Comic: Conversations with our Landlady (Yuko-san)

86 tan with yukosan comic comics cartoon tanning tan in Japan

This is Yuko-san. She’s our landlady (sort of). We live in a Japanese style “Mansion” (basically a fancy apartment with souped-up security). She literally lives on the first floor of our building, greets each person who comes into the building, and monitors the security footage from nights and weekends, making sure no one is up to anything funny.

When Ryosuke and I moved in, she asked if we were roommates. When I told her we were married, she was shocked. “But he’s not American!” she told me.

I love her.

When I get bored with my lonely life as a freelancer, I hop on the elevator downstairs and we chat through her window. She’s a grandmother, so I can’t quite understand everything that she says, but she’s a real sweetheart.

One of her many jobs is making sure all the trash has been properly separated, cleaned, and assembled each morning (since Japanese trash works on a rotating basis, where you throw away, for instance, burnable trash on Mondays and Thursdays, plastics on Saturdays, non-burnable on Wednesday, glass bottles on Friday, etc…).

I walk Ryosuke to the station every morning at like 7am (if he has to be awake, I should be to). I always see Yuko-san checking everyone’s trash when I get back from the station. I always offer to help – she never lets me. So we chat instead.

And she gets very worried I will get tan and become less attractive.


Like these comics? Check out my comic books (on Amazon):

My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy: The Comic Book


My Japanese Husband (still) Thinks I’m Crazy


Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

28 Comments on Comic: Conversations with our Landlady (Yuko-san)

  1. Actually I really like being pale. But here in the center of Europe it’s kinda impossible to find anything not-tanning in cosmetics… And sunblock creams often do not prevent Skin from getting darker. Instead they sometimes add an extra tan to your skin. -.-
    Sadly all the Asian whitening products are superduper expensive. At least for my standarts.

  2. lol! i read this then went shit i forgot to put sunscreen on this morning!! going to go put it on now X)

  3. To me, tanned skin looks like damaged skin– freckles, wrinkles, and other signs of skin damage. Obviously, that doesn’t apply to people with naturally brown or black skin (i.e., nonwhite people).
    But in Texas, most people who live to their 50s or 60s get skin cancer (almost entirely caused by sun exposure), so staying out of the sun is a health priority here.

    • FiveOclockTea // 4 July, 2015 at 2:48 pm //

      It isn’t really about staying out in the sun, but more about not using protection (like sunscreen) :)
      And freckles aren’t a sign of Skin damage! You’re Born with them. They actually stop you from tanning too much, as instead your freckles grow :)
      Sorry, had to say that, as I have freckles, and it’s nothing you can stop, even if you wanted to (as a child I really hadn’t liked them. Now I love them :D )

  4. Yup, my J man is horrified by my attempts to get tan (mostly its just about basking in rare Seattle sun). It usually ends in a mix of weird burn lines & many freckles. But I’m glad he appreciates my natural ghost skin. My friends used to joke they can’t find me when it snows. lol

    • Hahaha. Oh man, I’ve made the “you’ll get lost in the snow and we will never find you!” joke to several of my pale friends. I’m sorry.

      My husband’s parents are a bit horrified by our love of tanning. Oops.

  5. Thank god my in-laws gave up trying to give me advice how to stay white as a ghost. I believe they stoped convincing me when I went few times to the open air swimming pool in Xi’an to get tanned :)
    Myy wife on the other hand as a huge collection of these whitening cremes however she got pretty lazy about it hasnt used a single product in a few years

    • It’s funny, right? Ryosuke’s family used to get very worried about me. I think they were surprised by how little I was actually able to tan – even when I was trying.

  6. Every time we go hiking my (American) oncologist friend bugs me to put on sunblock. She tells me I will die of skin cancer.

  7. Is there a day for compostable trash? Is that Wednesday? Or does it just go with the burnable trash? How about paper? Is it recycled or sorted into the “burnable” category?

    And why does Yuko-san check the tenants trash? Does she (or the apartment) get fined if trash is sorted incorrectly?

