Judging by the New Year’s resolutions I’m hearing so far this year, the internet was a real source of frustration for a lot of people in 2018.
Thanks to a constant stream of bad news resulting in outrage that takes up most of the day — remember the person who got angry at baby strollers on Japanese trains, or anything related to those Mario Karts, not to mention the reveal that Facebook knew everything about us and was selling it off to whatever service would pony up the cash? — going off the grid in 2019 might be the best decision we could make.
As immigrants and temporary residents in Japan, however, it’s likely not practical that we can completely cut ourselves off from our online existences. Social media is our connection to our old homes, and to people like us in our new one. The better move, then, may be to adjust our digital diets. Going local can help, connecting us to a community with some like-minded concerns and solutions. There are a lot of online tools that can improve everyday life here, at least until the kids from the troll farms make a mess of them.
To try to help in this endeavor, I’d like to share some of the better accounts and pages for non-Japanese residents that I’ve found while spending many hours on the internet.
The bulk of YouTube’s Japan-centric channels are geared toward people living outside of the country, so finding creators who make content suitable for those actually based here isn’t easy. Dogen delivers equal parts Japanese lessons and laughs derived from common (and sometime frustrating) situations non-Japanese residents face in their everyday lives and is worth checking out, while Nihongo no Mori features Japanese creators giving lessons on how to tackle the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test.
For those hoping to improve their knowledge of Japanese pop culture — especially when it comes to anime and video games — Tokyosaurus breaks down all the trends in a way that’s sure to impress your co-workers during lunchtime chats. Or maybe they’ll just dismiss you as an otaku — it’s all in the way you present it.
Are you looking for new music to help you get through that morning commute? The just-launched Tokyo Wave! puts a spotlight on new electronic dance tracks from up-and-coming artists in the metropolis.
However, sometimes you just need to stick to the classics. Rachel and Jun remain one of the steadier J-vlogging channels going in the country, offering looks into daily life that are engaging. Jun also runs JunsKitchen, an informative and funny stop for food, knife cleaning and cats. Lots of cats. Max D. Capo features far less felines, but still provides some welcome videos and interviews regarding the mixed-race experience in the nation (plus, bodybuilding).
Facebook had a pretty rough year, though some might argue that it was only a matter of time before its practices caught up with it. On a more positive note, the new Facebook group Tokyo Good Karma illustrates what’s good about Mark Zuckerberg’s service. Tokyo Good Karma refers to itself as “a community where we can all do good deeds for others, without the expectation of anything in return.” Users can post whatever they want, ranging from announcements about volunteering opportunities around the capital to more general chances to promote upcoming events. Blind optimism isn’t always the best move, but the upbeat nature of Tokyo Good Karma offers a nice respite from, well, no shortage of areas on the web.
If actions leave you unfulfilled, perhaps physical goods can make up for it. Tokyo Sayonara Sales remains one of the most reliable ways to snag deals on items people don’t need anymore as they prepare to move (and, of course, it’s a great way to get rid of stuff you don’t want to lug to your next destination). Mottainai Japan rejects any hint of capitalism in favor of allowing members to simply give or take items they do or don’t need.
Support networks will likely trump the freebies, though. Stonewall Japan provides support to the LGBTQ community, while TELL Japan is increasingly getting involved in creating events to match its hotline support for non-Japanese speakers in crisis.
Tokyo Mothers Group offers a space online for English-speaking moms to connect with one another, and Tokyo Vegan/Vegetarian Friends Club hosts a digital community that aims to help those eschewing meat from their diet. Wine Tasting Tokyo posts information about upcoming events centered around the drink for those moments when liquid support proves most useful.
Twitter and Instagram
One good Twitter goal for 2019 is to make all that endless scrolling worth your time. User @akokitamura shares Japanese vocabulary — sometimes tied to current events and other times just plain useful — along with quizzes to help get the brain working. The threads user @mulboyne conjures up provide deep dives on Japan-related topics, often on topics you’d never guess would conceal such depth, such as Italian restaurants. Coupled with one-off posts, it’s one of the best English-language resources for Japan’s unexpected history.
