Jan 6

JET alum/cartoonist Lars Martinson gives radio interview

JET alum and 'Tonoharu' creator Lars Martinson.

Check out this great radio interview with JET alum/cartoonist Lars Martinson (Fukuoka-ken 2003-2006), creator of the four-part graphic novel Tonoharu. Lars talked with radio station KFAI out Minnesota in December. Hear him talk about the creation of his book, which tells the tale of an ALT wrestling with the challenges of living in rural Japan (sound familiar, anyone?). Lars lived in rural Fukuoka for three years and spent several years post-JET crafting the novel based on his experiences.

For those who are interested, Tonoharu Part I and Part II (which just hit book shelves in November) can be found here:


Also be sure to check out JetWit’s recent interview with Lars Martinson.

Dec 16

Life After the B.O.E. is a comic series about the JET experience by David Namisato (Aomori-ken, 2002-2004), a professional illustrator currently living in Toronto.
Visit David’s website at www.namisato.org.

Life After the B.O.E.: Better Christmas

Dec 2

Justin’s Japan: Interview with ‘Tonoharu’ Cartoonist/JET Alum Lars Martinson

JET alum and ‘Tonoharu’ creator Lars Martinson. (Illustration by Lars Martinson)

By JQ magazine’s Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02) for Examiner.com. Visit his NY Japanese Culture page here to subscribe for free alerts on newly published stories. 

Minnesota-based cartoonist Lars Martinson went to Japan in 2003 to teach English on the JET Program, an exchange initiative sponsored by the Japanese government. During his three-year stay in rural Fukuoka, he was inspired to break ground on an ambitiously stylized four-part graphic novel named Tonoharu (Pliant Press) based on the trials and tribulations of living in Japan. Part Two was released in November, and I caught up with the artist to discuss the series so far and Japanese life through an expat’s eyes.

How would you describe the differences in Tonoharu: Part Two compared to the previous book? Did you do anything different in terms of storytelling or approach?

With each volume I’ve tried to explore different facets of living abroad. The first book focuses on the sense of loneliness and isolation that occurs after the “honeymoon period” of cultural acclimation ends. The second book deals with the relationships that develop, both with members of the native population and with other expats.

My approach to storytelling has gotten more deliberate as I’ve gone along. For Tonoharu: Part One, I started by writing “Page 1, Scene 1” at the top of a piece of paper and launching into a detailed script before I had a clear sense of what direction I wanted the story to go in. Diving straight into minutiae like that is like working on the interior design of a house that hasn’t been built yet; you should know how big the windows are before you pick out the curtains. So for Part Two—and now Part Three—I’ve given much more thought to the structure of the story, and made sure I was happy with the big picture before I got too wrapped up in details and nuance.

Tell us about your experiences on the JET Program. What made you choose to apply, and what was your overall take on the three years that you were there for?

When I was 16, I lived with a host family in Nagoya for a summer vacation exchange. The experience inspired a lifelong interest in international travel. I’d go on to live in Thailand and Norway for a year apiece as an exchange student, and visit a dozen or so other countries as a tourist. After I graduated from college, I wanted to try working abroad, and also wanted to return to Japan. A friend of mine introduced me to the JET Program, and I knew immediately that it was right for me. And sure enough, my three years in the JET Program were among the best I’ve ever had.

All JET participants hit high and low points while in Japan. What were some of yours?

My elementary school classes were among the most satisfying experiences. I planned all the lessons pretty much single-handedly, so once I got the hang of it, it was gratifying to see how excited the kids were about learning English, and how much they retained.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the experience, at least in the beginning, was the language barrier. It’s hard to form meaningful friendships when you can’t—y’know—talk to people. So it was always sad when I wanted to befriend someone and they clearly wanted to befriend me, but the logistics of not being able to communicate effectively got in the way.

Last summer, it was announced that the JET Program is facing sweeping budget cuts that may endanger its future. What’s your take on the value of the program in today in Japan and in the participants’ home countries?

I suppose with the economy being what it is, some cuts are probably inevitable. But I really hope they don’t gut the JET Program. My life has been enhanced beyond measure by having the opportunity to interact with foreign cultures, and I hope Japanese students will continue to be given the same opportunity. It’s hard to quantify the benefits of the JET Program, but that doesn’t really make them any less real or important.

What kind of feedback on the books have your received from JETs and those associated with the Japanese community?

