We ask four Japan-based YouTubers about their journey to become online influencers and their favorite travel destinations in the country.
YouTube channel: Life Where I’m From
Subscribers: 1.21 million
Where are you from? Winnipeg, Canada
Why did you come to Japan? My wife is Japanese and after we met in Vancouver and had our two kids, we moved here in 2013 so that our children could experience both of our cultures.
What do you love about Japan? After moving here, I grew to love the country, the people and the deep culture. My favorite hobby is going to the onsen; it’s so relaxing and affordable.
Why did you start your channel? The more I learned about living in Japan, the more I wanted to let people back home know about what it’s like here. I’ve always been interested in video and created a few channels both for my business and for myself when YouTube first started. In 2015, I started Life Where I’m From. It was originally just for fun, but after it was shared on Reddit, it kind of blew up.
“Recently I went on a solo hiking trip to Tohoku – it’s so different from Tokyo”
What sets your channel apart? I started off showing everyday life, specifically from a family standpoint. They are things Japanese people would probably consider quite boring, like what breakfast is like here, but it’s interesting to people in the West. And then people started asking deeper questions, so I shifted to making mini documentaries.
Your favorite places to travel in Japan? One place I love traveling to is the Izu islands. I like how you can just take the ferry and it feels very tropical. There aren’t many people around and you can just rent a scooter and explore. Recently I went on a solo hiking trip to Tohoku – it’s so different from Tokyo and the nature made it feel a bit like Canada. Although they still have bathrooms on top of the mountains. [Laughs]
YouTube channel: KemushiChan
Where are you from? Virgina, USA
Why did you move to Japan? I studied Japanese growing up, and although I really wanted to move here straight away, I fell in love with my now husband and moved to New York instead. Six years later, I dragged my husband and my dog with me and enrolled in a graduate degree at Yokohama National University.
What do you love about Japan? I’m originally a language geek so the language is what first drew me to it. Right now, I’m enjoying being able to get on a train and go anywhere – it’s just 30 minutes to a mountain, river or beach. Unlike in the States where you can fly for eight hours and still be in the States!
“The tops of mountains and looking down is where I’m happiest in Japan”
Why did you start your channel? When I first started 10 years ago, it was more like an extension of my school studies. My chance to speak Japanese and get native feedback. Then everything changed on YouTube and the idea of vlogging became big. I had trouble with the idea of putting myself on the internet, but I found a balance where I feel like the focus is more on using the language to explore Japan.
What sets your channel apart? I can’t let go of the language piece, I’ll always talk about the nitty gritty parts behind it, but recently I’ve been enjoying sharing more factual advice on how to live in Japan, the pitfalls to avoid, and how to live your best life in a different country. I’m definitely a nerd. [Laughs]
Your favorite places to travel in Japan? Recently, the more north I go, the more I like it. I did a hike on Mt Gassan in Shonai and there’s a trail where you can just go in circles for days. I think the tops of mountains and looking down is where I’m happiest in Japan.
YouTube channel: Planet Nihon
Where are you from? Egypt
Why did you come to Japan? My father was a judo trainer so I grew up with a love of Japanese martial arts. After the Egyptian revolution, I lost my job so I decided to study Japanese. I was volunteering at a Japanese cultural event when I met my Japanese husband and in 2016 I moved here to be with him.
How did you become a vlogger? After moving here, I had a lot of free time and a friend suggested I start a YouTube channel. At first I was worried about receiving negative comments and my life not being private, but after I started it in 2017 I was pleasantly surprised by the response and my channel became the biggest Arabic channel regarding Japan in the Middle East.
What is your channel about? At first I targeted Arabic travelers. After I gave birth to my daughter, I started making more videos about family life and raising children in Japan.
What do you love about Japan? I enjoy the look of the houses, the nature, the change of seasons – in Egypt, we only have summer. To see snow, to experience rain in the summer, this for me was unimaginable. [Laughs]
“My favorite place is Hakone”
Your favorite place to travel in Japan? Hakone because of its onsen, the views of Mt Fuji, the ajisai (hydrangea) flowers in summer and the delicious onsen tamago (eggs cooked in hot spring water). I also like Kobe because it has a port and the sea and an interesting mix between Japanese and Western culture.
Recommended day trip for Tokyo tourists? Yokohama … it’s so close to Tokyo. But don’t only go to Chinatown – it has many beautiful gardens, such as Yokohama English Garden, and they’re not too crowded.
YouTube channel: Melike Uysal
Where are you from? Istanbul, Turkey
Why did you come to Japan? My husband’s company transferred him to Tokyo so we moved here along with our two daughters.
How did you become a vlogger? In Turkey, I worked as a chemistry teacher for 16 years. I loved teaching and felt like I learned a lot from my students. When we moved to Tokyo, it was difficult to adapt and I felt lonely; I missed talking. So about 18 months ago, I decided to make a video in which I was just talking. After that my daughters said, “We need to make a YouTube channel for you!” I had no idea how to do this, but my daughters and former students from Turkey helped me. We were amazed when one video, in which I talk about my home in Japan, received so many views [currently more than 1.7 million] and strangers even recognized me when I went back to Turkey for a holiday.
What sets your channel apart? I think the fact that my videos are in Turkish. Turkish people have so many questions about Japan. Right now, they’re asking me a lot about the coronavirus!
“Oita was really different. It felt more like old Japan”
What do you love about Japan? A lot of things, especially how clean and safe it is and the fact that I can go everywhere on my bicycle – in Turkey, this would not be possible.
Your favorite place to travel in Japan? Oita Prefecture. I feel that many places in Japan are beautiful but they are similar to each other. But Oita is really different. It feels more like old Japan, not crowded, and the onsen and nature are amazing.
Compiled by Annemarie Luck and Yuda Chou.
Photos by David Jaskiewicz