Many of us are dreaming of travel for 2021 so today we’re happy to introduce you to Abby, author of the “Cool Tokyo Guide” and “Cool Japan Guide” which are super fun, fully-illustrated travel guides featuring handy tips and fun adventures! Use these to start planning your future adventures in Japan!
Thank you for your time today Abby, we are so glad to have you on our blog! Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about your background?
Much appreciated! I’m a New York-based cartoonist. I’m the creator of the graphic novels Cool Japan Guide, Cool Tokyo Guide, Dolltopia, and Tough Love. I’ve won an International Manga Award for Dolltopia. I also have written scripts for comic book publishers including Marvel, DC, and Archie Comics, among others.
When was your first trip to Japan? And why Japan?
My first trip to Japan was in the summer of 1997. I studied at Sophia University for a summer session, at the time I was an illustration student at Parsons School of Design in NYC. I was starting to create my own comics, but at the time, the US comic industry was very superhero focused, and there weren’t many comics for or by women. I began reading manga, particularly those of Rumiko Takahashi, whose work had started being published in the US. I was fascinated with her and her success worldwide. I wanted to experience the comics culture of Japan, which had so much broader appeal to different reading audiences and covered so many genres.
Also, when I was a child, my mother worked for Konica, she got to travel to Japan for business. She told us about what it was like, showed us how to eat with chopsticks, and would take us to eat at sushi restaurants in our town. So I had some context about Japan pretty early in life.
Can you please share with us what surprised you the most the first time you traveled here?
It’s a pretty common experience, but I remember being surprised by the toilets! The variation between squat toilets and washlets was a shock. Also, I never did karaoke in a private room before and I loved it! Being able to buy udon with a ticket vending machine was a nice surprise.
How and why did you decide to create these books about Japan? What was your idea?
I had been making mini-comic zines about food and travel for fun, and I collaborated on one about Japanese food with my Tokyo-based friend Yuuko Koyama. I went to a culinary-themed book expo in NYC, and Tuttle Publishing had a booth there. At the booth I spoke with Christopher Johns, and gave him a copy of the mini-comic. That eventually led to me making these guide books! My readers will know that Yuuko is a featured character in both of my guides. She even drew a short comic in the back of Cool Tokyo Guide!
Where is it possible to get them? Also any plans on another guide? Maybe another city in Japan?
The books are available at any major book outlet, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and any indie book store can get it too. Kinokuniya, Tsutaya, Tower Records, HMV, and other book outlets in Japan carry them as well.
I don’t have a new guide book planned currently, but I am working on a new book that readers of my guide books will love! Details will be announced in the future.
You seem to be a food lover as well, what is your favorite Japanese food?
Totally! I always end up drawing a lot of pages about food. It’s so fun to eat and draw! The list could be endless, but umeboshi comes to mind, that was a standout new food for me on my first Japan trip, so ume onigiri is a fave. I really love miso ramen and tsukemen. I love tofu and yuba. For sweets, I love taiyaki, especially if it has a matcha cream filling. Kabocha puddings and cheesecakes are great. I love almost anything from Japanese bakeries, including shokupan. For snacks, I’m a fan of Jagarico, especially the seasonal and limited edition flavors!
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
My next book is a children’s graphic novel called Kitty Sweet Tooth and features a cute purple cat who manages a movie theater that serves special snacks that are created by a mad scientist and witch. Needless to say, hi-jinks ensue! I wrote the story and it is illustrated by the amazing artist Utomaru. It’s scheduled to release in April 2021, and available for pre-order now at all major book outlets.