Interview with Texan in Tokyo on “My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy”

Grace Mineta of Texan in Tokyo has once again wowed us with her delightful comics about navigating life in Japan as the white Texan wife of a Japanese man – this time with her latest book My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy.

My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I'm Crazy_

As I’ve written before, I’m a big fan of the popular Texan in Tokyo blog. Her posts and comics inspired by her daily life in Japan are at once charming, insightful and funny, capturing the joys and frustrations of what it’s like to be an expat. If you love what she’s publishing on Texan in Tokyo, you’ll definitely want to pick up My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy (not to mention her first book, My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy).

Grace and Ryosuke Mineta

For those of you new to Grace and her blog, she’s a native Texan who moved to Tokyo with her college sweetheart, where she now writes and blogs about interracial and intercultural relationships, daily life in Japan, and the life of a freelancer. You can also find her writing on The Huffington Post and countless other blogs (including her guest posts my site, which you can read here and here). Grace is an alumnus of Ursinus College in Pennsylvania and received the Boren Scholarship to spend a year in Tokyo.

I previously interviewed Grace about her first book My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy and am thrilled to feature her latest book My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy through this interview!

—–

What inspired you to write this second book?

It’s not so much that I set out to write another book – I just kept drawing comics for my blog and before I knew it, I had enough comics for another book! I really enjoy drawing comics and I’m thrilled that so many people want to read them.

I had to keep that in mind when I was going through all the stress of formatting the book. I like to say that I have no problem writing the comics, but getting them “print ready” is surprisingly difficult.

Texan in Tokyo comics

The comics cover your life with Ryosuke in Japan over the course of the year, with articles interspersed throughout that expound upon Japanese culture or provide some insight into international and interracial relationships. Why did you decide to structure the book like this?

Some of my blog readers love my comics and dislike my “regular blog posts.” Some love my “regular blog posts” but dislike my comics. Most seem to like both pretty equally, though, so I figured why not?

I started my blog back in 2012 because I wanted to help people. Some of my first couple blog posts were “how to pay your utility bills in Japan” and “how to use a coin locker laundry place in Japan.” Of course, I also write personal musings, but my main goal has always been to help (and entertain) people. I wanted my book to be an accurate representation of my blog.

You just came out with your first book in the middle of November and only three months later you released your second book, which is extraordinarily fast! What’s your secret for being so productive?

When you say it like that, it does kind of sound like I have some sort of super-secret method for staying on track. Sadly, I don’t. While my first book did come out in November of 2014, the final draft of the book was ready by early September of 2014. I had the final draft for my second book finished in early February of 2015.

So really, I had a bit over 5 months between books.

I also legitimately enjoy the work I do. I love drawing comics, I love blogging, and I somewhat enjoy marketing. It’s easy to stay motivated when the work excites you, I think.

Texan in Tokyo comic about the telephone

People have had a huge response to your work so far, including this second book. Could you give us an example of some of the positive comments you consistently hear from fans?

I’m always excited when people relate to my comics. That’s all I really want, I guess. I touch on a variety of subjects, from being a newlywed to working from home. A lot of my comics also talk about what it’s like living in a foreign country. Or what it is like to struggle with anxiety.

It’s kind of nice to know that people from all walks of life, with different ages, experiences, and stories can find something relatable in the comics I draw.

As I’m writing this, there are almost 200 reviews on Amazon.com for both of my books – nearly all of them wonderfully supportive. When I’m feeling down, I like to read through those.

Texan in Tokyo comic about the beach

What do you hope people come away with after reading this book?

  1. Life is fun.
  2. Living abroad is a wonderful adventure (albeit sometimes stressful and lonely).
  3. Marriage is great.
  4. Follow your dreams, no matter how silly they may seem. When I was growing up, I never even allowed myself to dream about being a comic artist living in Tokyo. But here I am. Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than just thinking it – it requires a lot of hard work, motivation, and luck. But the first step is believing in yourself.

What are you working on next?

Book 3, of course! I haven’t figured out a title yet. Or a cover design. But I’m slowly working through the outline right now – and I think it’s going to be a fun book. I’m hoping to get that out in June of 2015, as long as nothing terrible happens between now and then.

I’m also working on a “Studying Abroad in Japan: Everything you need to know (and more)” book (title still in process). This book will be a fun, informative guide for studying abroad in Japan. It might have a couple comics, but it will probably just be more like a “regular” book (whatever that means).

