A lot has changed over the past decade insofar as Japanese content on YouTube is concerned, with creators moving away from uploads that simply record personal experiences to posts that give viewers real insight into the lives and opinions of Japanese people.
No longer are non-Japanese residents using YouTube to share snippets of life here with family and friends overseas in a manner that was once reserved for blogs in the 2000s.
Sure, influential Japan-based YouTubers such as Chris Broad and Life Where I’m From have built a loyal audience by producing strong content here in Japan. Nevertheless, it’s YouTube channels based overseas that are attracting the most attention these days. Asian Boss is one such channel, producing engaging street interviews alongside features on Japan such as “Being a single mother in Japan” and “Meet a real samurai.”
While the sample size of such surveys is small, these types of uploads attempt to provide genuine Japanese opinions on subjects that often get bulldozed by English-language media.
“People already have the wrong image of Japan,” Yuta Aoki told The Japan Times in 2016. “They have very twisted, distorted, biased images of Japan. I think my videos feature normal Japanese people just talking about normal things.”
YouTuber Paolo from Tokyo appears to be doing the best work inside the country’s borders in terms of offering an insight into the ordinary lives of Japanese people.
What started as low-view vlogs on skateboarding mutated into travel tips for tourists, a genre that has always been in demand but soon became oversaturated.
True success, though, came with a contribution titled “Day in the life of a typical Japanese office worker in Tokyo,” which spun off to focus on mothers and manga artists. These routinely attract millions of views, and have become some of the highest performing English-language uploads about Japan of all time. Most telling of all — Paolo from Tokyo even received a light roasting on TikTok.
Save for that ribbing, Paolo’s channel taps into a curiosity about how Japanese people actually experience life, even if their daily existence isn’t gripping entertainment. It could reflect a shift toward more “authentic” content, or a “Terrace House”-ization of YouTube, with plain and simple content beating out the more unpredictable. Maybe viewers outside Japan are just burned out on J-vloggers (or J-vloggers burned out on J-vlogging).
But for those hoping to go on a journey into the unknown and encounter dubious factoids along the way, don’t worry, because plenty of tourists are still pumping out videos offering up a perpetual state of honeymoon. Visitors heading off to far-flung locations or riding trains still proliferate, as do uploads of popular influencers having a pretty uneventful stay in the capital. There’s also the time-tested formula of highlighting Japan’s perceived wackiness and uniqueness for clicks, regardless of how accurate any of it is. And there’s always convenience stores.
Plenty has changed when it comes to YouTubers in Japan trying to share with the world what life is like in the country, while the continued flow of inbound tourists (at least for the moment) continues to result in plenty of positivity. That said, there’s another truth that pretty much remains constant — the least-expected content always gets the most views, and nothing from the above has attracted more attention than a video of two kids exchanging toys from Japan and the United States. Do pint-sized collaborations represent the next YouTube wave?