National / Media | Japan Pulse

Some YouTubers in Japan have taken going for a drive to the next level

by Patrick St. Michel

Contributing Writer

Ever wanted to escape the stress of life in the big city, spend some time in the countryside and just … cook up a Philly cheesesteak and play video games?

Well, that’s what the creator behind YouTube channel TerusanTV does on a regular basis. The Tokyo resident uploads videos often starting with shots of the capital overlaid with text outlining how exhausting life as a salaryman can be. To remedy it, Teru-san makes a beeline for the countryside. Once he arrives at locations in such places as the Chiba coast or the Yamanashi mountains, he just relaxes in his car, prepares some food using a selection of portable kitchen tools and occasionally even enjoys a beer.

TerusanTV has charmed many, both domestically and abroad. The channel currently boasts more than 133,000 subscribers, while uploads typically record six-digit view counts. Comments posted under each clip are a mix of awe at what he’s doing, and a desire to follow his lead and indulge in similar activities. Pages online are devoted to learning more about him, while users on Twitter gush about how his content gets them nostalgic for youth or helps them with daily healing.

His channel is just one of many — both intentionally and unintentionally — helping those in Japan imagine life outside of sprawling cities. It’s a trend that has been growing outside of the internet in recent years, but not everyone is able to pack up and ship off to the countryside. Many turn to YouTube to live vicariously through others who are able to experience a bit of the slow life. And this desire is propelling a number of creators forward.

These creators often have more to offer than just snapshots of a simpler life in the countryside. TerusanTV is one of several high-profile names in the world of videos starring people who basically camp in their motor vehicles. Even more prominent, however, is a channel called Runtime, with more than 145,000 subscribers. The Okayama-based creator behind the channel shows how one can live life from the backseat, whether that’s by demonstrating how to cook oden in a motor vehicle or how to get through a typhoon. There are also camping YouTubers such as Hiroshi Channel and Kentarou In The Woods, who rough it in the wilderness outside of an automobile.

One of the big attractions to these videos is the adventurous spirit demonstrated by the creators. Runtime’s Twitter profile mentions it specifically, stating that they have the ability to wander as freely as they like (at least in the videos). Given how many people have to move to major cities to pursue work and other opportunities — Tokyo and its vicinity is the only metropolitan center in Japan that recorded a growing population in 2018 — watching someone else live how they want must be appealing.

It helps that the speed of life in rural parts of the country looks significantly slower than urban life. Being envious of how easy-breezy those in the countryside have it isn’t a new development — it has been a central theme to all sorts of Japanese pop culture creations, from enka music to the animated film “Your Name.” — but the internet has made it easier to take a sneak peek into other people’s lives.

In my opinion, no channel on YouTube does this better than Momo And Ten, which focuses on a dog and a cat in Kagoshima Prefecture. Their videos have becomes staples on daily trending rankings, and that’s probably because of how cute the animals are. Still, I’m also charmed by their owner’s spacious, old-school house, surrounded by fields and trees. And then there’s their general easy-going life. Maybe it’s a bit ridiculous to be jealous of two pets, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering what it would be like to just ditch the crowded trains in favor of incessant insect noises.

Online, there are no shortage of ways to indulge in the simple life. You can watch YouTubers wander through small towns or, if you prefer not to listen to people babble, watch a slideshow. The countryside has proven popular with non-Japanese creators too, while a recent “walking simulator” called “Nostalgic Train” is built around a longing for the countryside (you can bet that people film themselves playing it). The Instagram hashtags for rural life, meanwhile, make it look like a dream.

However, like most fantasies, this longing for life in the countryside is probably best experienced digitally. Moving away from social media, you encounter stories of young folks who did relocate to the countryside, only to find that it doesn’t match up to their expectations at all. Even videos outlining the pros and cons of the city vs. the country remind viewers that all the good parts (no congested trains) are countered by less than stellar realities (everything closes early, everyone knows what everyone else is doing).

Maybe seeing it through the eyes of other people — and pets — is actually the best way to go?