Text and photos by ISABELLE DOCTO
Hanako Takiyoshi’s first trip to Canada was also the first time she set foot out of Japan. The thought of leaving her hometown, Aomori, to visit her Canadian boyfriend, Kevin James, for Christmas gave her a mixture of emotions.
“I was very excited and scared,” she says. But she knew that it was the right decision. “I always wanted to get [a] different life experience.”
Her flight to Toronto had a transfer in Vancouver. Unfortunately, she got lost in the airport. Fortunately, a guy in a Santa Claus outfit pointed her in the right direction.
Takiyoshi didn’t let this and other daunting yet entertaining experiences go to waste. Instead of writing stories like this in a diary, she started documenting them in the form of comic strips on her blog, The Days of Hanako.
“I feel like a lot of funny things happen in my life, but [they] are forgotten soon,” she says. “So I thought recording them in art as comics and sharing them with other people would be a good idea.”
She flips through her binder filled with pages of her cartoons. Her eyes smile as she reminisces about each memory drawn on paper.
Takiyoshi started her blog last December when James, who is now her husband, bought her special pens and paper for drawing cartoons.
She illustrates her adventures in Canada, including her first experience of the Toronto Pride Parade, the long and brutal Canadian winters, and being the only Asian immigrant in a university class.
Although stories of immigrant experiences can be a serious topic, Takiyoshi portrays hers in a light-hearted, witty way.
“Sometimes you have a hard day, but then drawing comics about that helps me to look at it in an objective way and then laugh at it,” she says.
With an average of 500 views per week, Takiyoshi says that readers like her relevant topics and drawing style.
“It’s fun to get feedback and I love it when people can relate to me,” she says.
Many of her drawings are about the cultural differences that she sees, like how the traditional role of the husband in Japan is different from Canada.
“I think a traditional Japanese husband doesn’t do housework as much as Kevin has, so it’s good for me,” she says with a chuckle.
Her move to Toronto has not only helped her learn about Canadian culture, but also allowed her to see Japan from a different angle.
“I feel that once you’re out of your own country you can see your own home in a different perspective. In a good way and a bad way,” she says.
Takiyoshi explains how she realizes that the transit system in Japan, particularly Shinkansen (Bullet Trains), is more “efficient, clean and offers good customer service” than in Toronto.
But she also recognizes the monotony in Japan and how order can go overboard.
“In Toronto, there are a lot of different cultures, and you can be from anywhere and be pretty comfortable,” she says in an email. “I remember there were school regulations regarding hair at my high school. Everyone had to have dark and straight hair to be in order, which can sound very strange in Canada.”
With her blog gaining popularity, Takiyoshi has her sights set on expanding her comics from online to print.
“I’m hoping to publish books,” she says. “I hope that more people will read my comics and I really hope it will bring those people smiles and laughter.”
She is also working on a visual cookbook, incorporating her love of drawing with her love for cooking.
“I have a lot of my own recipes, and it is hard to categorize them,” she says in an email. “Some are Japanesey, Italianish, Thaiish and Chinesey!”
Takiyoshi closes the binder with a look of content on her face. For now, she’s grateful that her stories in ink are able to brighten peoples’ days.