Turning Japanese

Published by 2dcloud, Expanded edition published by Oni Press

Turning Japanese is a comics memoir that chronicles MariNaomi’s experiences working in illegal hostess bars in San Jose and Tokyo while attempting to connect with a culture that had eluded her since childhood.

The story begins in 1995 (where Mari’s first memoir, Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, left off), when 22-year-old Mari had just gotten out of a long-term relationship. She moved to San Jose, California, where she was exposed to a wider Asian population than she’d ever known in her hometown of Mill Valley.

It didn’t take her much time to fall in love with a new person. Soon after, she found employment at a hostess bar for Japanese expats, where she was determined to learn the Japanese language and culture. This all in the hopes of finally connecting with her Japanese relatives without the use of her mother as a translator.

Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-937541-16-3 $24.95
Published by 2dcloud, May 10, 2016

Expanded edition published by Oni Press, 2023
More info here.

Sample Pages

Praise for Turning Japanese

“At a time in our history when ‘American’ is being defined more and more as a conservative, gun-toting, white, heterosexual man, a memoir like Turning Japanese becomes an urgent and necessary voice to add to the conversation.”

~ Sean Carswell, Arizona Daily Sun

“A definite summer must-read and absolute required reading for graphic narrative fans.”

~ Asian Am Lit Fans

“Mari’s portrait-of-an-artist-as-a-culturally-‘nebulous’-young-woman is a vulnerable, searching, raw record. Exploring the meaning of ‘hafu’ on both sides of the world doesn’t always result in easy answers, and the need for translation–not just of language–proves to be ongoing. May the illuminating journeys continue.”

~ Smithsonian APA Center

“MariNaomi’s work is eye-catching because it defies the traditional. She’s a true artist in that she plays between the realms of chronological narrative and experimental art. … I can think of few working cartoonists who are so underrated; she deserves much more admiration from the comics world.”

~ Women Write about Comics

“It is a tremendous blessing to read anything that comes from a skillful graphic memoirist like MariNaomi. In Turning Japanese, her unflinching honesty, open heart and hard-earned wisdom challenges us to embrace the unexpected detours that unfold in our own lives. The empty spaces in her minimalist artwork contain many wells of unspoken feelings that linger with you long after you finish reading her book.”

Yumi Sakugawa,author of Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe

“The best comic about being Asian American in Japan. Like Fun Home and Persepolis, Turning Japanese is at once modest and grand. MariNaomi is a master of the small, intimate moments that build to a surprisingly emotional climax.”

Jason Shiga, author of Demon

“Turning Japanese is about not just contradictions and opposites, but also how someone can be and feel two things at once. In a society that privileges binary distinctions (and almost always creates a hierarchy based on those distinctions), MariNaomi’s status as someone frequently-in-between points out how simply living her life in certain places and spaces
created a tension born from social mores being stretched. She’s a person, not an accumulation of traits, and as such this book is about the thoughts and feelings that go into creating and presenting one’s identity as well as exploring different aspects of one’s roots. All of this is done with an absence of pretension and an emphasis on humor.”

Rob Clough, High-Low