Learning Japanese with comics -SUMIMASEN!

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Sumimasen -the word that works for everything. I'm sure there are uses I left out, and will most likely put in future strips. Sumimasen is one of my favorite Japanese words, and I marvel at how effortlessly people use it in various situations.

I forgot that creating a comic about living in another country gives plenty of opportunities to teach language and how it relates to the culture. As I grow as a cartoonist, I hope these examples of "international cartooning" improve over time.

The Urban Dictionary defines sumimasen as:

Japanese word meaning, "I am sorry".
Sometimes used together with doumo. "Doumo sumimasen" also means I'm sorry.

Often in conversation "doumo sumimasen" or "sumimasen" are used in place of "Thank you". Perhaps Japanese feeling is, I'm sorry bothering you, but thank you very much to be so considerate.

1. Sumimasen I broke your dish.
2. When a gentle person gives away a seat on a crowded train to an aged person, the person who received the favor may say, "sumimasen" or "doumo sumimasen".

Thanks for your support and don't forget to like and share the comic with the world!

Khalid

What to see at Tokyo Disney Sea?

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Goodness knows, Disney does not need my endorsement or free advertising, but I had to let you know how enjoyable it was at Tokyo DisneySea theme park in Japan.

Even in a typhoon.  That’s right. A typhoon was ripping its way up the western side of Japan at the time, and we were so afraid of getting weather bashed-out of all the fun. 

Fortunately, the weather cooperated, somewhat.  We did get hit with strong winds and some rain, but generally, it was bearable.  You want to know the best part?

Bad weather means fewer people at the park!  So, there were shorter lines and less wait time for rides. 

I have a feeling that DisneySea is not as famous as Tokyo Disneyland, so there are fewer visitors.  It’s one park where as soon as I entered, I felt transported to another world!

The gorgeous architecture in the harbor grabs you as you first walk in and is influenced by the Mediterranean, with a bit of fantasy flair!  Every area feels like another adventure and even when it’s busy, feels relaxed and comfortable.

I will admit that the rides are not as fantastic compared to Disneyland, but they are enjoyable and imagination filled.  The more intense ones are in the Lost River Delta area where you can explore with Indiana Jones or take a roller coaster ride through Raging Spirits.   

Raging Spirits ride!

Raging Spirits ride!

One of my favorites was the FINDING NEMO ride at Port Discovery.  It made you feel like you were in a small submarine going on adventures with Nemo and Dory through the ocean.  If you get seasick though, this is NOT the ride for you. Plenty of rocking and gliding up and down!

In the American Waterfront area that looks like New York City in the 1920’s, you have the famous Tower of Terror ride, which we didn’t get on because we’ve been on it in America and the Turtle Talk experience where you can talk with an animated version of Crush the green sea turtle from Finding Nemo.  This one was surprisingly fun, and even though it was in Japanese, relatively easy to understand.

I love the Toy Story movies but the ride, Toy Story Mania!, even in bad weather, was the one ride that was packed all day long with insane wait times, so we had to skip it.  If you had a chance to make it in, let me know what you thought!

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The Mysterious Island area looked the coolest, and we had fun riding 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.  We will need to go back to the Arabian Coast and ride Jasmine’s flying carpets -even though it’s basically the Dumbo ride. 

Because the weather was rough due to the typhoon, it was an excellent relief to head over to Mermaid Lagoon where they have an entire indoor play area with rides, food and a playground.

In front of the Mermaid Lagoon

In front of the Mermaid Lagoon

Our absolute favorite show was in the Mermaid Lagoon Theater where a performer, dressed as Ariel, is suspended from the ceiling on wires and swings around over the audience below like she's swimming and sings well-known songs from the Little Mermaid film. 

My eight-year-old daughter loves mermaids and almost didn’t see it.  We waited forty-five minutes to get in and as soon as we sat down, with amazing seats, by the way, she says, “I need to go to the bathroom!”  Really? We were just standing all that time, and you didn’t think about going then?

