Learning About Japan Without Actually Being in Japan!

Photo courtesy of Tokyo Lens
When I say "Japan" what do you think about? I'm guessing that if you hear about Japan in the news, it's probably about some technological innovations or a natural disaster. And now, Japan is in the news because of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics!

A lot of people are going to be attending these Olympics. To be honest, some of the people reading this blog are going to be attending these Olympics! Heck, I am attending these Olympics!

I know that as soon as the flame was extinguished in Rio, I made a commitment to get to Tokyo in 2020. To get myself ready, I started looking online for content creators that could help me understand the country even better than I did in 2016.

My background knowledge of Japan at the time was their involvement in World War II and anime. Yup, I had no real understanding about the culture, language, or people of the country. So I wanted to change that!

Over three years I have discovered many different people who live in Japan and make it their living to tell people all over the world about Japan's culture, language, and people. I discarded a few, but developed a strong attachment to others. It wasn't just the enigmatic nature of the content creators, but how they developed a close connection to the people and didn't just make this a Logan Paul insult. They have spoken the language, learned the culture, and eaten the food. (So. Much. Food.) Plus, they have a great respect for Japan overall. I appreciate that.

With about nine months to go, some of you might want to learn about Japan before Mary Carillo tells you. So I'm going to make a nice list of podcasts, Twitter and Instagram handles, and YouTube channels that will get you the education you desire without it actually feeling like education.

Tokyo Lens

  • Creator: Norm Nakamura
  • Country of Origin: Canada 
  • Been in Japan Since: about 2007
  • Fun Fact: Norm learned the Japanese instrument shamisen from a famous shamisen music duo: the Yoshida Brothers
  • I think that Norm has the best YouTube channel about Japan out there. He has a lot of fun and makes sure to educate people. He has a sense of genuine joy at everything in Japan and wants to learn as much as possible. If you like tangents, then you should listen to his podcast. Sometimes he will have guests on or record on the streets of Tokyo, but most of the time he is in his room giving you a ton of information on a certain topic. He's a great photographer, and his Instagram has some gorgeous shots. He has a great network of friends who are also content creators!

Abroad in Japan
  • Name: Chris Broad (get it?)
  • Country of Origin: Great Britain
  • Been in Japan Since: 2012
  • Fun Fact: Last October Chris spent a month cycling through all of Japan. He chronicled every day on his YouTube channel! (Oh, and the title of this blog is based on the tagline of his podcast.)
  • Chris was the first Japanese channel that I followed, and it is definitely intended for the broader YouTube audience most of the time. His last video was all about crazy mascots that have popped up in Japan, and it was full of quick cuts and quirky sound effects. But those odd videos that give him the views allows him the opportunity to create more serious documentaries. This month he released one that covers the aftermath of the areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster of 2011, and it shows he is really good at his craft. Chris also does a podcast (called the Abroad In Japan Podcast) with cohost Pete Donaldson, a radio personality out of London, and I really, really enjoy listening to the podcast. The two of them just work off of each other so well. Note: his channel does use explicit language.

  • Name: Sharla 
  • Country of Origin: Canada
  • Been in Japan Since: 2011
  • Fun Fact: Sharla moved for a few years to South Korea before returning to Japan earlier this year. 
  • I really liked all the videos that Sharla put out, but when I started following her YouTube channel, I was dismayed to see that she had moved out of Japan! It was nice that she came back this year, but it wasn't under great circumstances (she and her husband split up). She has bounced back with a vengeance and is the one creator that seems to just fit in Japan. 

Only In Japan
  • Name: John Daub
  • Country of Origin: America
  • Been in Japan Since: 2003
  • Fun Fact: John works for NHK, an English-speaking public TV network 
  • Since John works for NHK, his main YouTube videos have more of a news-magazine-style feel to them. There are sitdown interviews, travel shots, and voiceovers. His wife is Japanese, and the two of them also have a livestream channel (Only In Japan GO!) that they do together. 

Tokyo Creative
  • This is actually a joint effort by a bunch of content creators that are based out of Tokyo - some of which I've mentioned above, and some that I don't follow. If you want a good cross-section of YouTubers in Japan, this is the best place for it. Their founder, Chris Okano, has made this an agency and puts a bunch of creators under one umbrella. If you enjoy crossovers on television, then you'll love this channel!

TDR Explorer
  • Name: Chris Nilghe
  • Country of Origin: Canada
  • Been in Japan Since: 2016?
  • Fun Fact: Chris isn't exclusive to Japan; he has spent a lot of time in China as well.
  • Chris is someone I enjoy for a different reason than the others: his content is almost completely dedicated to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySEA. So I actually follow him for his Disney tweets and news updates! But he does have a podcast and blog that covers other items in Tokyo and the surrounding areas. It's just a bit of fun!
Donny Kimball
  • Name: ...Donny Kimball
  • Country of Origin: Japan!
  • Been in Japan: for a long time
  • Fun Fact: His Instagram pictures are fantastic. Definitely take a look.
  • Donny's blog, Twitter, and Instagram promote "a different side of Japan" so a lot of the stuff he shows won't usually be seen on other channels. I have the least amount of contact with Donny's stuff compared to the others I've referenced, but it is off the beaten path of stuff I've followed. 

So there are a few of the creators I regularly follow! Of course there's the official Tokyo and Olympic channels, but these will get you the culture, language, and history that you might want to know before July 24. And you might even be able to identify these cultural high points when the Opening Ceremony takes place instead of some talking head explaining it to you!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????

...No. But it will be in less than eleven months!

I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! Look back on previous posts to hear about my trips to the US Curling National Championships, the US Figure Skating Championships, and my very successful quest to acquire tickets for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics!


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