After that… I have no idea. Plans are always changing, so I try not to schedule things for more than a couple months in advance.

无标题10

Thanks so much to Grace for doing this interview! You can learn more about My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy (as well as My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy) and get a taste of her comics and writing by visiting her website Texan in Tokyo.

Interview with Texan in Tokyo about her book “My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy”

Texan in Tokyo remains one of my favorite blogs for a number of reasons – especially the delightful comics. Grace Buchele Mineta loves to poke fun at her own misunderstandings and missteps in Japan as she navigates life as the white American wife of a Japanese businessman. I consider her comics one of the best and most addictive things about her blog.

That’s why I was excited about her Kickstarter project earlier this year to self-publish an autobiographical comic book titled My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy, an amusing look into her life in Tokyo with Ryosuke through many new comics and articles you won’t find on her blog. She was wildly successful in funding her efforts and now her book is now available for purchase on Amazon.com.

My Japanese Husband Thinks I'm Crazy

If you’re a fan of graphic novels and you’re curious about Japan, you don’t want to miss My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy. Grace’s comics capture the joys and pitfalls of living abroad with wonderful humor and wisdom, and the articles included in the book will provide you with a fascinating introduction to different aspects of daily life in Japan.

For those of you new to Grace and her blog, she’s a native Texan who moved to Tokyo with her college sweetheart, where she now writes and blogs about interracial and intercultural relationships, daily life in Japan, and the life of a freelancer. You can also find her writing on The Huffington Post and countless other blogs (including her guest posts my site, which you can read here and here). Grace is an alumnus of Ursinus College in Pennsylvania and received the Boren Scholarship to spend a year in Tokyo.

I interviewed Grace about My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy, including the inspiration for her book and how she decided on the title.

—–

Tell us about the inspiration for your book. Why did you decide to write it?

I think anyone who has been blogging for at least a year entertains the idea of writing a memoir or book. I wasn’t any different. I started the ‘first draft’ of this book just for fun while my husband and I were on vacation a couple months before the wedding. Back then, I wasn’t drawing comics – it was a regular, run-of-the-mill book about my life in Japan.

The book didn’t become a real possibility until May of this year. I was struggling to find a non-English teaching job in Tokyo with reasonable working hours (my best offer had a 15 hour work-day, with four of those hours unpaid overtime). I knew my biggest passion was blogging, but it is ridiculously difficult to monetize a blog. What I was making from ads and affiliate sales was just enough to cover hosting costs and a couple cups of coffee a month.

Everyone recommends writing a book or selling a product, instead of hosting ads on your blog. By the end of June, I had decided to write a book. It was an all-or-nothing last attempt at becoming a professional blogger. If I was successful, I would do this full-time. If I failed, I would throw myself into job hunting and put my blog on the back-burner.

Needless to say, it went better than I ever could have imagined.

Picking a topic was simple. I always knew I wanted to do some sort of book that could illustrate the joys and wonders of being in an intercultural relationship and living abroad. I’m a huge proponent of the idea that everyone should travel/live/work abroad at least once in their life, preferably while they’re young. You can learn so much about yourself, when you’re completely out of your element.

By early July, I decided I would write a comic book. My comics were getting more and more popular – and I was in the zone. Plus, it’s much easier to explain Japanese culture through illustrations, rather than trying to put complex ideas into words.

I launched a Kickstarter (crowd funding campaign) to fund the book in late July. 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 I could/would draw. However, I figured I needed to start ‘now,’ or I would keep putting it off for the next couple months, waiting until everything was “perfect.”

无标题2

I have to ask you about the title. How did you come up with it?

I have my husband to thank for the title. He tells me I’m crazy on a fairly regular basis (but he says it with love, don’t worry).

Also, as lame as this sounds, I needed the title to be practical. Since I self-published the book, I don’t have a publishing company behind me to help with marketing. It’s just me. The only way people are going to find my book is through my blog or through the Amazon search feature.

Right now, there is only one other book with the keywords “Japanese husband” in the title, so I figured I could easily compete in that field. In fact, if you type in “Japanese husband” in Amazon, my book is the second thing to pop up.

However, I didn’t want to do something like “My husband is Japanese” or “I have a Japanese husband” because, really, the book isn’t about him being Japanese. It’s about me adapting to living in Japan and being in an intercultural relationship. The book is told from my point of view.

