My Chinese Bride (中国嫁日記) – an awesome manga blog I can relate to

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Right now I am mostly immobile thanks to a herniated disc. I might blog about that later, but for now I want to share what has been keeping me entertained on my days stranded on the couch:

It’s 中国嫁日記 (if I were a publisher I’d translate the title “My Chinese Bride”). It’s a funny and heartwarming read, and very relatable for someone in an international marriage like myself. If you want to skip my review and get started, the entire series is free online. Just start from the first post and work your way backwards. He also sells compilations that I am considering buying for some people as gifts.

It’s the blog of a 40-something Japanese tabletop RPG designer and self-described otaku about his 26-year-old mainland Chinese wife Yue-chan, who he apparently met in an arranged-marriage style introduction from a Chinese friend. She is new to living in Japan but already speaks the language a bit because her sister also married a Japanese man and Yue thought it would be useful to know the language when visiting.

The writer (Yue calls him Jin-san based on the Chinese reading of his real name, Inoue) writes mostly about her various encounters with culture shock, many of which come from her cooking misadventures. She puts coriander in miso soup, serves oshiruko with eggs and toast for breakfast, and marvels that Japanese meat is sold pre-sliced unlike in her native Shenyang. With the story told in real time less than two years after their marriage, we get a window into their relationship as it is developing – we get vignettes about her need to clean every day, learn how she leaves out the small tsu sound in Japanese, and even a series detailing their long-delayed honeymoon to an onsen. They fight kind of a lot, but in a healthy way that seems to actually resolve their problems.

Her cute foreign accent is probably the central joke of the whole manga, and he brings up many wacky anecdotes from their life together. If it weren’t written with such obvious love and care you might be forgiven for thinking he was making fun of her. There are touching moments, too, such as when Yue was scared for her life and just wanted to be with her Jin-san just after the March 2011 quake.

In news articles, Inoue says he started the blog to provide a more personal look at Chinese people in order to help improve bilateral ties and further understanding of the many Chinese living in Japan. That is understandable, especially when many of his fellow otaku harbor strong anti-Chinese sentiment and seem to love making broad generalizations about the culture. And the series contains a lot of interesting trivia about China (Yue-chan could go visit Japan initially because at the time visiting a foreign relative was one of the few ways mainland Chinese could travel abroad). But at the same time I get the feeling this is his way of processing both the joys and frustration of married life.

Sometimes Jin-san writes about his former Chinese teacher, who had an extremely outgoing personality and left a deep impression. The sample above is one story she told him and is a good entry in our list of embarrassing Japanese mistakes. (if someone asks I’ll explain in the comments)

He started the blog without her knowledge, but the quality of the work got the better of him – it became so popular that a friend clued her in eventually. Thankfully she understood and was ok with him continuing. Now that I’m hooked, I hope he’ll keep this up for the foreseeable future!

The similarity to the classic international marriage manga ダーリンは外国人 (My Darling is a Foreigner) is obvious and probably no accident. But there are some key differences that make it more enjoyable for me. First is the real time intimacy of learning about their relationship as it happens. That makes the story feel more genuine. Also, it’s told from the man’s perspective, so I found myself nodding my head when he talked about needing his office to be a “sanctuary” where it’s sometimes ok to leave a mess. And perhaps most importantly, it is not about another American living in Japan. If it were, I wouldn’t be able to help comparing myself to him in terms of language ability and attitude toward Japan.

So if this kind of thing appeals to you (and you read Japanese of course) please please go check it out. I learned about it on a Sunday morning NHK program about successful Internet original manga artists, so I have a feeling we might even see a movie version someday.

15 thoughts on “My Chinese Bride (中国嫁日記) – an awesome manga blog I can relate to

  1. As I’ve heard opinions from three Chinese women who are married to Japanese,none of them liked the manga.

  2. I am so happy to have stumbled upon this post! Although I don’t have the level of Japanese to read this in one go yet, with a good dictionary by my side I’ve been able to more or less understand it and get hooked! Thanks for this great recommendation! :)

  3. Did they say why they didn’t like it? Maybe they had the same problem I did with darling. It’s hard to simply enjoy something so close to home I think.

  4. It looks cute and I’m sure it’s written with affection, but the thought of releasing something like this into the world without discussing it with her, not to mention her having to find about it secondhand, is really shocking to me.

  5. What they were saying is the wife acts like a dream mail order bride,which is undeniable for the manga is basically about a Stepford wife for Otaku.
    Most of the Chinese women think the Japanese men are too sexist compare to the Chinese men and they find it so hard to understand why Japanese women are so obedient to their husbands.And to their eyes,Yue acts too much like a Japanese bride and they find that fictional.

  6. What they were saying is the wife acts like a dream mail order bride,which is undeniable for the manga is basically about a Stepford wife for Otaku.
    Most of the Chinese women think the Japanese men are too sexist compare to the Chinese men and they find it so hard to understand why Japanese women are so obedient to their husbands.And to their eyes,Yue acts too much like a Japanese bride and they find that fictional.

