Moresukine -- a comic book about a German cartoonist's experiences in Tokyo

 Albums C387 Tokyoblog Moresukine-04-2

 Comicslit Moresukine Morecov In late 2005 Dirk Schwieger, a German cartoonist, went to live in Japan for a year. He got an office job, and started keeping a journal of his experiences in Tokyo. On his blog, he invited readers to email him "assignments," which he dutifully carried out and reported in comic strip format in a Moleskine notebook.

The assignments included eating fugu (blowfish sashimi that has a toxin that could kill you if not prepared properly), going to a capsule hotel, visiting the Ghibli Museum, riding a roller coaster on top of a building in a shopping center, reporting on the "coolest of the cooler things happening in Japan" (some kind of barrel with poles on it and tentacle-backpacks hanging from it -- I have to admit I had no idea what he was talking about here), eating okonomiyaki (a bowl of raw egg, red ginger, pork, squid, shrimp, and cabbage that you cook yourself), and so on.

Schwieger's art is funny and detailed, and his observations are insightful. Moresukine is an enjoyable, too-brief account of a Westerner trying to discover Japanese culture.



  1. I got stuck on exactly that model of toilet and had to sit, plugging the hole with my butt in order to avoid just such a flooding incident, for about 20 minutes while I played Russian Roulette with the buttons. All the while childhood jokes about toilets with automated tampon removers danced in my brain.

  2. You know, you’d be saving me a lot of time if you could invent some system that would automatically put all books BoingBoing-mentioned books directly on my Amazon wish list.

  3. clearly we westerners are incapable of understanding the basics of modern plumbing
    a sad realization indeed

  4. well, if he’d bothered to learn a little japanese before his trip or, y’know, *ask* someone in the know about them, he’d’ve not had toilet issues. they’re pretty intuitive, actually. not rocket science or anything.

    –gaijin who managed the toilets quite nicely, tyvm.

    1. But it’s not the sort of thing that you know about before you get there or even before you (perhaps literally) stumble across one of these things after get there. Few of the public toilets are this high-tech and you might sit down in, shall we say, a rush due to a bad buffet choice or some such and not notice the difference until after you’re in place. Jumping up and down on one foot while you hunt up a mall clerk with enough English to understand your pleas to explain how to use the toilet can cause other problems.

    2. they’re pretty intuitive, actually.

      So a panel of buttons with characters on them that you can´t read is what you would call intuitive? Congratulations on your potty skills though.

  5. The hierarchy of bad plumbing starts out Russia, Britain, Australia…. you have to go on for half an hour before you get to Japan!

  6. okonomiyaki (literllay “as you like it”) is usually the name given to japanese pancakes (very tasty). I wouldn’t put it past them to have other things called by the same name, but i’ve never heard of it being described in that way.

    1. I hear the ones prepared by girls posing as boys and fighting with huge spatulas are the best.

    2. I’m pretty sure that you’re right, Okonomiyaki are the pancake like dish (chicken ones are pretty tasty) and the food described in the article sounds like Katsudon soup

  7. I’ve got a copy of this. It really looks just like a large (5″ x 8.5″) Moleskine notebook, albeit softcover. It’s even got a (red) ribbon bookmark built in!

  8. I just wanted to say how much I’ve been enjoying all the coverage on Japan over the last while or so! I like how it’s more one-of-a-kind than traditional PR-style ‘travel’ coverage, even though, in the traditional way, I’m filling up many notebooks with all the ideas/books/shops/tips to try. Well done, & looking forward to more updates!

  9. I was invited to a Korean family´s house in Seoul once. When I went to use their bathroom I managed to soak my shirt with the water spray from the toilet and subsequently brought lots of entertainment to the dinner table.

  10. Can any Japanese speakers/readers explain to me why, at the start of each strip, Mo-re-su-ki-ne is written in both Hiragana and Katakana and not one or the other? I’m currently trying to learn the language and stuff like this confuses the pants off me on a regular basis. Also, loving all the Japan related posts Mark, your holiday snaps make me super jealous!

