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The Uwaga Pies

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STAFF WRITER

The YouTube duo known as The Uwaga Pies — Krzysztof Gonciarz, from Poland, and Kasia Mecinski, from America — use their channel to give English-speakers a peek into Japan.

The pair originally tried to document every single day of their lives in Tokyo for about six months and are now producing longer videos about their travels and experiences, whether it’s climbing Mount Fuji or attending a Japanese wedding. They also host frequent Q&As to answer viewers’ questions.

How would you, in your own words, summarize the content you create?

The message we want to get across is how easy it is this day and age to live in different countries, learn about new cultures and thus broaden your horizons. Right now we are both living in Japan, but we want to explore more of the world in the future. Our style wouldn’t be just traveling, though. Our vision is to actually live in different places and indulge ourselves in new cultures.

How did you two meet?

We met through a mutual friend that we both previously worked with. Kris was recording a series about Japan in Polish when our friend introduced us to each other. Since then, we decided to team up and start working on videos in English because we have backgrounds that complement each other.

What brought both of you to Japan?

Kasia: I originally had this dream of living on every continent at some point in my life. I started with Japan because it seemed like the most foreign country compared to what I was familiar with (the United States). Originally, I planned to stay for a year or two but there’s something about Japan that’s still keeping me here. However, I do one day still plan to check off Europe, Africa and Australia off the list.

Kris: I had been doing YouTube videos for a few years before I came here. I was supposed to do a project about Japan for my Polish channels, stay for two months and then go back. Unsurprisingly, I liked Japan so much, I just had to stay longer. I think the food and the people were the two main factors that made me want to stay here.

Your style appears to be more professional than most vloggers. What is your background in creating content?

Kasia: I’m decently new to the game. I played around with video a bit in university but most of my technical experience comes from working with Kris. I graduated with a degree in advertising, which sharpened my storytelling skills and made me sensitive to the demands of an audience. Kris carries more of the weight when it comes to the technical aspects of video production.

Kris: I’ve been doing videos for about eight years now, and I had experience in many different genres of online video, so I guess this helps in controlling our style a bit more than you usually see on YouTube. The trick is, on YouTube you shouldn’t go too professional either, because when you do, your videos look like half-assed TV/film productions. You have to retain the DIY, homemade feel, so the content is relatable for the audience.

On that note, what equipment do you tend to use?

It depends on what we’re filming but our cameras include simple point-and-shoot cameras, like the Canon G7X or Sony RX100 IV, to more professional gear, like Lumix GH4 or Sony A7s, or stuff like DJI Ronin for stabilization. We adjust the equipment depending on how professional of a look we are going for. Because we have a video production company here, we are lucky to have more in our arsenal to work with than other YouTubers.

What’s interesting, the majority of episodes of TheUwagaPies Daily were shot on the G7X, a ¥60,000 point-and-shoot, very simple and convenient. For people trying to get into YouTubing, sticking to simple hardware is a good option. Excessive gear can become distracting, and when you’re limited, that’s when you become creative.

In one video, you talk a bit about obtaining a business permit. Would you mind elaborating a bit on that?

Japan is making itself easier and easier for foreigners to start businesses here. And with our expertise and idea – an online-oriented video production company — there is a good market, because we’re one of the first companies in that field in Japan. Moreover, we find that Japanese companies — when they’re dealing with online business — want to work with foreigners, as this gives them a fresh perspective. All in all, it was a good decision to build our presence in Japan, and starting a company here was not as complicated as many foreign investors would think.

You’ve opted out of the daily video format. What direction do you plan on taking your future videos? Do you have anything specific in mind?

Kasia: We’re still figuring this, out but we want to be able to focus more on specific subjects in each video. The daily format, although fun, was really challenging and didn’t allow us enough time to do much research for upcoming videos. We have a lot of cool ideas in mind for longer format videos, some documentary style, some short and sweet on the delivery. I really enjoy the documentary videos we worked on in the past, those gave me the most satisfaction.

Kris: We need to grow our channel a bit more before coming back to the daily format. I really loved making it, I think it was pretty unique as far as Japan-themed videos go. Unfortunately, due to business reasons, it wasn’t sustainable on the scale that our channel has now. We need to start making more focused videos now, the kind that will spread a bit easier.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from doing this?

Kasia: Dress in basic bold colors. It makes you seem fashionable with little effort.

Kris: It sounds like a joke, but it’s true. Making a new video everyday makes you very much aware of your clothing. Simple, minimalist style is the best for daily vlogging, because it doesn’t get repetitive.

In terms of YouTube, what have been some of your greatest successes?

Kasia: I would say growing our channel by 40,000 in a matter of a few months. Still a long way to PewDiePie, but it’s something! From a more professional standpoint, I’m quite happy and proud of the consistently high quality of our content.

Kris: The most popular video we made was a street survey about Japanese people’s knowledge of Poland. It went viral in Poland and scored over a million views.

And the most economically pleasing afternoon we had was going to see that tobacco stand with a shiba inu dog that supposedly sold cigarettes. We made a video about it that caught the viral wave there. A simple video, really, almost unsatisfying creatively because all we did was film the dog. It’s still the most popular video on our channel, and a few TV networks broadcasted it with our permission.

Goes to show that Tokyo is full of viral surprises, and if you’re one of the first people to figure something new out, you can get popular in a really short time.

Are there any videos that were more popular than you anticipated they would be?

Kasia: “We lost a phone” — our fourth daily vlog has been our most popular vlog out of the whole series. It’s extremely popular among the Japanese audience. It starts off as a bad situation (losing a phone) that works out fine in the end (the phone was found). We thought it would be just another regular video but it seems the the message in the video, that Japan is a really safe and trustworthy country, really resonated with the audience.

Kris: I think the Japanese audience likes to see us travel outside of Tokyo. Regional attractions, specialties and flavors of different prefectures has really been a key in getting more exposure in Japanese media for us. I think the Tokyo theme in YouTube videos might be a bit exhausted, because there’s a lot of people trying to make videos here, and then there’s a lot of regional pride connected to every Japanese prefecture. With that said, our videos like a trip to Yamanashi were really resonating with Japanese audiences, some got picked up by the media.

What is your advice to up-and-coming YouTubers out there?

Kasia: Enjoy it!

Kris: I’d say don’t be afraid to start publishing stuff, even if it feels half-made. You won’t make it perfect the first few times around, and learning is much more efficient if you can factor in real audience reactions. I don’t know a single YouTuber who didn’t start off with videos that looked amateurish, most recognized creators are actually a bit embarrassed to see their first videos after a few years of progress. It’s only natural.