  7. I think one reason I related to this is precisely because I have gotten in trouble for sharing things about my wife that she didn’t want online. It isn’t the right thing to do, sure, but I can understand the impulse.

  8. Matt hits the nail.Although the manga episodes mainly revolve around daily comical events as the J-hus got the common sense(of living in Japan,that is) and the Chinese wife does not.But if you read them thoroughly,it’s completely the other way around.(hus simply don’t understand how to deal with woman in very basic meaning of the word)
    Also Inoue is not just a cartoonist.What he has been making is no more than a manga porn and his connection to China comes from him ordering tiny plastic figures of naked anime girls to factory in Guangdong.Sure Japan is known to be a number 1 hentai-friendly nation on earth,but it still is not exactly an ideal profession for the husband to be.And China has very conservative idea when it comes to sexual culture so I have to wonder what’s their marriage is truly like.
    I happened to have at least 4 friends who married with Chinese women.Three of them married to at least 10 years younger.So the manga always comes up as the source of topic over beer.

    Having said that, being a husband of woman from another Asian country with lesser GDP than Japan,I’m VERY sensitive with these kind of things.
    Manga undeniably is funny in most of times and you don’t hate Chinese after reading it.And in times of Japan turning stealthly an immigrant nation by international marriage(around 3% of entire marriage is internaional) it certainly catch the zeitgeist and we should embrace the manga being drawn.However,the divorce rate of international couples are also rising(8% in 2010) and I’m more concerned with how the manga would end.

  9. I’m a bit worried about the whole thing as well. I mean, he posted a drawing of her on the toilet almost right away (without telling her!). Have to wonder if she’s his iki doujinshi or something.

    The “international marriage” angle of this (like Darling) is certainly nice and endlessly readable. Without the sex, big fights over money and the like, however, it is going to be superficial and possibly offensive given that one partner becomes of dumbfounded observer and the other a spazing out manga “kyara” for much of it.

    I’d like to see one of these where husband and wife alternate (at least writing, not necessarily drawing). Trying to picture the “real” relationship from these things is like trying to imagine the other side of histrionic “Dear Prudence” letters (“controlling wife won’t let me see my friends” could be “wife worried about credit card debt because husband is out drinking 5 nights a week); “husband comes home and won’t lift a finger” could be leaving out the part where the wife doesn’t work and he took a second minimum wage job and works 90 hours a week).

    Still, for me, this one is certainly better than Darling as a thought machine for non-Japanese men in international relationships. I can see non-Japanese wives of Japanese men having legitimate worries about the man’s point of view, infantilizing elements, and the fact that it was done without the wife’s consent and aimed at an otaku community in which brainless, sexualized girls are fetishized. Much of it seems warmly emotional, other parts seem like stock manga gags.

  10. Wow it’s a little surprising to see such a negative reaction. When reading it I figured that him being an “otaku” in the Akiba sense of the word meant that certain things came with the territory, including not marrying till your 40s, a readiness to embrace porn and hentai a bit too publicly for comfort, and turning to the Internet for self-expression and validation. I also haven’t yet seen any entries where he talks about how she feels about it, but it would be interesting to know.

    And the fact that this is a really risky and problematic endeavor is one of the things that fascinates me. I mean, they have only been married for a little more than two years I think. He might not feel good about idealizing her after the salad days are over, so how is he going to deal with it when they have a really serious problem? I haven’t seen whether they plan on having kids, which would be another big x-factor in their relationship. I could just cluck my tongue in disapproval, but as long as he is producing the stuff count me in.

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  12. I used to read 『ハラショーな日々』, which was very similar to 『ダーリングは外国人』 except that:

    1. The protagonist female is from Kansai
    2. The foreign male is Russian and an engineer
    3. The foreign male is portrayed as being a good husband, yet much more fallible and more of an everyday man outside of work life compared to “Tony”.

    http://ameblo.jp/tochka/

  13. What M-Bone suggests sounds a lot like the tag-team comics that R. Crumb and his wife Aline Kominsky draw together, where he draws himself and she draws herself into each panel.

    If the guy’s found an audience for his work, good for him! (And no sarcasm intended.) But I don’t really think I fall into the intended audience. Personally, I agree that it’d be way more interesting to see her side of the story as well. Not because she’s Chinese but because I actually think marrying a manga artist is way more extreme of a decision than marrying a foreigner!

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  15. Amusingly, the collection of capsule book reviews I am translating right now for the Japan Foundation (https://www.jpf.go.jp/e/publish/jbn/index.html) includes this book.

    I also can’t believe that I forgot to mention earlier that I have several of Inoue Jun’ichi’s tabletop RPGs, which like all Japanese RPGs have some pretty wacky and 1980s-esque game mechanics, but some pretty awesome concepts that would be great fodder for games using better systems.

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