In the end, I came up with My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy because:

  1. It’s true. He does think I’m crazy.
  2. It has good keywords
  3. It’s an intriguing title – that also tells you exactly what the book is going to be about.

I think all three elements are essential for a book title.

无标题3

Your book offers a view into your everyday life – and moments – as the wife of a Japanese man living in Japan. Why did you choose this focus for your work?

I write really crappy fiction.

Like, I know some people say “I’m bad at creative writing” to be humble and stuff, but I’m not being humble. I generally suck at writing stories. I can’t craft characters, I don’t understand plot, and my dialogue is cheesy and awkward. It’s actually borderline hilarious how bad my fiction writing skills are. And then the other half is just plain sad, because I typically digest 2-3 fiction books a week and still can’t seem to make any of my own.

I can only write what I know. I know what it’s like to move to grow up in a rural part of Texas, where a lot of the girls were pregnant/had a child before graduation and most students never went to college. I know what it’s like to move to Africa at 13; start boarding school in a foreign country at 14; get married at 21; and try to immerse myself in Japanese culture as the white wife of a Japanese man.

It’s ok if I write really crappy fiction, because I’m lucky enough to not need to write fiction. I can just write about my own life, and people read it.

I picked this genre because honestly, it’s the only thing I can do. And I love doing it.

Do you have a favorite comic (or favorite comics) you would like to mention?

I love all my children/comics. I think good “representations” of my work and book are these four comics:

无标题4

(Japanese women typically want to look pale, so many will wear long sleeved shirts, layers, and hats to the beach instead of a swimsuit)

无标题5

(I work from home and Ryosuke drives around as a sales rep. We often call each other over the phone to chat/sign together)

无标题6

(Marvin is my imaginary rabbit – a figment of my imagination that I talk to when I get lonely freelancing)

无标题7

(I’ve slowly gotten used to earthquakes in Japan)

Throughout the book, you break up the comics with short articles – some essays you’ve published previously, and others informative pieces about living in Japan. How did you decide to structure the book in this way?

This is going to sound like a really bad answer, but I actually never planned on including essays in the book. After my Kickstarter (crowd funding) campaign ended, I sent off a couple sample copies of the book to my sister and two other regular readers of my blog. Back then, the book was about 150 pages of just comics.

All three bounced back the book saying a lot of the comics didn’t make sense. While two of the three readers had spent the summer in Japan, things like how to separate your moldy tofu containers by Japanese standards or the “salaryman lifestyle” never came up in daily conversation.

Long story short, I panicked. At the last minute, I decided to include about 40 pages of essays, summaries, and vocabulary lists – and removed about 25 of the comics that didn’t make sense without a background in Japanese culture.

It was all spur of the moment. Looking back, I’m glad I did that, because I think the essays really tie the book together.

无标题8

One of the unique things about your comics is a bunny named Marvin (who you describe as “a figment of my imagination – a combination of stress, coffee, and loneliness from being a freelancer in Tokyo.”). Where did you get the idea for Marvin?

Wow, I’m sounding pretty lame in this interview. I got the idea from my mother. She speed-reads my blog 1-2 times a month from the not-so-great internet in Ghana. I drew this comic back in June (the month before I launched my Kickstarter), about some pillow talk Ryosuke and I had. I wondered what rabbits would say, if they could talk. He said they would be stupid and silly; I thought they would be sassy fashionistas.

In late June, my mom called and said the idea for a talking bunny was gold – and I should totally run with it. I drew a couple sample comics just for fun (that never ended up getting posted) but I couldn’t seem to flesh out the character.

I was Skyping with my brother in Texas a bit later (after I had launched the Kickstarter) and mentioned the rabbit thing. He was just like “scrap your earlier comics and draw up 60 new comics for the book using the talking rabbit.”

I mean, how do you argue with that? Both of them loved the idea for a sassy, bossy, imaginary talking rabbit. I put a small poll on my blog’s Facebook page and also go a resounding “Yes!” for the talking rabbit.

Thus, Marvin was born.

无标题9

What do you hope people come away with after reading your book?

Living abroad can be fun.

