Tokyo BTM is a YouTube channel that focuses on LGBTQ+ culture in Tokyo and beyond. Andrew Pugsley, from Canada, and Meng Delvey, who hails from mainland China, are behind this increasingly popular channel. Since they began in June 2020, they have garnered over 4 million views and have 50,000 subscribers.
When not exploring the many bars of Nichome in Shinjuku, the duo can be seen discussing various issues from the comfort of Andrew’s living room. Meng and Andrew’s videos have featured people from different walks of life — everyone from an American porn star working in Japan to Kodo Nishimura, aka the Japanese monk who wears heels.
1. How do you both balance YouTube with your daily lives?
Meng: In the beginning, I had phases where I was frustrated because I had no time to rest. In the past year and a half, I’ve built a healthier perspective on working. Other people are also doing the same thing, balancing a day job and personal projects.
Andrew: I think I’m still stuck in the difficult phase. Because I do my main job. And then once I finish, I start working on YouTube. On the weekend, we often film and if we’re not filming, I’m still working on YouTube editing. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. And so, there’s no time off anymore. To do something that you want to do, you have to be prepared to give up a lot.
2. How difficult is it to interview people nowadays given the nature of your channel and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic?
Meng: It’s getting a little bit easier than before, because in the beginning, we didn’t have any credibility. We just said, “We’re Tokyo BTM.” We are two foreigners trying to, you know, get into bars. The interviewees, like the bar owners got very skeptical.
Andrew: If Covid-19 didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have been able to keep this schedule. It would have been maybe two instead of four videos a month.
Meng: It’s actually why we started. We both love to hang out with our friends. But because of the pandemic, we were trying to adjust to the new lifestyle. And we didn’t really hang out with other people as often. I even think, without the pandemic, we would never have started YouTube.
3. What video did you enjoy making the most?
Meng: I love many of my videos, but my favorite is the very genuine conversation with June Lovejoy. She’s an American porn star working in the Japanese porn industry. I really enjoyed the conversation off camera with her and also on camera. And she’s just a sweetheart and so much fun.
Andrew: There are so many. I think I’ll choose our vlog videos. Our recent Sapporo video was really fun. Because we got to go out and do things. Our personalities come through a lot. I think when we’re out doing a vlog, we’re more easygoing. Because the whole process of shooting was just us having fun, you know?
4. What was the most difficult video to make?
Andrew: It’s the “top seven gay spots” video. I think it took 40 or 50 hours to make. It’s our longest video, almost 30 minutes, like a TV show episode. Also, that was around the time when I was using an older computer that was crashing all the time.
And then I realized to make the vlog video actually useful for people, I had to add certain things. So, I had to go back to every place and reshoot certain spots so that there weren’t holes in our guide.
Meng: There’s a video we did with a certain guest, it was very hard to navigate the conversation. And, every time I edited that video, it just gave me so much anxiety. The video with that person was just so chaotic. And I couldn’t find what he wanted to say in his storyline.
5. How has the response been to your channel?
Meng: Our community is extremely positive. Yes, there are some negative comments, but if you look at our videos, 99.5 percent are positive. Sometimes there are absolutely no negative comments. Everyone’s so supportive, even on my personal Instagram. People find me on Grindr and tell me they love the video. When I go to Nichome, people come up to me.
6. Who are your favorite YouTubers?
Meng: I think my all-time favorite is Michelle Phan, a makeup artist. I watched her since I was in high school. And also, I love Kelly Stamps.
Andrew: If we’re looking at Japan and Japanese content, I really like watching Sharmeleon videos. Tokidoki Traveller is funny as well. I’ve also been interested in a Welsh channel called Kinging-It.
7. Did you guys buy any special equipment when you started?
Meng: We did. We had Andrew’s professional Sony camera in the very beginning, but it was quite heavy. And it stopped filming every 30 minutes. So, it was not made for vlogging. At the same time, there was a Sony vlog camera, which was very compact, light and easy to use. So, we bought that and a good mic.
Andrew: I like gadgets. So, we buy new gadgets, not because we have to, but more because we just want our videos to be the best they can be.
8. What’s your advice for people who want to start YouTube?
Meng: Just do it. I feel like in the beginning, it’s never going to be perfect. You have to start and then learn and get better. And another thing is: be yourself. Don’t fake a persona because one day you’re going to be tired of it.
Andrew: Have a mission statement. You need to know what you’re wanting to create and why on your channel. And you have to stick to it. If you want to actually build a fan base and a brand, you’ll have to carve out something that’s very specific.
9. What are your goals going ahead? Are you exploring other platforms?
Andrew: Building a foundation for wider plans later down the line such as merchandise or working with certain brands, perhaps expanding to different types of social media. However, when working a full-time job, lack of time is a major issue.
Meng: I mean we do have lots of plans, you know, opening membership and doing side businesses. I love TikTok. I’m on it all the time. How can you squeeze so much content, a full story, into a 15-second or one-minute video? It’s a new storytelling mechanism. We also wanted to do YouTube Shorts, but we’re too busy.