse. She can now communicate too well in Japanese. Otherwise, it would have been much more interesting.
Do you have any plans for the future? Do you want to live in Japan or China?
Yue: We often talk about this. If we have a baby, (I) want to raise the child in Japan until kindergarten age. I want to move to China when the child reaches elementary school age.
Junichi: That would be OK with me if that is what Yue wants.
Why kindergarten age?
Yue: Because the medical system in Japan is much better. In China, there are too many hospital patients and doctors give children too much medicine and too many shots. That does not happen in Japan.
Junichi: Hospitals in China are terrible. You need to wait for about a day (to be seen by a doctor).
Then why do you want to have your child attend elementary school in China?
Yue: It’s better for kids to learn both Chinese and Japanese.
Junichi: And Yue says the level of Japanese schools is lower than that in China.
Yue: They don’t teach much to kids. Kindergartens and elementary schools in Japan just let children play.
Do children in China need to compete much harder at school than in Japan?
Junichi: I saw the textbooks used by her sister’s children. They are much more difficult than those in Japanese schools. They are given much more homework, too. I don’t think Japanese schools are good at all.
Do you often have arguments at home?
Yue: He is just so nice.
Junichi: I was thinking of creating a manga (on their life), so I have kept records of everything that has happened. If you think of manga in that way, you find almost everything is just so interesting (laugh).
So you don’t argue about any cultural differences?
Junichi: It’s no use saying anything (about something different). Differences are the things that make someone else interesting. Yue is Chinese, and you can’t do anything about that.
Yue: If I find anything different, I want to try to do it the Japanese way as much as possible. For example, our wedding ceremony was totally different. I wanted to do that in the Japanese way. I want to make the same meals that his mom made for him.
Junichi: You don’t need to do things like that.
What do you like and dislike about Japan and China?
Yue: In China, it’s quite difficult to get important documents from a city office. You need a friend there, otherwise it’s very difficult. (I like) it that prices in China are very cheap. I like fashion in Japan.
Junichi: I don’t dislike any particular thing about Japan. I like the manga (culture) in Japan. China doesn’t have it. In China, the content industry is so hollow because pirated copies are immediately created. I will publish this comic in China, too, but definitely pirated editions will soon appear and I will not be able to make much money there.
What about the political system in China?
Junichi: It’s also a problem for me. If you run a factory in China, bureaucrats come and openly demand bribes. If you don’t pay, they will just start harassing you. Everybody knows that. They won’t do anything good.
Has this work changed the way you approach your job as a cartoonist?
Junichi: I have realized that a big change has taken place in the manga industry. In the past, you needed to have your manga works published in a major magazine and it’s very difficult. But now you just can create a blog to let everybody know about your works. This is a paradigm shift. A really big change.