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Brendan W. Brendan W. 04/10/2018 12 min read

Hi guys, Brendan here!

I hope you’re all rattling along nicely with your entries for the SMA-EX4 Round! I’m sure many of you have great ideas for your manga, but for those who are still wrestling with the themes of EXAM and TRIAL, perhaps a little story from my past may give you the inspiration to help ease your creative block…

My story takes place way back in 2004, just a couple of years into my transition of leaving my native England to settle in far flung Japan. It was a pretty intense couple of years, trying hard to assimilate myself into an entirely different culture! But, the one constant ray of light was my girlfriend… soppy I know, but I was only 24 back then!

Despite our obvious cultural differences, she was actually crazy enough to agree to marry me and, before either the European or Asian families knew what was happening, we were officially man and wife. Since we agreed to stay in Japan permanently, I decided to stay in England a little longer to tie up loose ends, debts, and most importantly, to obtain my driving license!

Which is where my story really begins…

As Japan and Britain both drive on the lefthand side, having a British license automatically qualifies you for a Japanese one without having to pay the huge sums of money necessary to take lessons and pass the test over here. Naturally, obtaining a driving license in the U.K. would be much easier, but there was one catch; I had to reside in Britain for 3 full months with a license before moving to Japan, otherwise all my hard work wouldn’t be recognized!


London, Heathrow airport. Many tears were shed here!          Source: flickr


Obviously, spending 3 months apart after getting married wasn’t ideal. I mean, what happened to our honeymoon?! But my wife and I realized that it would be worth getting my driving license in the long run.

Of course, making such a decision wasn’t easy, as separation was the LAST thing on our minds. So it was with tears and hankies aplenty that we ultimately waved goodbye to each other at Heathrow airport, London as my mission to pass my driving test began!

Brimming with determination, I signed up for a block of intensive driving lessons the very next day in my bid to effectively “drive” myself back “home” to Japan! It was a grueling learning curve, but I gave everything to master the fundamentals of driving well enough to sit my first practical driving test a mere 2 weeks later.

I failed. Big time!

Since, the three month waiting period away from my wife effectively STARTS from the day I pass the test, I was devastated that I failed this first attempt. My friends, family, and of course my wife and her family in Japan all offered me their encouragement and support and before I knew it, I was scheduled to sit my next driving test just one week later…

I failed again…

Under normal circumstances, taking a driving test is a nerve-wracking experience, but when you add the pressure of your new bride waiting for you to pass before she can see you again, I can assure you these tests are terrifying!  Back to the drawing board I went, and 10 days later I had another test lined up. I mustered up all my confidence, rocked up to the test center….

… and spectacularly failed for a 3rd time!

At this point, I was feeling utterly defeated. Though I had constant support and encouragement from my nearby friends and family, the idea that I would get home to Japan seemed to drift further and further away. Though desperately hoping I would pass the test “next time”, I actually went on to fail three more attempts (sometimes my error, other times a REALLY strict examiner). There I was, rock bottom. I was frustrated, depressed and completely lacking any confidence. I even started to think that my wife would give up on me ever passing but, on the morning before my 7th attempt, I received an unexpected parcel from Japan…


The vehicle I learned to drive in – a 2003 Ford Focus!


Inside were a lot of my favorite Japanese snacks, but the one that really caught my attention was a green tea flavored Kit-Kat, newly launched in Japan. I was excited about the new flavor, but it was the hand-written memo with the encouraging words “You got this”, that really put a lump in my throat.

I had no idea why my wife had sent me so many snacks, but I was so buoyed by the fact that she was still cheering me on despite the vast distance between us. With a fresh gust of wind in my sails, I vowed that I wouldn’t give up and do whatever it takes to acquire that coveted certificate!

The very next day, I trudged up to the test center with some of the snacks in hand, one of which was the green tea Kit-Kat. With a mouthful of sweet, sugary goodness, washed down strong black coffee, I awaited the call…. test number 7 had begun.

… And I did it!! I was awarded a shiny, glorious certificate for passing my driving test with an almost perfect score!!!

With an enormous sense of accomplishment, with a side order of pride, I was on my way to Japan and a new life. After a torturous 5 month TRIAL, I was finally reunited with the lady I loved and the doggy I adored.


Green tea Kit-Kats! These bad boys are literally infused with magic and good fortune!      Source: flickr


During a celebratory meal with my new Japanese family, my wife asked which treat I loved the most.

“Why the Kit-Kat of course!” I exclaimed.

“I thought you’d say that” she responded with a knowing smile. “Here in Japan, we have the phrase “Kitto Katsu”, meaning “to surely win”…”

“So I sent you the most important “good luck” gift I could think of.… A Kit-Kat!”

This phrase, like much of my new adopted country was new to me back then. But with the love and encouragement from the most important person in my life, not to mention the power of a humble chocolate bar, I surely DID win!!

So there you have it! A personal look in to my own history where I faced one of the most challenging TRIALS and EXAMS I have ever encountered. I could never have done it without the support around me, and of course, a little luck!


I really hope my story helps some of you overcome your creative block, or better yet, encourages you to share your own personal heartwarming episodes of overcoming an EXAM or TRIAL via the support of others! You have until November 30th to send us your masterpiece. Join the biggest manga community in the world for your chance to win cash prizes, exclusive all expenses paid trips to Japan and potential publishing success in Japan! The journey of your professional manga making career has begun!

Brendan W.

Brendan W.