Falling Down A Rabbit Hole

Free Falling Down The Rabbit Hole That Is YouTube 

While YouTube has obviously been around for quite some time, and I have obviously used it, I have never been a heavy user. Well, not until this year that is. Even during the “stay home” days of the pandemic, I never spent too much time on that platform. It was always the occasional music videos here, or the how-to type stuff there. I didn’t really have any favorite creators that I absolutely had to watch every time a new video came out. The whole concept did not appeal to me, really. In the past year or so, though, my usage really picked up when I got into watching live camera feeds. From there things kind of took off, and kind of… spiraled out of control.

To start, I love live cameras. They offer you a look in to places you, maybe, cannot go. I have been watching various ones on occasion for more than 20 years. Yeah, we’re talking back in the days of single frame/low megapixel cameras on 30 second or so refresh rates. Circa 2000 era technology web-cameras were something…special. In other words, it was crap. Dial-up internet era, crap. But I still enjoyed them. In recent months, almost all of the live camera feeds I was watching were from Japan. And there are a lot of them that I was flipping through like an insomniac with cable TV at 3am. Some examples are***:

*I like trains **Mount Fuji is often obscured by clouds. Particularly in the summer months. ***Some may be offline now.

These cameras are almost therapeutic for me, and have helped a lot. For obvious reasons, my wife and I really haven’t been able to travel internationally for a few years because of the pandemic. We are both sorely missing Japan(My wife is Japanese, and I might as well be). So I would regularly turn on one of these live feeds and just go about my day at home. I would be at my hobby table, all while in the background, trains would speed across my TV. They were going to and from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. A area that I pretty much know like the back of my hand.

There is one YouTube account where this guy just parks himself near Haneda Airport and takes live video for hours on end of planes taking off and landing. Which speaks to me on multiple levels. Like to the point that I am contemplating retirement plans along those lines. No joke. I could do that. And I would not get bored.

These live camera feeds gave me a feeling that I was in Japan. As silly as that may sound to some. But truth be told, when I am physically in Japan I regularly do sit and watch trains passing by. I have gone to Haneda and spent hours watching planes many times, just like in the videos on YouTube. They actually have observation decks on the roofs of the terminals for just this purpose.

2015. Haneda Airport

So, as it would turn out, these live cameras were my approach to the aforementioned YouTube ‘rabbit hole’. After watching enough of these live videos, YouTube began suggesting to me videos from people that make traveling content. My front page was full of Japanese accounts that focus on planes, trains, ferries, buses, you name it.

Since then my wife and I began regularly watching various travel videos at night before sleeping. Things like traveling across the country by train or boat. We were using these videos to make plans for our next trip. Or maybe for retirement plans. I got really interested in Japanese overnight ferries. Trains and planes make this form of travel often forgotten. They are pretty much like cruise ships. Or floating hotels, for about the same price as an overnight hotel stay at that. And they offer accommodations ranging from capsule style beds, to suites. The idea of going somewhere for 24 hours with no cellphone service or internet seems so appealing.

After my wife would nod off, I would continue watching ferry videos. Or switch back to the live cameras, and cycle through them for a bit. My usage of the platform was growing more and more. This was an every night routine at this point. Then something happened that made me fall head first into the ‘rabbit hole’.

It was late May, and things were going pretty well. My wife and I had a nice summer ahead of us, the Rangers were going deep into the playoffs, and we had plans on attacking some local hiking trails. And then, like a hammer, COVID-19 hit home. Hard. I got it first, and it was easily one of the worst sicknesses I have ever had, without a doubt. My wife got hit a few days later, but her symptoms were nothing close to as bad as mine were. Which is not to say that she was spared some bad stuff. I was pretty much bedridden for a couple weeks. There were a couple of days that I could barely get to the bathroom. My whole body was fighting a war with the sickness, and I could not tell if I was getting better or worse. Once I had finally shaken the bad stuff I was left with various aftereffects that left me hating life. This would last for over a month. And I am, months on, still feeling some leftover crap.

