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‘Learning Arabic coffee culture with Layla-san’: A trip to Arab culture through manga

Doujinshi are self-published magazines or comics that cater to a specific audience. (Supplied)
Doujinshi are self-published magazines or comics that cater to a specific audience. (Supplied)
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14 Mar 2024 07:03:56 GMT9
14 Mar 2024 07:03:56 GMT9

Amin Abbas

DUBAI: Shirakawa Seibei, a Japanese writer who traveled to the Middle East multiple times, was inspired by the culture to create a self-published manga titled ‘Learning Arabic coffee culture with Layla-san.’

The manga is a doujinshi, a self-published work that caters to a specific audience. Seibei’s doujinshi is based on a character from the Japanese video game ‘Idolmaster Cinderella Girls.’ In the game series, Layla is the daughter of a rich man from Dubai. She moves to Japan to work as an idol. 

“When you actually play the game, you feel that the Japanese image of the UAE is included,” said Seibei. 

“Therefore, I thought that if Layla-san explained Majlis and Arabic coffee, players who (like) her would be even more interested in the UAE and Dubai, where she comes from,” he added. 

Seibei visited the UAE for the first time in 2008 to participate in a business event. “I met Emirati brothers who are anime fans and I was very surprised because their knowledge was no different from that of Japanese anime fans,” the author told Arab News Japan.

“They were breaking down scenes they thought were amazing and looking up the names of the animators themselves. I learned about famous animators from my seniors at the university, but they got there on their own. I was very surprised,” he added. 

Seibei became closer with the local brothers after he visited the UAE, which made him return to learn more about the culture. During his visits to the UAE, he learned about Majlis, sitting places where people talk. 

“Manners are not as formal as “Sadou” (Japanese tea ceremony). In my opinion, I felt that Arabic coffee and manners were an opportunity to enjoy conversation and exchange with friends in the space of Majlis. This calm and warm space where I talked with (my friend) and his friends in Majlis was a very pleasant and wonderful experience,” he reflected.

The manga is illustrated by Nishiyama Yuichi. “I can’t draw, so I consulted Yuichi,” Seibei shared. “In particular, he drew a charming and wonderful Emirati side of Layla-san, which is not often depicted in the game.”

The writer shared that he would like to depict the culture surrounding halwa, a popular dessert in the Middle East, in his next self-published manga. “When I visited the UAE last year, I was served homemade halwa. At this point, I was already shocked because I thought that halwa was something you buy in supermarkets in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Moreover, it was completely different from the halwa I knew.”

“I later learned that the halwa (that is popular) in Japan is called ‘Rahash’ in the UAE and elsewhere. There are manners on how to eat it, and I felt that it was more profound and culturally rooted than Arabic coffee, which I found very interesting. In my next book, I would like to ask Layla-san to talk about halwa,” he added.

‘Learning Arabic coffee culture with Layla-san’ is now available in Japanese and English for ¥500 yen (approximately 12 AED) and can be purchased digitally here.  

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