Mr. Yabatan wasn't quite satisfied with the attention he was getting on YouTube in late 2017. The Tokyo-based Norwegian creator had connected with an audience with the short, humorous videos he'd made, in which he spoke heavily accented Japanese in the style of numerous European languages.

"My videos were going well — abroad," he tells The Japan Times. "I had lots of foreign fans on Facebook and Instagram. I thought that was really cool, but I was still lacking what I came to Japan for, which was the Japanese audience."

It didn't take him long after to become a hit with domestic viewers. On Dec. 2, he uploaded a seasonally appropriate clip that found Mr. Yabatan — Yabatan is the name of the French character he has settled on — taking in the lights at Tokyo Midtown. It's part slapstick and part wide-eyed wonder. Two days after putting it up, Yabatan says he glanced at his phone to see it overloaded with notifications from Instagram.