She couldn’t hold it so my wife, who watched this show here before, was kind enough to take her out to the restroom but of course, the theater needed to close the show so they couldn’t get back in.

They thought it would be best for me to at least stay and watch it since we waited all that time and I’ve never seen it.  I must admit, it was pretty fantastic and felt like a small Cirque Du Soleil show!

When it was over, I was so ecstatic about the experience, my daughter was more than ready to stand in line again.  She loved the performance, and I was glad to see it a second time! Make sure to look for the Mermaid Lagoon Theater, it’s pretty hidden in that indoor play area, and see the show when you go.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip to Tokyo DisneySea even in such a massive storm.  We never got extreme rain, but some pretty strong winds hit us a few times. In the evening, we stayed to watch the Fantasmic Mickey Mouse light show that was pretty fun.  They had to modify it a bit due to the weather but still worth watching.

For a new Disney parks experience, I strongly recommend taking your family there next time you’re in the Tokyo area.  Ta-ta for now. See ya' real soon!

Khalid

 

How To Get Specific and Bring Your Work ALIVE!

Let’s just say you want your art, writing or comics to feel more genuine and appealing to your audience. 

I’m finding that making sure to add in specific aspects of the culture or area where the characters are living but adding problems we all recognize, makes your work feel ultra-specific but relatable at the same time. 

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For this Little Fried Chicken and Sushi comic, I needed to show Tanuki using his magic and the theme for the week’s strips was Origami paper folding.  That in and of itself pertains to Japanese culture, but I wanted to see if I could add more.

I jumped over to Google and looked up the most popular things to make with Origami.  Cranes, shuriken, boats and paper cranes came up. A boat! They could be riding on a large origami boat that Tanuki made.  But where?

It could be going down the river in their town of Shimamoto but the background is rural so would not look like any recognizable place in Japan. 

Choosing the Yodo river that runs through Osaka city would give more choices of buildings and bridges to draw that readers who have been to the city would know.

Drawing the Umeda Sky Building behind them was a fun addition.  The curving white bridge to the left of them- I have no idea what it’s named- is a well-known sight in Osaka as well. 

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Coming up with the joke is the challenge.  I asked myself, “What’s the problem in this situation?” 

That was an easy answer for this strip.  The boat is made out of paper!

Perhaps, Tanuki’s magic is surrounding the paper boat and allowing them to stay afloat but the fact is the situation is odd.  Come to think of it, so is a ‘paper’ boat!

You know, if this were real life, someone would have pointed that out.  J is usually the character who thinks about important issues or solves problems creatively.  So, it felt natural that he should be the one delivering the punchline.

When you’re writing or drawing, keep asking yourself how you can make it specific and general at the same time. 

Give people something they know and something new they’ve never experienced before.  Make them curious and then surprise them!


 

3 Creativity Hacks Inspired By Japanese Wood Carvings

What do monkeys; a cat and an elephant have in common?  Believe it or not, inspiration for expanding your creativity!

Actually, the animals I’m talking about are ornately carved on structures made over 400 years ago at Toshogu Shrine in the city of Nikko, Japan.  The famous shrine and world heritage site is just north of Tokyo, and was built as the final resting place of ruler Tokugawa Ieyasu.  He founded the Tokugawa Shogunate, the final military dynasty in Japan that lasted from 1603-1867.

Even though Japan has been a part of my life for thirteen years I can’t recall hearing about this place until this summer.  My family and I visited Nikko for several days and were quite impressed with the history and colorful beauty of the area.

Not only was it lovely, there were several takeaways I discovered about the creative process just from pondering these wood carved animals at Toshogu Shrine. 

Nemuri-Neko, the sleeping cat, guarding Tokugawa Ieyasu's resting place.

Nemuri-Neko, the sleeping cat, guarding Tokugawa Ieyasu's resting place.

 

1.    The Sleeping Cat shows us how we can receive inspiration while at rest

Nemuri-Neko, carved by Hidari Jingoro, is of a sleeping cat surrounded by flowers.  It was placed at the entrance of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s grave to ward off mice and has become a famous recognizable symbol to Japanese people.  What fascinates me is that the cat is sleeping and, similar to a real feline, still seems alert!

