What Makes Japanese Youtubers Popular?

Youtube Japan is just what it sounds like — Youtubers based in Japan, creating Japanese content. Because it’s such an isolated and relatively small group, both culturally and geographically (unlike English, it is mainly people in Japan who speak Japanese), it’s interesting to see how they independently developed a subculture of their own.

When anyone looks at the top charts for Japanese YTbers, they might see some genres they recognize — make up tutorials, cooking, gaming, etc. However, some other genres have become extremely popular in Japan and perhaps not so much in the mainstream Youtube community. Shōhin shōkai (product reviews) and Boys-having-fun are two categories that dominate the top 100 most subscribed and are relatively unique to Japan.

Hikakin plays with a recorder

Shōhin shōkai

Shōhin shōkai literally means “Product Introductions”. TYbers like HikakinTV, MasuoTV, and PDSKabushikigaisha usually film daily videos where they review one product. Unlike the typical makeup or clothing product reviews, the reviewers here are largely male, and review a slew of different things. Products can be as interesting as a robot, or as boring as a mattress. (PDS reviewed a mattress. A significant portion of the video was him sleeping.)

While it’s understandable why YTbers would choose to go this route, it’s puzzling why this would be a popular genre of videos. From a creator’s perspective, doing product reviews allow for more sponsored videos, especially if the creator is tied to a large multichannel network (most shōhin shōkai youtubers are signed under UUUM, the largest Youtube network in Japan). The mattress video by PDS was a sponsored video.

Product reviews are also relatively easier to film, as you can react to one product, rather than try to start a conversation from no point in particular.

This being said, many of the original product reviewers gained fame because of their early presence on youtube, starting before anyone else. Hikakin, the #2 Youtuber in Japan, for example, gained most of his popularity with his early on beatbox videos.

The genre of shōhin shōkai is a dying one, and it’s becoming an oversaturated market. Hikakin, MasuoTV, PDS are all facing stagnant or even negative growth. Little by little, their popular is being replaced by …

MAHOTO, preparing to drink a ton of Yakult all at once.

“The Daily Lives of (University) Boys”

What might be the most surprising is how many TYbers in the current top charts create whimsical, silly, and sometimes unimaginable videos of them having fun and getting the most of their lives.

All these youtubers aren’t afraid to venture out and do the childish and whimsical things that their viewers only dreamed of doing.

Tokai on air and Mahoto, amongst many others, post video daily. Videos range from eating udon made out of play-doh and dressing in a green spandex to take pictures in front of a greenscreen. Hajimesyacho, the #1 most subscribed in Japan, post videos daily of himself taking on amazing (and senseless, if you think about it) challenges to the amusement of himself and his readers, like popping 100 holiday crackers all at once, or wrapping himself in 100 pieces of bubble wrap. (I do wonder what it would like to wrap myself in bubble wrap, but I would never do that myself)

Here’s a video where Hajime tests the conductivity of pans to see how many he can stack together without the top one being hot.

It’s like the endless mountains of vlogs that are produced by content creators elsewhere, but focused more on purely being silly. The charm (and overwhelming success) of these videos is a bit puzzling. Under the stress of high school and university exams, some of the viewing demographic (like myself) might find it relaxing to see someone on the other side of screen, having so much fun. These youtubers invite their viewers to share the experience with them, and the most popular ones are very expressive and comedic. After a long day of school or work, these videos are almost like an invitation for the viewer to take a breather and have a little bit of fun.

MAHOTO uses 180 face masks to test if it can absorb a punch

Although it’s been through many phases already, Youtube Japan is still relatively young. In the future, it will definitely see shifts in interests and new genres will arise. When that happens, I sure hope it’s going to be even more amusing and attractive than what’s popular now.