Ah, Japan. The land of the rising sun. Home to the beautiful (Kiyomizu-dera Temple), the whimsical (Totoro and other Hayao Miyazaki creations) and the out-of-this-world (robot restaurants, anyone?).
Ask any local Japanese about their favourite places, and they’ll be more than happy to oblige. Food-wise, there’s nothing better than to receive this sliver of information, graciously imparted by a true Japanese dweller, so that you can enjoy the most authentic dining experience. But for first-time or foreign visitors, we’re also looking to check some things off our ‘touristy things to do’ list without actually sticking out like a sore thumb.
And what better way than to check out what Japan is truly like from the eyes of other foreigners, who share our excitement in discovering the novelty of new (and often weird) places, but have actually stayed in the country for a significant enough amount of time to know how to blend in seamlessly.
Enjoy this list of senpai (seniors) YouTubers who’ll show you the ropes and guide you through Japan. Nihon ni ikimashou! (Let’s go to Japan!)
Abroad in Japan
Topping our list, bringing with him his own brand of sarcastic British humour, is Chris Broad (hence the name “Abroad in Japan”, which I belatedly found out to be a clever pun). Originally from the UK, he moved to Japan and spent his first few years there as a teacher, where he discovered the horrors of the local English textbooks first-hand. Right now, Chris is a full-time YouTuber, currently making his way across Japan from Sakata, all the way down south to Kagoshima on a bicycle, in a series called Journey Across Japan.
Why we love: Together with his occasional sidekicks Natsuki and Ryotaro, Abroad in Japan’s videos show you a side of Japan that is fun and yet, at times, WTF.
Simon and Martina
For Canadian couple Simon and Martina Stawski, they first moved to South Korea before settling down in Japan in 2015, despite having gained a massive following in Korea. Foodies will be delighted to find out where to go and what to eat in Japan, as they take you on a virtual tour to a good mix of both everyday places and luxury restaurants. Note from the author: do not watch Simon and Martina’s videos when hungry. You’ve been warned.
Why we love: Their YouTube channel is a wonderfully organized, borderline-OCD collection of videos for easy navigation, and they have a dog and a cat, who sometimes appear in their videos.
Paolo from TOKYO
Planning a trip to Tokyo? No research is complete without checking out Paolo de Guzman’s channel. After living in Japan for more than 15 years, this US-native has amassed a vast library of videos you need to watch before embarking on your holiday. Find out the dos and don’ts of good shrine behavior, proper Japanese table manners, and even the key places to check out if you’re on a food hunt.
Why we love: Paolo’s videos are always well thought-out, super-informative and upbeat, making us feel so tempted to hop on a plane and visit Tokyo immediately!
Born in Brisbane, Australia, Emma moved to Japan and began her life abroad living in tiny spaces. I first got to know about Emma from her house tour, who at that time, lived in a tiny 82 square-feet apartment. Her personality is very laidback, and watching her videos is actually rather therapeutic because of the way she speaks. Apart from her own channel, Tokidoki Traveller, Emma is also the host of Tokyo Creative’s YouTube channel, where you’ll also get to meet other fellow foreign creators based in Japan.
Why we love: Emma’s videos show that she’s just like us mortals – there are days when you feel brave and want to challenge new things, and there are days when you just wanna be a potato.
Rachel & Jun
This American/Japanese married couple, who lives together with three cats in Aichi, shows us what living long-term in Japan is really like. With both sides fully-represented, Rachel and Jun Yoshizuki make videos on the cultural differences about Japan VS the world, like the idiot’s guide to Japanese squat toilets, fast food in Japan and more. They also show the lesser-known side of Japan on their travels to different prefectures.
Why we love: They’re such a loving couple that contrasts and complements each other at the same time. Rachel is more outgoing while Jun is more reserved, but their videos are couple goals.
Sharla in Japan
Having lived in Japan for the past 12 years, Canadian Sharla is fluent in the language, and often shares snippets of her daily life through her vlogs and travels. If you’re planning to spend an extended amount of time in Japan, her videos will give you a better idea of how living in Japan is like. From thrift shopping in Kichijoji to learning how to forge a knife in Kochi, you’ll get to live vicariously through Sharla’s experiences. She’s now based in Korea, but often travels back and forth to Japan so you can still expect more vids from her.
Why we love: Sharla’s vibe is real without being overbearing, and her videos are often about interesting activities that you can do in the greater areas of Japan.
Follow Angela on her journeys off the beaten path, and discover places you never thought you’d set foot in. The seasoned traveler will love this channel, which shows you lots of hidden spots and unexpected destinations that take you beyond the usual done-to-death touristy areas. Angela shows us that there’s more to Kyoto than the usual temples and shrines, and that there’s an amazing national park in Iseshima, plus more unique places you never even knew existed in Japan!
Why we love: She puts so much effort into showing us a different, more idyllic side of Japan, and proves that you can still find peace within a world of chaos.
Rounding up the list, we have Vietnamese-Australian Kim Dao, who currently calls Tokyo home. Japan is known for its extensive lineup of beauty and fashion brands, and Kim is the best person to go to for advice. What to buy at the crazily overwhelming ‘everything-under-one-roof’ store Don Quijote? She’ll give you the scoop. On the hunt for adorable stationery? Kim will tell you where to find Pokemon planners and adorable washi tape!
Why we love: Honest, unbiased reviews on must-buy J-beauty products, plus lots of interesting content if you’re planning to see a younger, more fashionable side of Japan.
Writer | Michelle Tan
Underneath her RBF, Michelle is actually a friendly raccoon. Loves collecting ugly things, changing her hair colour, and dinosaurs (not necessarily in that order).