Her moniker on YouTube says it all — born and raised in Kyoto, thatjapanesegirl has lived in Japan all her life, moving to Tokyo just this year. With more than 24,000 subscribers to her two YouTube channels, thatjapanese girl, who prefers to withhold her real name, is one of Japan’s most viewed English-speaking vloggers. Since she started vlogging in January 2009, thatjapanesegirl has been profiled in Japanese media, including NHK. Entertaining both foreign and Japanese viewers with her bilingual videos, thatjapanesegirl become serious about her English-language studies by abandoning Japanese television shows and watching only English ones instead. Whether she’s teaching lessons in Kansai dialect(she’s a certified language teacher), sampling Lotteria cheeseburgers or exploring the streets of Harajuku, this charismatic J-vlogger makes being a Japanese girl look very fun.
How long have you lived in Japan? Did you ever spend time overseas?
I grew up in Kyoto and I’ve never lived abroad. So I learned English through junior high and high school. I had six years of regular classes. I also love movies and TV shows and I wanted to understand them without subtitles. I love “Lost.”
What made you decide to start blogging?
Actually I was on TV two years ago. And I wanted to share that news with my friends but unfortunately, they are all in different countries. So I thought that if I put that video on YouTube it would be easier to share. I started with a short clip and then I started watching some other people’s videos and I realized that not many other Japanese girls are blogging from Japan. Also, at that time in 2008, YouTube had a Japan YouTube hour or something like that. And all nominated videos were non-Japanese people. That’s cool but, I feel like more Japanese people should talk about Japanese culture. And then I decided, “OK, I can do it.”
Why did you choose to start using YouTube? Do you think there are differences between Japanese-speaking vlogger communities and English-speaking ones?
A few years ago, I was not an Internet geek. Then I found YouTube and there were a lot of interesting videos and I really got into it. There is a kind of a YouTube blogging community, but there aren’t many Japanese people there. They have no idea about making collaboration videos and how to belong to the community. And it’s kind of hard to explain to them. There are a few Japanese bloggers in this community, but I don’t know how to get more Japanese people.
Why do you think they aren’t more Japanese people vlogging?
One of the reasons is that it’s a society thing. A lot of Japanese people are kind of afraid to show their faces and to speak in front of lots of people.
Your videos range from topics such as getting your hair cut to exploring the streets of Harajuku to lessons about Kansai dialect. Which types of videos do you enjoy making the most?
My main channel has Kansai dialect lessons, which is fun, but personally I enjoy making random things on my second channel, thisjapanesegirl. People like my lesson videos, but I sometimes feel pressure, honestly. So I feel like making random things sometimes. I think I have good, fun ones now.
When you are teaching Japanese, do you ever worry about teaching someone the wrong thing, especially when teaching the Kansai dialect?
My English is OK to communicate with people, but sometimes I make lots of mistakes. When I teach something, even in Japanese, I try not to. I have to make sure everything is correct so I check the Internet and sometimes books. So I’m not sure I’m saying everything I want to say.
Has your perception of Japan changed at all since you started vlogging?
I see Japanese things with a different aspect. I always observed different people and I liked it, but I didn’t think “Oh, that’s funny.” But since I started making videos about Japan I look at something like, “What might be weird for foreigners?” or “What might be wrong?”
You recently created a new channel, thisjapanesegirl. What’s the reason for the switch and what is the difference between your two channels?
I realized I have some personal videos and the lesson videos kind of mixed up on one channel. And I thought if I have two channels, one with personal videos and the main channel with lesson videos, then people can choose what they want to see. I think it’s easier for them to follow me.
Actually, these are my friends! And I want to promote their videos, but I don’t like to make”shout-out” videos saying “check that video, check that channel.” I don’t like that style. So I tried to make videos with them just drinking and having fun. So then people can say, “Oh, OK, there’s another channel I can go to.”
Your brother appears in a few of your videos. How did you convince him to get on camera and how does your family feel about your YouTube success?
When I started, my parents had no idea. They were like, “What are you doing?” And they still can’t find my channel either! But when I was on NHK last year, they realized, “Wow, that’s cool” and that I’m actually doing something. It made my grandparents and everyone happy. Suddenly they were thinking, “Wow, YouTube is cool for sharing things with a lot of people.”
My brother, he doesn’t care what I’m doing. But when I ask him he says, “OK, it sounds interesting” and then he helps me. He looks so bored!
What was your experience like being on NHK?
I was so excited that I can’t remember exactly. But it helped me to make more videos. Someone watched my videos and found them interesting and they offered me the chance to be on TV or in a magazine. That was really cool and I feel like I did something good.
Where do you see your vlog going in the future?
I don’t know, but I hope more Japanese people start making blogging videos. Recently a lot of people started making Japanese lesson videos. But I want them to make videos talking more about culture, not just language. And in the future I would want to help them and make some videos with them.