I’m reminded of how cats take frequent naps but are still aware of their surroundings and can wake quickly when approached.  Just like when we’re trying to get creative inspiration for our projects, thinking hard doesn’t usually get results.  It’s when we’re sleeping, taking a walk or even using the restroom that the great idea pops into our heads!  If you jump right away and make a mental note or write it down, you can catch it like a little mouse.

Learn to fill your mind with images and information from research related to the project you need a great idea for.  Then take a break so that it can all gel in your brain.  When you let go by doing something different and turn your mind away, the answers will come!

The artist carved the elephant on the right without ever seeing a real one.

The artist carved the elephant on the right without ever seeing a real one.

2.    The Elephant shows that if you commit to taking risks you can create something no one has ever seen before

On top of a building that was used as a warehouse called “Kamijinko” is a carving of an elephant.  The artist never actually saw one in real life and I think it turned out looking pretty accurate.  I assume he was going off of written descriptions of what elephants look like.

There must have been quite a bit of pressure because this was to be done to honor the emperor.  Since there are no elephants in Japan and no cameras at that time, he had to use his imagination to create his own interpretation.  Yes, we could say that no one else had seen real elephants back then either so he could have created whatever crazy animal he wanted, but it looks like he took it seriously.

The artist couldn’t see any references for what he needed to create but still took a risk and made it happen.  I’m sure he sketched plenty of ideas early on (and probably hated all of them) but found something good eventually through continually doing the work.

When you’re coming up with a new idea or design, use what you know and have the courage to put down ideas even if they look or sound awful.  Getting started is the key.  Learning through continually working on and through your ideas by facing fears, taking small risks and trying styles you’ve never taken on before will create something amazing.    

The three monkeys reminding you to hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

The three monkeys reminding you to hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

3.    The Three Monkeys want you to train your brain and avoid evil

On the sacred horse stable or Shinkyusha are 8 carved boards along the top that depict the life of a monkey and caricature human life.  One of the most famous boards illustrates the famous Buddhist teaching -if we hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil; we can live a good life.

It’s something we have to train ourselves to do.  I’m sure all of us have times when we get in deep trouble for speaking evil my mistake!  As we grow in life, we learn when to speak up and when to stay quiet.  You can also train yourself to be more creative as long as you understand that it will take time.  It will take less time if you have a purpose.

Just like the monkeys in the carving you can make a point to avoid evil but pay attention to all the inspiration that you hear, say and see in the world.

Read more and make a point to remember one detail that you feel is important.  Look at the work of artists you admire or despise and study what makes their work special.  Learn a new skill.  Spend time with people you think of as creative and talk with them about what inspires you.  Question everything!  The answers will create new inventions, characters and stories.  

The bottom line is to make a point to take inspiration breaks while you work, commit to consistently taking risks and exercising your creative mind with more than just your art, music or writing.  Keep these ideas in your head each day and watch your creative power expand in ways you never thought possible!

Of course, you should also take a trip to Nikko, Japan.  It’s pretty amazing!  

    

Fried Chicken and Sushi 304 Dealing with the reality of the situation

Well, here we go again!  J has to compete with Ryan in Japan this time.  I know what you're thinking, J proved himself to be the better employee already.  He shouldn't have to do it again!  Let's hope the office in Japan will learn how amazing J is when they meet him.  We'll see.  At least he's still going to Japan!  Even if he has to travel with Ryan.

Fried Chicken and Sushi 259 Working...so...hard!

I'm very thankful for the positive reviews of my vampire adventure graphic novel, Tales of Tritoria:  YOUNGBLOODS, on my amazon.com page.  If you haven't bought your copy yet, please check it out HERE!  Beverly is gradually getting to know J so I think we can let her off the hook for that ridiculous question.  Is going to Japan really that important?  Come on, Beverly!  Hopefully, J will have more time to spend with her as time goes on so she'll learn more about what makes him tick.