Prior to us getting sick, I picked up a Fire Stick for our bedroom TV. Until then we had been using a 15 or 16 year old “smart” Blu-ray player to watch things like YouTube and Netflix. It was lacking support for some services that we use though. Things like Disney +, Crunchyroll, and HBO Max. It was also slower than a slug traversing a salted plank. I had to fight with it to get videos in 720p. 1080p was not worth the effort. The Fire Stick fixed all of these issues. Complete with great video and faster WiFi. 

Once COVID smacked me in the face(and lungs) with a shovel, with the exception of the NHL Playoffs, and watching the entire Star Wars saga, I was more or less watching YouTube 24 hours a day from bed. I was barely sleeping because of the sickness, only managing a few hours here and there, so the TV was always on. When I did sleep, it was usually with some kind of live camera feed on.

Prior to these days, I didn’t really have any “favorite YouTubers”. Sure I was following a bunch of accounts, mostly Japanese comedians, but never really kept up with any of them. But this all changed once I was sitting with a Fire Stick remote in my hand all day long, while coughing so hard that I actually could not stand up.

[Seriously, the coughing was so bad that my knees buckled a few times. My whole body was a mess. I was hating my life] 

Begin The Free Fall

One day, probably during a fit of coughing, while I was trying to find a video to watch I settled on one from a YouTube account that I had been following for a long time, but had only ever watched videos sporadically. The channel is an American living in Japan that goes by the name Dogen. He makes funny short videos in Japanese, as well as teaches the intricacies of the Japanese language. Dogen had recently built his dream house in Japan and had a video showing it off. I was interested in seeing the house, as my wife an I are already thinking about retirement plans. So I checked it out. It really is an interesting house. The video was shot in the form of him giving a tour to a couple of his friends. That video ended up being my downfall.

My Japanese teacher introduced me to Dogen a few years back, with this video. It cracks me up every time because it is 100% accurate. He adds subtitles, but it’s even more funny if you can understand Japanese because of his word play.

One of the friends that Dogen was showing around is a YouTuber with a channel called Tokyo Lens. I decided to check out some of his stuff, because why not? I certainly had the time. What I found were some great videos with great production quality. They looked professional. Tokyo Lens is Norm Nakamura, a Canadian living in Japan. He regularly makes videos of him traveling or walking around and showing off little known areas of Japan. Backstreets, countrysides, forests, etc. Many times he is exploring in the wee hours of the night. This offers a much a different atmosphere than the hustle and bustle one usually thinks of when thinking about Japan. He also shows off the differences in lifestyle that Japan has, as compared to the West. Stuff like inside shops and inside insanely tiny apartments.

I’ve seen some crazy small apartments first hand. It is almost unthinkable to imagine living in them.

Norm also makes great documentaries. His 3/11 Earthquake and Tsunami docs are amazing. He does a great job capturing the climate of the story.  

I was watching these events live on Japanese television from my home in USA. I remember it as vividly as I do September 11th.

On top of being a great videographer and photographer, he is also an accomplished Shamisen player, having apprenticed under the famed Yoshida Brothers. The Shamisen is not an easy instrument to master, and it requires delicate care. He has also accomplished getting his boating license in Japan and is currently working on getting his private pilots license there. 100% in Japanese. Which I am very interested in seeing. His first video about his flight school was one of the first videos I watched.

I watched Tokyo Lens’ videos pretty much in marathon form for a few days, and with that YouTube’s algorithm took over once more. My main page was getting flooded with suggestions of other YouTubers similar to Norm, and it wasn’t long before I stumbled on Abroad In Japan. This channel is run by Chris Broad, a British man living in the Northern Japan city of Sendai. A lovely city that I have visited before. His videos are very informational and fun. He travels all over the country with his interesting friends/colleagues. His British sarcasm and humor is right down my alley and pretty much always make me laugh. 

This video is hilarious. And yes, that TV show was real.