I’ve tried to make the book accessible to readers regardless of their background, but it goes without saying that those who are familiar with Japan or the JET Program are able to appreciate it on a different level. JETs tend to pick up on all these little details in the books that other readers breeze pass without notice. I remember a JET alum commenting on a scene in Part One where the main character wears a fancy suit to his first day on the job, but since it’s summer vacation everyone else in the teacher’s room is wearing ratty gym clothes. It’s little things like that that you’d only consciously notice if you’d been in that situation yourself.

Click here for the rest of the interview.

Nov 23

There’s a nice interview with JET alum Lars Martinson in Hero Magazine.  Lars recently published Tonoharu:  Part 2, a graphic novel about teaching English in Japan that follows up on the success of Tonoharu:  Part 1.

Here’s the link to the article:  http://heromagazine.org/?p=189

Nov 16

Life After the B.O.E. is a comic series about the JET experience by David Namisato (Aomori-ken, 2002-2004), a professional illustrator currently living in Toronto.
Visit David’s website at www.namisato.org.

Life After the B.O.E.: Autograph

Nov 11

Lars Martinson’s “Tonoharu: Part Two” reviewed by BoingBoing

JET alum Lars Martinson recently released his follow-up graphic novel Tonoharu:  Part 2.  Here’s the review by Mark Frauenfelde of BoingBoing:

“Tonoharu Part Two: Excellent graphic novel about an English teacher in Japan”http://www.boingboing.net/2010/11/10/tonoharu-part-two-ex.html

(Editor’s note:  I have a copy of Tonoharu:  Part 1, and every time I show it to a fellow JET alum and they start reading it, they end up reading the whole thing (which takes about 15 minutes).  It’s really terrific and very unique.)

Oct 25

Instant Noodle Comics is a new cartoon by Shun Endo (Ibaraki Prefecture, 1998-2001), who also served as Treasurer and Webmaster for JETAA Pacific Northwest.  He works as a Game Artist at Real Networks( Gamehouse Studios).  To see more of his cartoons go to instantnoodlescomics.com.

Click the image to see the full comic!


Facebook Boss Filter Comic

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Oct 16

Life After the B.O.E.: Inappropriate Touching

Life After the B.O.E. is a comic series about the JET experience by David Namisato (Aomori-ken, 2002-2004), a professional illustrator currently living in Toronto.
Visit David’s website at www.namisato.org.

Inappropriate Touching

Oct 4

Second Volume of JET-inspired Graphic Novel Now Available

JET alum/cartoonist Lars Martinson (Fukuoka-ken 2003-2006) has this to share:

“I just got copies of my second graphic novel Tonoharu: Part Two back from the bindery. The book won’t be available in stores until next month, but I’m selling them on my website right now if anyone’s interested.”

A link to order the book, as well as information about Tonoharu: Part One and Two, can be found here:


Click here to see previous JetWit posts about Tonoharu:  Part Two and Tonoharu:  Part 1.

Sep 16

Life After the B.O.E. is a comic series about the JET experience by David Namisato (Aomori-ken, 2002-2004), a professional illustrator currently living in Toronto.
Visit David’s website at www.namisato.org.


Aug 28

Books: Lars Martison’s “Tonoharu” gets favorable write-up on BoingBoing, makes Amazon’s Top Ten Bestselling Graphic Novels list

There’s a nice review of JET alum Lars Martinson’s graphic novel Tonoharu:  Part 1 on the BoingBoing site written by Mark Frauenfelder titled “Tonoharu:  Excellent graphic novel about an English teacher in Japan.”  And according to Lars’ blog,

“Thanks to Mark Frauenfelder’s writeup about Tonoharu: Part One on Boing Boing, the book has made it into Amazon.com’s Top Ten Bestselling Graphic Novels today!”

Here’s the link to the review:  http://www.boingboing.net/2010/08/27/tonoharu-excellent-g.html

Here’s a quote from the review:

“Published in 2008, and a winner of the prestigious Xeric Award, Tonoharu is a story of isolation, frustration, and mystery, with just the right amount of black humor to keep it from being depressing.”

For fans awaiting the next installment, Tonoharu:  Part 2 is due out in December.

Aug 16

Life After the B.O.E. is a comic series about the JET experience by David Namisato (Aomori-ken, 2002-2004), a professional illustrator currently living in Toronto.
Visit David’s website at www.namisato.org.

