To step in front of a camera involves elements of performance. It takes guts to share yourself, physically and mentally, be it on TikTok or YouTube. There’s a side to social media that exposes participants and can put them in awkward situations where they can be open to abuse or worse. When I sit down, over Zoom, and talk with Hannah Price and her partner Chris Kihara, the duo behind the YouTube channel Currently Hannah, they talk candidly about their journey from humble travelog to global success story with nearly 30 million views on the platform to date. 

Based in Osaka, the pair travel Japan exploring prefectures and off-the-beaten-track locations which, they hope, pique the interest of their ever-expanding following. From exploring the stunning hues of Nara’s autumn leaves to hiking in the Japanese Alps, the channel’s content has, perhaps unsurprisingly, become a huge success with many viewers living their Japanese travel dreams vicariously through Price and Kihara. However, Currently Hannah is more than a travel channel. Price also occasionally shares more personal videos like “Moving into My New Japanese Apartment” which shows a more intimate and realistic side to her life. 

Price explains that having a career as a performer has, perhaps, helped her in her work as a YouTuber. “I’m a performer by trade,” says Price. “Singing, acting and dancing. I was working at Universal Studios Singapore and had already lived in Japan for a bit. At that time I was really inspired by Casey Neistat and I thought I was going to a lot of cool places, which I wanted to share. I also saw that social media and YouTube was becoming a prominent part of people’s lives. So, I thought this could be a good thing for me to work on now.”

In only six years of making videos, the number of viewers has grown exponentially, something which she and Kihara are surprised and touched by. “It’s hard to fathom [that we have nearly 30 million views]. I can’t really imagine 30 million people. I am reminded, however, when I meet one of my viewers. It brings it home a little bit more. If they get some kind of value from my videos, if it helps them or affects them in some way or another, it’s a really awesome experience.”

Kihara’s skills at drone filming (Price calls Kihara the best FPV drone pilot in Japan) has given the channel an extra air of Hollywood production to the content they create. Price adds, “We try to focus on the visuals of the videos to make them as high quality as possible, using Chris’ drone shots and 4K footage.” 

The pair acknowledge the effect that the pandemic has had on their viewers and themselves. Stuck in Japan for the last few years, they have concentrated on finding less well-known locations that their viewers will appreciate and, perhaps, be comforted by. “Because of the last few years and the pandemic I’ve been forced to find things in Japan,” says Price. “I craved the outdoors, camping and hiking. Because we can’t travel outside of Japan, we found a lot of really incredible places here that I didn’t think were even in Japan. That’s one thing I’m thankful for — due to the pandemic. I’m getting a much deeper experience of what Japan has to offer. I think people like that I have a lot of outdoor content that perhaps isn’t generally recommended by tourism promotion and stuff you don’t normally see on YouTube.” 

I wondered, before meeting Price, what the normal routine for a social media content creator is like in terms of managing time and balancing schedules for YouTube and Instagram. She perfectly encapsulates her usual working week: 

“It’s a lot about balancing my day job with the social media stuff. I work probably two or three days a week at my job. All of the other days I sit at this very computer doing videos and on the weekends or two days a week Chris and I will drive somewhere and go for a hike or something like that depending on the weather. Before we go on a trip I have to decide whether or not I’m going to make a full video and then I prioritize videos the entire time. Trying to make sure I get enough shots and that’s when I ask Chris to take a bunch of photos for me. These photos usually end up on my Instagram page. And then later I edit the footage into videos and so on and put photos on my Instagram. So, I’m also getting a lot of help from Chris with photography and drone flying.”

When we move the interview towards speaking about sustainable travel and her own experiences in Kansai and being based not far from one of Japan’s major tourist attractions (before the pandemic), Kyoto, Price confirms her concern over the crowds, “It can make it very difficult to enjoy the scenery when it’s so crowded. There are constant bottle-necks because everyone is going to the same five shrines so the fact that the Japanese government wants to double the amount of tourists [is worrying].” 

“If they want to do that sustainably and in a way that is not going to harm the environment and become detrimental to the people living there, then they need to promote places that are off the beaten track to loosen up the traffic a little bit,” adds Price. “Yes, it makes natural places busier, of course, but at the same time the more people visit these more nature-focused places the more your passion for these spots grows and makes you want to preserve it even longer.” 

She has lived in Japan for seven years now and — apart from one year spent in Tokyo, — has always been in Osaka, a city that Kihara and Price seem to adore. Currently Hannah is still growing alongside the content on other associated social media platforms and it’s admirable that she and Kihara still plan to keep their day jobs, considering more and more content creators seem to be aiming to make YouTube and Instagram their full-time career. 

I ask about the near future and their general plans. They intend to buy a large car, probably a Jeep, so they can easily explore the more out-of-the-way locations, the nooks and crannies of a country that seems to hold a fascination for so many. With the Jeep, they hope to add a rooftop tent and open the car out at the rear so they can include camping and cooking gear. They look genuinely excited at the prospect and viewers can expect some brilliant new content in the coming year when the pair explores towns and villages and nature escapes that don’t usually pop up on social media feeds. 

More outlets and content creators are changing the landscape of Japan-related travel content, pointing visitors away from the usual suspects of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. There’s more to Japan, and it doesn’t really matter what you think of YouTubers and other content creators, if they, like Price and Kihara, are showcasing the best of the country and promoting less popular destinations. Travel and tourism are evolving and with trailblazers like Price and Kihara at the helm, the future looks bright. 

Photos courtesy of Hannah Price and Chris Kihara