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.
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.
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.
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?