Your Name

Jul 31

Tom Baker (Chiba-ken, 1989-91) is a staff writer for The Daily Yomiuri. As another example of JET ROI, he is one of at least four former JETS to have been on the newspaper’s staff in recent years. He usually writes for DYWeekend, the arts and leisure section. You can follow Tom’s blog at tokyotombaker.wordpress.com.

Recently he interviewed two members of the cast of “The Last Airbender” movie during their promotional visit to Tokyo, asking them for their views on the “racebending” controversy surrounding their film. He also covered an insect show now running at a Tokyo museum, reviewed the manga “Otomen,” and weighed in on a couple of other movies now playing in Japan. Here are some excerpts:

“Last Airbender”

In the United States, some fans of the anime-style cartoon on which the movie is based have protested against the casting of Jackson Rathbone and Nicola Peltz, who are white, in roles the fans saw as Asian.

Asked to comment on that, Rathbone said: “I originally was a finalist for Prince Zuko [a Fire Nation role that went to Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel]. Almost a year later, I was brought back in for the character of Sokka…I think what they were really looking for was the qualities that people represent, not so much focusing on race…All these characters [in the cartoon] have so many different features, you can’t really say that they are one race…It’s a shame that people really focus on the race thing and they don’t understand that it’s a story for everyone.”

“And there are over 120 different types of people in the film,” Peltz added.

“In terms of a big-budget film, it’s the most ethnically diverse cast there’s ever been,” Rathbone agreed.

Read the rest of the interview here.

“Insects festival”

Open your window on a hot summer day and you may hear a sound that caught the ear of haiku poet Matsuo Basho in the 17th century: the voices of cicadas, seeping into the rocks. Of course, Japan today is a lot more urbanized than it was in Basho’s time, and cicadas are more likely to sing against a background of asphalt and cement. Yet year after year, the buzzing bugs never fail to show up, even in the heart of Tokyo.

Visitors to Insects Festival, an exhibition now running at the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku, Tokyo, are reminded of such persistence right away with a display of six-legged critters that live in three different Tokyo zones: mountains, fields and downtown areas.

While city-dwellers often resent sharing space with the likes of cockroaches and ants, the emphasis of this show is on seasonal outdoor insects whose diverse shapes, bright colors and occasional songs actually enhance city life…

Read the rest of the article here, or visit the exhibition’s site here.


Anyone writing a graduate thesis on the presentation of gender in Japanese pop culture will find abundant material in the manga series Otomen. Readers looking for laughs will also find what they seek in Otomen, but rather less abundantly.

The main characters are a trio of high school students, with the focus on Asuka (a boy who has a name more common for girls), who is in love with Ryo (a girl who has a name more common for boys). Their would-be romance is complicated by the constant presence of their friend Juta, who tries to play cupid, but is more often a third wheel.

Asuka is the captain of the school kendo team, and is admired by everyone as a “real man.” But he is secretly an “otomen,” a boy who is into girly things, such as cute stuffed animals and delicate pastries. He is at least as skilled at cooking and sewing as he is at sports, but he keeps that side of himself hidden. Ryo is Asuka’s mirror image in that she has been raised by her socially inept father to follow in his footsteps as a martial arts champion, but she strives to put up a feminine front at school. Juta has a secret, too, as he is actually a best-selling manga artist who is using the couple as a model for his stories…

Read the full review here.

Also playing…

You can read Tom’s review of “Inception” here, and his review of “Zombieland” here.

Jul 29

Life After the B.O.E.: Have an Awesome Time!

Life After the B.O.E. is a comic series about the JET experience by David Namisato (Aomori-ken, 2002-2004), a professional illustrator currently living in Toronto.
Visit David’s website at www.namisato.org.

Have an Awesome Time!

Jul 5

Manga tells incredible tale of Hiroshima atomic bombing

A quick book recommendation from current Hiroshima-ken JET Gail Cetnar Meadows

Now and then I read a book that’s so good I want to tell everyone I meet about it, and I’ve recently finished one such book. For those interested in learning more about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, I highly recommend a graphic novel written by atomic bomb survivor Keiji Nakazawa. Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima is a 10-volume graphic novel loosely based on Nakazawa’s experiences and those of other Hiroshima residents who survived the bomb. The book taught me a lot about what happened in Hiroshima in the year’s following World War II — things beyond what I learned visiting Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum or listening to the accounts of hibakusha. For those who are interested, I’ve written a piece on the Wide Island View talking a little more about it and encouraging others to check it out.

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