    • Hahahaha. All good questions.
      1. Each day of the week is assigned a specific “trash” category. For instance, Monday is burnable, Tuesday is non-burnable and pet bottles, Wednesday is plastics, etc. Most paper can be “burnable” unless it is cardboard, then it has to be tied together and disposed on Friday (cardboard day). It’s all very complicated. I drew a comic explaining the system, it will probably go up sometime in the next couple weeks.
      2. Yes, we would get in trouble if the trash is done incorrectly. When I lived in a smaller, cheaper apartment, they would just “return” your trash (or refused to take it) – so you, as the tenant, would be responsible for digging through it to re-categorize the stuff (like if you accidentally put a plastic container in the burnable bin, etc).
      Yuko-san goes through people’s trash to make sure everything is ok before the trash company comes, so that they won’t return any “bad” trash. If she finds “bad” trash, she just organizes it herself. What a trooper.

  8. I get tanned easily and I get a reminder every year. This year, I didn’t even realize I was a bit (tiny bit) tanned, not too sunny, not as hot as other years, didnt go for a ride..and then one day the neighbour came to remind me to cover my arms and put some whitening lotion in my face cause I was darker than before, and “ain’t pretty”, I was happy to learn I was darker.
    My years in China are the only years of my life Ive been so white for so long, and imagine, Ive lived in Finland so.thats quite white! ;)

    • Yeah! I guess when you live up North, you don’t get to see the sun as much, so you really make sure to get as much one-on-one time with the sun as you can.

      So far, I’ve been able to resist the “driving gloves” (to protect your arms from the sun while you’re driving) and whitening lotion.
      My husband thinks tan is sexy. Extra bonus for me – I run into less trouble with awkward people when I don’t fit into the standards of beauty for Japan.

  9. Rob Ryan // 8 July, 2014 at 3:48 am //

    It seems that a lot of different people around the world worry about getting/being too dark. Here in North America some of my fellow First Nations peeps are reluctant to get a tan (God knows why!), while I’m told that persons with “champagne” coloured skin (as opposed to dark skin) in India are seen to be better marriage prospects. Oddly enough, though, I don’t think that these people are typical or true racists, and actually mean well for the most part (in my opinion– much like your land-lady). Anyway, I’m glad that you keep on tanning if it makes you happy, Grace! (Having said this, we all look good no matter what colour we are, of course–right!) :)

  10. Paul Batalha // 8 July, 2014 at 3:05 am //

    Yes the typical Japanese “oba-a san”… What will we do without them?

  11. I think all older East Asian ladies think the same – my MIL just brought 8 different whitening products, plus CC creams with sunblock and sunblock itself. She wears a special hat and sleeves, even in a hot day.

    • I see those sleeves all the time in Japan too! They’re especially popular for driving, so you don’t get tan arms through the windshield. It’s so different!

      The first time I picked up lotion in Japan, I accidentally got stuff with whitening lotion in it. Now I know how to avoid it – but that was something I didn’t even THINK about back when I first moved to Tokyo!

      Do you use the whitening products?

      • personally I don’t need – most of the year I look like a peeled daikon, the rest I’m red like a lobster :D

        • Hahahaha. Oh man. Do you have the type of skin that doesn’t tan well?
          I have a couple friends who physically can’t get tan. They stay white, get burned, and then get more freckles. I didn’t even realize it was impossible for some people to get tanner.

  12. She shouldn’t be so worried about you getting tanned and becoming unattractive, after all, you’re already married :D
    In China they are also obsessed about staying white. Have you heard about facekinis? Google it!

    • What. What is that. Facekinis look like the belong in a horror movie!

      I kind of told her that too, like “I’m already married, and he thinks tan skin is sexy.” It’s a pain trying to find good lotions, because most have whitening cream in them…

  13. realgunners // 7 July, 2014 at 10:51 pm //

    A grandmother that monitors security footage, I can’t seem to quite wrap my head around that.

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