When American Benjamin Boas (that’s him shaking his fist on the book cover above) first came to Japan, he was having a great time until he ate tekkadon (rice topped with raw tuna sashimi) in Asakusa, got sick from it, and had to go back to the US. Luckily, a kind stranger (there are many of these in Japan) gave him ¥20,000 so that he could get to the airport, because he wasn’t able to draw out money (any tourist who’s tried to draw out money from an ATM in Japan will feel Benjamin’s pain).
It’s this kind of entertaining story that peppers Benjamin’s recently published manga book, which takes you through the world of Japanese popular culture as experienced by Benjamin himself. The title, 日本のことは漫画とゲームで学びました, is loosely translated as ‘I Learned About Japan from Manga and Games’ – which is fitting since this is how Benjamin picked up Japanese before moving here from the US.
The book includes illustrations by manga artist (and co-author of the book) Chika Aoyagi and plenty of quirky episodes about Benjamin’s interests and experiences, such as his love for Nintendo, which he was first introduced to at the age of four, and his love for the manga ‘Ranma ½’. Chika has incorporated most of the traditional manga elements, such as the drawing style, vertical writing (tategaki), and the emotionally rich facial expressions.
It’s a great tool for beginners who are just learning to read kanji since the words used are simple, and furigana (katakana or hiragana to assist in pronunciation of kanji) is provided at the top of the pages. And of course, there are the pictures.
‘I Learned About Japan from Manga and Games’ by Benjamin Boas is available for ¥1,188 at Tokyo bookstores and from Amazon.