Pictures and videos can be just as enriching on the timeline. @TokyoFashion snaps photos and takes footage of the city’s most stylish folks, alongside with news related to the world of Japanese street fashion. It’s a visually appealing follow on both Twitter and Instagram, and a welcome rejoinder to the narrative that Harajuku’s sartorial side is in decline. And then, @eigofashionstylelove gives a more humorous take on style.
Make sure to rate, review and subscribe to The Japan Times’ own Deep Dive. How many podcasts feature an interview with one of Japan’s two women astronauts?!?!
All shilling aside, the podcast bug has hit the non-Japanese community, and independent creators across the county have created engaging conversations for your commute to work or lunchtime walk. Chris Broad is one of the more prominent “J-vloggers” going, but starting from last year he also waded into podcasting with the charming Abroad In Japan show featuring Pete Donaldson. Every episode finds the pair discussing Japan-related (and sometimes beyond) topics in an easy-to-digest way that will appeal to even lifers who think they’ve heard it all.
On a similar wave, Kurly In Kansai finds two women, Ayana and Alyse, tackling all kinds of topics pertinent to anyone living in Japan. Shows so far have discussed mental health, misconceptions about the country and clubbing in Osaka. It’s a fun listen, not to mention a nice change of pace from all these Tokyo-born pieces of media.
If studying is your goal, then make sure to check out Japanese Pod 101.
Reddit can be a hit-or-miss experience when it comes to … well, anything. When it comes to living in Japan, there are numerous sub-reddits devoted to life here that vary wildly in quality and general friendliness. If you’re looking for a middle ground, a great one is r/japanlife, a place full of plenty of knuckleheads and folks wondering why you can’t use Google to find answers to your problems (which, fair point), but one that also offers a solid space to reach out to others based here for help and to vent. For those in the education field, r/teachinginjapan provides job postings, advice and … a place to vent.
But we can’t stay young and angry forever, which is why the last site to incorporate into your daily digital life is Retire Japan. As the title implies, this is one of the best English-language resources on the web for retirement in Japan, though it also offers an assortment of other financial guidance. We could all use some help in preparing for the future, and here’s a good way to do it.
Whether you’re scrolling through sub-reddits or listening to podcasts on the train or scrolling Instagram on your lunch, just remember that it doesn’t hurt to get to the park now and then — your eyes will thank you.
Look for local content in your social media
It used to be that living outside of Tokyo meant severing all connection to pop culture, but not any more. Finding the right sites and accounts to follow online can keep you in the loop with what’s going on and, if you find local content creators, can make the place you live even better.
When it comes to Hamamatsu itself, the websites In Hamamatsu and Hamamatsu Street News provide a lot of great information. When speaking of online entertainment, though, I find YouTube to be a better destination.
Rody in Japan is a YouTuber and Instagrammer based in Hamamatsu. He has a Japanese mother and a Pakistani-British father, and has been vlogging about his experiences in Japan since 2013. Japonessica is a sansei Brazilian YouTuber and Instagrammer based in Shizuoka who vlogs in Portuguese. Despite the linguistic barrier, having an insight into the community is really interesting.
Outside of Shizuoka, a lot of the content YouTubers are producing is stuff that will interest you no matter where you live in the country.
The Black Experience Japan provides authentic and candid interviews with black residents on their experiences in this country and how they are trying to find their place here.
KemushiChan is a graduate student studying business here in Japan. She vlogs about her life as a student, studying Japanese, traveling and more.
Finally, AsianBoss is a channel that talks about many different communities in Japan, including Japanese residents who give their perspectives on current events and social issues. They dive into all kinds of topics, including the LGBTQ community, mental health and natural disasters. (Farrah Hasnain)