By Justin Woodard
Hey everyone! Quick editor’s note: This is the first in (hopefully) a series of articles focused on current and former Ehime JETs, and the media they create. I mainly want to focus on blogs and Youtube channels, but basically anything local JETs create is fair game! If you are or were an Ehime JET and would like to share your blog, channel or etc with us, please get in touch at email@example.com.
On a bright and sunny day during a pandemic filled Golden Week, I hopped on my bike and started riding to a beautiful little shrine in a small suburb just outside of Matsuyama called Hojo. I had my phone in hand and a goal in my head that started back before I came to Japan. One day as I was sitting in my college fraternity watching the “Abroad in Japan” channel on YouTube, I thought to myself that it would be a lot of fun to go around Japan filming the places I get to visit, just like the sarcastic British guy I was watching. Now there could also be a sarcastic American guy making YouTube videos. Fast forward two years and I’m on my bike pedaling past rice fields and old homes until I arrived at my favorite shrine in Hojo. As I was parking my bike, I realized I didn’t have any plans for what I was going to talk about in my first video, so I improvised, as all good YouTubers do. I started talking about the proper way to enter and exit a shrine as well as the dos and don’ts while praying so as not to offend the gods of Shintoism.
After visiting several other locations around Hojo, I finished filming and was starting to feel like an actual YouTuber, despite not having had posted any videos yet. Was it “Abroad in Japan” or “Paolo in Tokyo” quality? Definitely not, but it was something I was proud of. After being in Japan for almost two years, I was finally making videos that I was at least hoping my friends and family back home would enjoy. Because it got my channel started, that first video has a special place in my heart, despite being the one I’m least likely to recommend people watch due to the low-quality videography and editing. However, it was proof that I could create something that others would watch and enjoy, and that was something that really inspired me. Along the way there are a few other videos that I have really enjoyed making.
My Christmas in Japan video was a lot of fun to film. It was very simple in concept, just me sitting in front of the camera (my phone), eating the KFC Christmas dinner while drinking a beer. If you’re wondering what the best part of the KFC Box was, it was not the chicken, but the chocolate cake. The prep work for this video started a month before actually filming it on Christmas. I had heard the Christmas dinner sells out quick, so I ordered it about a month in advance. The second obstacle was having to work on Christmas. I made the reservation around when I usually get off work, so I had to receive permission to leave work early to go pick it up. Talking about the differences between different cultures is something I really enjoy doing, so being able to talk about the differences between western and Japanese Christmas while eating fried chicken and drinking a beer was like a dream come true.
However, not every video where I try food or drinks on camera is enjoyable. I sometimes like to try snacks and drinks that can be bought at Japanese convenience stores on camera and in this specific video, I was drinking canned coffee. If you’ve ever met me in person then you know I like to drink coffee, but there is simply something wrong with Japanese canned coffee, which is why this video felt akin to torture. The only canned coffees that tasted good were the ones loaded with sugar or other sweeteners, which left me feeling more tired than I was before drinking seven to eight canned coffees. I deepened my disdain for canned coffee, so in a weird way the video was kind of fun.
Since I like coffee so much, I also visit trendy cafés for the channel sometimes. My favorite café that I visited for the channel was North Shore near Koyodai Station. It’s a Hawaiian/west coast themed café in Matsuyama with amazing pancakes and great sandwiches. It overlooks the ocean, so while people are drinking their coffee or eating lunch, they can also relax with an ocean view. This of course makes it a great location for dates even though I went alone to film the video.
In the future there are several places around Shikoku that I would really love to film. The first is Shimanami Kaido. Biking across the islands is something I have wanted to do since I came to Ehime, but I keep putting off for some reason. The next two are Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu and Otsuka Art Museum in Tokushima. I previously visited both these locations before starting my YouTube channel and really enjoyed them. These are probably three of the best things to do in Shikoku, and now that I’m making videos, I would love to show off these great spots to my friends and family as well as my loyal viewers. I had never heard of any of these three spots before coming to Japan, which is a shame because they are fantastic. This inspired one of my main goals for the channel. Of course, I want to show people what my life is like, but I also want to teach others about Shikoku. I didn’t realize until after coming to Japan, but most of the YouTubers I was watching primarily focused on Honshu, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about Shikoku and make amazing experiences more well-known one video at a time. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to “JTravels” on YouTube!
Justin Woodard is originally from America. He came to Japan about two and half years ago and was a Matsuyama ALT for two years. He currently teaches at a kindergarten in Matsuyama.