Abroad In Japan has (what’s become) a yearly series called Journey Across Japan(the most recent is due out very soon actually). In this series Chris and his friends travel to various places around the country and do various challenges all while showing off the sights. The first season saw him biking from northern Japan all the way to the southern tip. Something I would be interested in trying. Well, maybe just part of it. The production quality of his videos is great and I haven’t found a video that I have not enjoyed. You can tell he takes pride in his work, and he is up front about stuff he cuts out of videos and why. He also has made some documentaries and interview videos. He has interviewed actor/musician Ken Watanabe(Hollywood: Inception, Last Samurai, Letters From Iwo Jima) and rock star Hyde(L’Arc-en-Ciel, Vamps). In addition to his YouTube channels, I now follow his podcast as well. 

A regular from Abroad in Japan’s videos is Joey, an Australian/Japanese YouTuber that goes by the name The Anime Man. His videos are funny. From his moniker, he gives his hot takes on Anime and whatnot, as well as travels around Japan. As I mentioned, he does quite a few videos with Chris from Abroad in Japan. Usually both channels will release a video from the same trip. Each video has different production quality from their different perspectives. So you don’t feel like you’re watching the same thing twice. Joey also does challenge and exploration type videos. He has also interviewed rock star GACKT as well as a former Yakuza member. Which was really interesting.

I’ve read a lot of books and articles about the Yakuza so this video was great. I love how the guy keeps straightening out Joey. Yakuza have a very ”to the point image”.

Another regular in Abroad In Japan’s videos, is Connor Colquhoun. Channel name CDawgVA. A Welsh YouTuber and Voice Actor living in Japan. Connor’s videos regularly show him traveling around and taking on various challenges. Like trying to become a Japanese Language Voice Actor, working at a strip club, or trying every variety of some kind of food(like Kit Kat’s). It’s all really well done. He is very competitive and it regularly shows, particularly when gaming. He has a series where he challenges people at crane games in Game Center’s that is hilarious. The concept is they both have a set amount of money, and once the money is exhausted they both sit down and compare their spoils. I enjoy these games. So watching them makes me want to play.

The sound effects and editing make the videos that much more funny.

Through The Anime Man and CDawgVA I discovered Trash Taste. A podcast/ YouTube channel dedicated to anime and other Weeb-type stuff. Trash Taste consists of the above two people and Gigguk, a British/Thai YouTuber also living in Japan. The three of them have great chemistry together and it gets pretty heated/hilarious. Particularly when there are challenges involved. They have a couple challenges that they each went out and bought anime figures to decorate the Trash Taste set. Each person released their individual videos on their own channels and then they had a grand reveal on the podcast/YouTube video in which they decided who was the winner. 

The individual challenge videos that led to this video are funny. Links are in the video description on YouTube.

Trash Taste of course led me to check out Gigguk’s channel(real name Garnt), which is almost strictly Anime themed, and comedic in nature. His anime review and recap videos are hilarious. He incorporates various talents(one of whom is his wife) to voice over anime scenes to give funny cliff-note style recaps of series. His old videos rehashing Evangelion are amazing, and his Anime In Minutes ones are hilarious. He also has other videos that break down other aspects of anime culture. Like the difference between a Tsundere and a Yandere. And why the latter should be avoided. Seriously, crazy be crazy.

The use of the Indiana Jones, The A Team, and the Seinfeld’s themes in this are just perfect.

Gigguk released a video last year as a reaction to the final Evangelion rebuild movie(finally) being released. It is titled, ”Thank You, Evangelion”. His thoughts and emotion regarding this series resonated within me. As I felt many of the same things. Evangelion is a series that has been with me for almost as long as it has been around. And I used to watch it whenever I wanted to escape from life for a while. When I finally watched the Evangelion 3.1+1.01 last year, I was on the edge of my seat for most of the movie. Not because it was extremely action packed. No, it was because I knew that This was It. And as the credits were rolling I found myself crying. It was finally finished. It was like I was finding closure in a major part of my life. It is my favorite anime series to this day, and regardless of how technology has changed, it won’t be toppled as far as I am concerned. I love it enough to have a piece of it tattooed on my back. The only tattoo I have. That decision wasn’t made out of some, otaku spur of the moment thought. It was well thought out and knowing it is there reminds me of a lot.

