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My favourite Japan related YouTube channels

I get most of my Japan travel ideas and information from YouTube channels. I started my “J-vlogger” viewing about five years ago, at the tail end of the first or second wave of the phenomenon. J-vloggers are mostly non-Japanese (mostly Americans, Canadians and Australians) living in Japan and uploading videos to YouTube about their experiences living in Japan. Often (starting out) as English teachers, sometimes moving on to other jobs, sometimes becoming full time YouTubers.

The first channels I watched were Gimmeabreakman ( ‘the godfather of jvlogging’ ), his Two and a half Oyaji co-host Hikosaemon and Rachel and Jun. In those days there was quite a bit of interaction between these and other early channels as well as a lot of drama. I still check in with these channels from time to time, but they generally don’t provide much actual travel information. Rachel and Jun seem to be mostly posting a lot of videos about their cats, though Jun has his own extremely popular cooking channel “JunsKitchen” which is always good to watch. The channels listed below are the ones I watch most regularly and mostly for their travel related information.

These are my favourite Japan travel related channels (in 2019):

  • Abroad in Japan
    One of the best known Japan related channels out there is Chris Broad’s Abroad in Japan. British, sarcastic and proud of it, Chris’s videos are bloody succesful for exactly that reason and because he’s good at picking subjects that appeal. To viewers. Or YouTube’s algorithm. Who knows. Chris also has a knack for making interesting friends with quirky personalities, like Natsuki and Ryotaro who both regularly feature on the channel.
  • NinjaMonkey
    Subject-wise, Ninja Monkey (Nathan) is the channel that appeals to me the most. Gibraltar based, Nathan is at a similar stage in the Japan travel experience timeline as I am. We’ve both done all the stuff that’s in travel guides (Tokyo-Kyoto-Hiroshima) and are now exploring beyond that. Nathan is one step ahead of me, he’s done 9 trips, I’ve done 8. Last year he did Shikoku, just before I went there a few months later. His most recent trip in Summer 2019 covered Chugoku (see the video above), an area I have scheduled for next year. Basically I could just copy his itinerary and I’m good to go.
  • Tabieats
    Probably my favourite YouTube couple are Shinichi and Satoshi. They make a lot of different types of videos and have recently separated them into different channels. I like their travel and their cooking videos best, but they also have a food review channel, a live channel, and individual personal channels. On their most recent one, “I will always travel for food” the videos only have ambient sound and subtitles, giving them an ASMR-like quality, like this one detailing a trip to Coco Curry:
  • Paolo from Tokyo
    Filipino-American Paulo de Guzman gave up his consulting job and software business to do YouTube full time. He and his wife Maiko create videos with a high emphasis on food (lots of ‘top ten’ type of content), but since they’ve started putting out really fun, informative “Day in the life of…” videos (salarymen, professional cosplayers, ramen chefs) and other ‘life in Japan’ related stuff, their channel has become essential viewing.

YouTube Hanami

Every year when the cherry blossoms in Tokyo are at full bloom, J-vloggers in Japan organise the YouTube Hanami in Yoyogi Park. The photo up top was taken by Kazz Takahashi at the 2019 version of the party. You can find me in it. If you follow a lot of J-vloggers it can be fun to attend this. Bring some food and drinks and get on the blue tarp!

I also watch:

  • Simon and Martina
    Previously based in Korea, this couple moved to Japan a few years back. One of their videos about ramen made me travel to Fukuoka to experience Kurume ramen for myself. They’re naturals on camera which makes watching easy and fun.
  • Life where I’m from
    Greg started this channel from the point of view of his children, but he has evolved into a solid documentary maker. Not afraid to investigate social issues in Japan.
  • Jennifer Julien
    French foodie Jennifer Julien started her channel encouraged by her friend John Daub from Only In Japan (see below). Jennifer works in Japanese broadcasting, has her own food range in Japanese shops and moves in different circles than most J-vloggers, her live streams will give you a different perspective life in Japan.
  • Only in Japan
    Very popular channel by John Daub, who travels all over Japan to highlight interesting areas and topics. Regular live streaming.