    1. It should be written in katakana because it’s a loanword/non-Japanese word. Hiragana is usually reserved for words that are Japanese in origin — you’ll notice that most Western names are written in katakana, while Japanese ones are not.

      My guess is that some people only learn to read hiragana, or the author is trying to hint at the fact that the two character systems look similar to non-Japanese speakers.

      1. Yeah, that’s the rule I was thinking of and why I’m getting confused, there doesn’t seem to be any obvious reason here for the “mo” at the start of moresukine being in Hiragana? And Japanese names are another rich vein of confusion, take this fellow for example : Appears to be Kanji and Katakana? All rather bewildering. Back to the books I think.

        @Anon On my trip over, last year, quite a few restaurants seemed to offer you the option of cooking your own okonomiyaki, you get various raw ingredients and the batter/egg mix and get to make a huge, delicious mess on the flat-top cooker at your table! :D Oko-nom-nom-nom-iyaki…

        1. Holyfingers, that’s the guys pen-name, not likely the way his parents registered him at birth.

          If you’re learning from or for manga, expect to be confused. Creative people will use the language and its scripts creatively. It’s probably best to think of katakana as the *italics* of Japanese. It’s used for foreign words and, especially in comics, for emphasis. (I guess it also includes the ALL CAPS function for things like POW! BAM! etc.

          Good luck with the study!

          1. Thanks taj, I’ve been taking evening classes for the last few months and I’ve started trying to decipher Japanese wherever I come accross it. I’m realizing pretty quickly that, as with most languages I suppose, textbook rules don’t always apply in the real world.

          2. @Holyfingers, from one frustrated Japanese-learner to another, I recommend you don’t use too much energy worrying about correct hiragana & katakana (as long as you can read both). Kanji is where the real pain is.

            As for toilets, I really can’t understand why people have trouble with them. There’s usually helpful diagrams to show you which button is for butts, which is for women’s bits (try it anyway guys, it’s quite interesting). The worst that ever happened to me was a minute’s confusion about where the flush button was (solved: it was a touchless hand sensor).

          3. “Correctly”, hiragana is used for Japanese-only words and for the grammatical bits after kanji (you need it for verb conjugation etc) and katakana is used for foreign loan words, emphasis and onomatopoeia, as I’m sure you’ve been taught.

            However, there’s a lot of overlap in kana useage in real life; it’s quite common for foreign words to be written in hiragana as a sort of jokey play on how Japanese the word has become. Ramen is a great example; it’s a Chinese word and should be written in katakana but it’s incredibly common to see it in hiragana outside noodle shops.

            Japanese people are entitled to play around with that kind of thing as much as they like, but for people studying the language it’s better to err on the side of “correct” useage; it’s much less likely to come across as jokey and more likely to be interpreted as just incorrect. One rule for us and another for them, I’m afraid.

  11. The only mishap I’ve had (so far) with a Japanese toilet involved a bout of food poisoning. Whether you can read the kanji on the controls or not, if you’re draped miserably over a toilet bowl, you’re in no state to be noticing where you’re putting your hands.

    I managed to stagger to my feet and get out of the direct line of fire before the arm had finished extruding, but by the time I’d found the ‘stop’ button, the jet had already bounced off the ceiling and hit me. Being doused with cold water does not, in case anyone was wondering, improve the food poisoning experience.

  12. Most of the toilets I used in Japan had pressure sensors, so the bidet / bum cleaner couldn’t be used before you sat down. I know this because I wanted to -ahem- check the water pressure from a safe distance, before putting my -ah- exposed area in close proximity.

    The scariest toilet I used was in a hotel. Every time I opened the bathroom door -EVERY time- the toilet lid would flip up, and the bidet / bum cleaner pipe would slowly extend with a low and sinister groan. Enthusiastic robo-toilets are *scary*.

    My favourite Japanese toilet experience was at a posh department store in Tokyo. On the back of the cubicle door was a large, English language sign that was titled “HOW TO WASH YOUR ANUS!”.

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