I have always been a firm believer in the idea that it is beneficial to be routinely out of your element. I try to put myself in uncomfortable situations (travelling through Peru without speaking Spanish, spending two months living alone with my Japanese in-laws while my husband is on a business trip, freelancing regularly with a company where no one speaks English, networking with people way above my level, etc) on a fairly regular basis.

It’s awkward… but when you’re faced with your greatest fears, they usually end up being not as bad as you imagined.

I’ve been able to grow quite a bit by taking (manageable) risks.

I want people to know that risks aren’t scary. And that being in an interracial and intercultural relationship is fun. And that living abroad at least once in your life can be incredibly personally rewarding.

无标题10

—–

Thanks so much to Grace for doing this interview! You can learn more about My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy and get a taste of her comics and writing by visiting her website Texan in Tokyo.

Guest Post: The “Dark Side” to Moving Across the World for Love

I’m excited to run this guest post from Grace Mineta of the fantastic blog Texan in Tokyo (if you haven’t discovered her insightful and entertaining blog yet, you’re missing out). Grace just successfully funded a kickstarter project for her book “My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy: The Comic Book” in only three days!

Today she reflects on something that many of us know all too well, but are often afraid to write about (myself included) — the dark side of moving across the world for someone you love. 

Have something to say (and share) on Speaking of China, just like Grace? Check out my submit a post page for details on how to get your guest post published here.

—–

Interracial relationships are complicated. So are intercultural relationships. I don’t think I fully understood the complexity until I entered my own – and it’s a bit difficult trying to explain to other American friends with absolutely no knowledge of Asian culture why no, we can’t just “put my husband’s parents in an old-folks home once they lose mobility.”

Or when my husband has to try to explain to his coworkers that “no, my wife probably will not quit her job when she gets pregnant. She loves working. I might transition to part-time work and be a stay-at-home dad instead.”

Grace and Ryosuke Mineta

You see, as wonderful, exciting, and educational an intercultural relationship is, there is also a deep, dark side to moving across the world, for the sake of love. It can be isolating. You have to compromise about subjects you didn’t even think were ‘on the table,’ so to speak. You will both make mistakes.

After reading Susan’s recent memoir “The Good Chinese Wife,” I decided I wanted to write a guest post for Speaking of China about the dark side to moving across the world for love.

And, of course, if you’re really interested in daily life in Japan as a foreigner, you should check out my book “My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy: The Comic Book.”

It is an autobiographical memoir about my life as a white, Texan freelancer married to a Japanese businessman, living in Tokyo. It covers intercultural and interracial relationships, in a funny, light-hearted way.

Texan in Tokyo comics

Enough of the good, let’s talk about bad.

Here are the top 6 elements that make up the “dark side” of moving across the world for love:

1. You can become almost pathetically dependent on your spouse

My husband and I have lived in both Japan and Texas, with a vast majority of our time spent in Tokyo. We spent two months in America together before the wedding, and another month and a half in Texas after the wedding.

We had a wonderful time, but we also had some problems. Ryosuke couldn’t drive a car in America. He was completely dependent on me and, on days when I had a freelance project due, he was left walking my sister’s dog, Bo, around the neighborhood for hours, since he had nowhere else to go.

Thankfully, in Tokyo I can get anywhere by train/bus. However, there are times, like when I’m trying to open a bank account, file a health insurance form, or figure out some obscure Japanese law when I am completely dependent on my husband.

I’m lucky that I have my own job and can speak Japanese pretty fluently… but even so, I still get frustrated.

2. Visas, bureaucracy, and a lot of red tape

I went to the immigration office seven times to get a visa. Seven times. My visa was rejected for all sorts of stupid and illogical reasons (Not enough time left on my tourist visa, one form was improperly dated, the visa I was applying for didn’t exist, “waiting to apply for a spouse visa” was not a valid reason to extend my current tourist visa… the list goes on).

One incredibly unhelpful lady at the Tachikawa immigration office told me “Go back to America, wait a couple of months, and apply for a visa there.” When I told her I couldn’t afford to just ‘go back to America,’ she suggested I go to Korea instead (since it’s “cheaper”) and then called up the next person in line.

Now I have a valid, working visa in Japan.

However, I know other women who are not able to work on their spousal visas in their husband’s countries… and it’s hard.

3. Finding a good career “in your field” is incredibly difficult

I love writing, but I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to work for local government. Or at an NGO.

Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to find a job in my field in Japan. I either don’t have enough experience, can’t make the proper time commitment, can’t speak Japanese well enough, or can’t afford to commit to 40 hours of work (unpaid, no stipend for food/travel) for at least 16 months at my dream NGO.

Hence the reason I am a freelance writer, blogger, and English teacher.

I don’t love the work, but it pays the bills and gives me something to do. In my spare time, I get to blog, draw comics, and volunteer at a local orphanage.

I can’t count the number of women I know who moved abroad with their husband, expecting to find a career in their field in a couple of months… only to wind up frustrated, disappointed, and underemployed.

4. Insecurity is normal

On one of our larger fights a couple months ago, I asked my husband why he didn’t just marry a nice Japanese girl. “She would be able to talk to your family without any problems,” I told him, “and she would be better at housework (or, like, actually agree to do housework. I’ve met so many Japanese girls who love cleaning. I hate it. Ugh.)”

“I don’t want to marry a ‘Japanese girl!'” he shouted back. “Or an ‘American girl!’ I just want to be married to you!”

A lot of our friends are Japanese. When we have house parties or go on double dates, I often find myself toning out what the other people are saying. Speaking in Japanese all day makes my head hurt… and I start to feel out of depth.

Texan in Tokyo comic about the telephone

When nearly all of our friend’s wives quit their jobs after marriage, clean the house every day, wake up early in the morning to cook their husband breakfast, do laundry every day, and always keep the house presentable, clean, and well-stocked with food, it’s hard not to get insecure.

I still stand by everything I wrote in my last guest post on Speaking of China, “7 of the Best Things about Being Married to a Non-Native English Speaker.”

And thankfully, my husband doesn’t expect me to be a “Good Japanese Wife.” If he did… well, I would probably go crazy. And we would yell at each other more.

5. You might have to re-evaluate your priorities and compromise on some tough issues

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Just remember that arguments are an essential part of any healthy relationship and they provide a great way to broaden your horizons and re-evaluate your priorities.

6. You will be isolated

When we first moved back to Tokyo, we spent the first couple months living with his parents in Ibaraki, an incredibly rural prefecture next to Tokyo.

In the first couple months I had no job (I was still battling the immigration office), no English speaking friends, and no connection to the ‘outside world.’

I fell into a deep, dark depression that lasted for several months. I cried a lot. I started losing weight (not in the good way). I watched my friends from college go off and get amazing jobs… and just felt worse about myself.

Then we moved out. We saved enough to get out own place, in central Tokyo. I got a visa and picked up a couple part-time jobs. I made a bunch of new friends.

Texan in Tokyo comic about the beach

I still had cultural problems from time-to-time, but instead of being a sad reminder of how “foreign” I was, they started being kind of funny.

I wrote a comic book, “My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy,” that ended up being wildly successful.

I have a ‘sort of’ career now.

Of course, I still feel isolated from time-to-time. But I’m learning how to deal with it. 

Grace Mineta

Author Bio:

Grace Buchele Mineta is a native Texan, founder of the blog “Texan in Tokyo,” and author of the autobiographical comic book, “My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy.” She lives in Tokyo with her husband, Ryosuke, where she blogs and draws comics about their daily life.

My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy: The Comic Book” is the autobiographical misadventures of a native Texan freelancer and her Japanese “salaryman” husband – in comic book form. From earthquakes and crowded trains, to hilarious cultural faux pas, this comic explores the joys of living and working abroad, intercultural marriages, and trying to make a decent pot roast on Thanksgiving.

—–

Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts and love stories! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Guest Post on Texan in Tokyo: 6 Things I Cherish about my Cross-Cultural Marriage to a Chinese Man

13617156333_26d247cd27_z
Grace of Texan in Tokyo just published a guest post I did for her site titled 6 Things I Cherish about my Cross-Cultural Marriage to a Chinese Man. Here’s a snippet:

My name is Jocelyn Eikenburg and I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. This summer, I’ll be celebrating 10 years of marriage with my husband John, who is a Chinese national.

Sure, we’ve weathered our share of misunderstandings over the years and had to learn to adapt to each other, both culturally and personally. But I still love him just as much as the day when I said “Wo yuanyi!” (I do) to him in the Shanghai Marriage Registry Office.

And over the years, I’ve discovered a lot to cherish about our relationship.

To learn about those six things I cherish so much, head on over to Texan in Tokyo and read the full guest post. And if you love it, share it!