As a bonus, these are some of the channels I watch to improve my Japanese:

  • Yuki JapanFries
    Yuki is a young Japanese youtuber who does funny bilingual videos.
  • Japanese Ammo
    Misa teaches Japanese grammar covering both beginner and advanced topics.
  • Peaceful Cuisine
    Beautifully produced, soothing videos by Ryoya Takashima. If you want to see some of that famed Japanese “attention to detail”, go watch this guy grind coffee, or build a work bench. 2.1 million subscribers!

What channels do you watch?

Categories
Activities Destinations Food Video

Catch your own squid at the market in Hakodate

At the morning market in Hakodate (函館朝市, Hakodate asaichi), Hokkaido you can catch your own squid, have it cleaned and turned into sashimi for your breakfast. In the video above you’ll see how that works.

Hakodate is the third largest city in Hokkaido, the most northern prefecture of Japan. It lies at the foot of Mount Hakodata from where you have a wonderful view of the city and its surroundings. You can drive your car all the way to the top, or take a cable car.

Western influences

Architecture in Hakodata sometimes seems very Western, it reminds you of Greenwich in Engeland. Or Philadelphia. You’ll notice it in the Motomachi area and in the harbour. You’ll see a lot of red brick, which you won’t see in the rest of the country. Cruise ships doc at Hakodate daily. The many tourists who spend a day on shore go to the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse, to shop for all kinds of souvenirs. But what Hakodate is really known for is its market and its fish: tuna, squid, salmon roe, sea urchin and – often gigantic – crab.

Hakodate morning market

At a one minute walk from the station of Hakodate (JR Hakodate, not the bigger Shinkansen station at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto!) you’ll find the morning market which is open from 5am until 2pm. There are some 300 stands with food and a lot of fresh fish in particular. Look for the stand where you can fish for your own breakfast, you can’t miss the large acquarium full of squid.

Catch your own squid

Buy a ticket and you are given a rod and then you can do your thing. Some catch one within seconds, but if you are unlucky, it can take a while. Once you catch your squid, staff will offer a bucket to drop your squid in. She will take it to the table where a professional is filleting your catch. It’s a fascinating and somewhat gruesome process because the squid keeps moving even though its head has been chopped off. The tentacles may wander off by themselves. Within a minute your squid is handed back to you on a plate as slippery, rubbery sashimi. You can sit down at one of the tables to eat it. There are chopsticks, soy sauce and ginger on the tables. Even on your plate, parts of the dead animal keep moving, the  soy sauce triggers convulsions. These are automatic reactions to the salt in the sauce. The cells in the muscles that react to electric impulses are still working despite being disconnected from the brain. It’s a little creepy. What does the super fresh raw squid taste like? Primarily like the sea.

Donburi

Eating a plate of shivering limbs is nice, but the real party starts with the bowls of donburi that you can order from the many restaurants at Donburi Yokocho Ichiba, the food hall part of the market. Donburi is warm rice topped with another ingredient. Can be anyhing. Chicken or beef, tempura, and so on. But this is Hakodate and we’re at the fish market, so we’re talking kaisendon here. Kaisondon is rice with sea food: gorgeous salmon roe, creamy uni (the stuff that comes from sea urchins), plump sweet shrimp and crab meat, rounded off with s shiso leaf and a squeeze of wasabi. Yum.

Donburi - rijst met zeevruchten in Hakodate

Uni is an acquired taste. It can be bitter if its kept too long. No such thing in Hakodate. Straight from the sea in my bowl, it tasted salty, briny and a little sweet.

Lucky Pierrot

So you don’t like fish? Try Lucky Pierrot (ラッキーピエロ), Hakodate’s over the top answer to McDonalds. Their hamburgers are tasty and the restaurants have their own peculiar look.