Well done, Garnt.

All of the above YouTubers have second(and sometimes third) channels offering other contents as well. Some videos are more candid than their main accounts. On CDawgVA’s second channel ConnorDawg, he regularly posts shortened and edited gaming videos from his Twitch streams. I generally don’t watch gaming, Twitch-style, videos, but his shortened videos on YouTube are hilarious. He often teams up with VTuber Ironmouse in online gaming. Now I had absolutely zero interest in VTubers prior to seeing my first video with those two, but their chemistry is hilarious, and she is adorable. They regularly go back and forth and berate each other.

Battleship can get heated. Particularly when there are things at stake.

Virtual YouTuber(VTuber) Ironmouse is from Puerto Rico, and her character design is really well done. Very cute. Taking the form of a pink demon with horns. In real life, she is very sick and regularly has to take strong medication while being more or less bedridden from what I understand. Because of this she is unable to travel, and that sucks. Because she appears to love anime and Japan. So, with that known, Connor has given her a couple tours of Japan using cameras and Twitch. Which I found really sweet. He also has sent her presents from across the world.

This is really sweet. You can really tell that she loves what he is doing for her.

So I’m a middle age man that is pretty hooked on IronMouse as a VTuber now. It’s not weird! You’re weird! Before discovering her, I could probably count on one hand how many times I have ever watched a Twitch stream. But I have tuned in a couple times since then. Still don’t have an account though. She recently celebrated her 5th anniversary as a VTuber. She held a big stream event with a bunch of her friends, and they all played party games. It was funny. I caught a bit of it one night while on break.

On her anniversary, she also released an anime-esque video explaining the origins of her character called HeavenFall, which was pretty well done. Many of her friends did the work on it. From the music to the voice acting. Connor played the narrator/Bubi, and holy shit he is a great voice actor. Until seeing this, I hadn’t seen any of his professionally recorded voice work. I Wish I had a voice like that.

My decent in to YouTube madness isn’t all otaku stuff. Some of my favorite stuff in Japan are the things that you’ll see if you venture away from the touristy spots. Tokyo Lens showcases a lot of these places. But one channel that really does the beauty of Japan justice, is GoNorth Japan. This channel is run by Quinlan, an American that has been living in Japan for almost 20 years. His videos are of an ’outdoor’ variety. Hiking, climbing, etc. And they are always really well shot. His recent drone footage is stunning.

I learned about Go North Japan, again, from Abroad In Japan. My wife and I got into hiking around here as a result of COVID. We were looking for ways to get out and do stuff. So I am making lists of trails and whatnot from Japan that I would like to hike. Go North Japan is perfect for research.

I love Northern Japan. And I would love to hike this area. Not too keen about the bears though. But they are all over the coutry.

Completely out of left field from what I have been showcasing here come… the Otters. Wait, what? So I didn’t know that this was a thing, but there are domesticated river otters in Japan(maybe in USA too?). I stumbled upon them and never looked back. They are too damn cute, and I kind of want a couple. Maybe when we retire. I now follow a couple Otter accounts, but the one I watch the most is Kotsumet. Kotaro and Hana are too cute. It’s funny when they sleep on their backs and when they stand up on their hind legs.

I say I would like an Otter, but after watching a ton of these videos, I see that it is incredibly difficult and tiring.

So, as you can see I am still in a free fall. Falling and flailing down the YouTube rabbit hole. With one channel leading to another one. The glue keeping the rabbit hole together is Japan. Since I got sick I have watched about 800 videos from the above channels and some others I did not mention. (I got that number from my ’likes’ analytics. It is likely more than that number) The average length of these videos are 20-30 minutes. But some are over an hour. Trash Taste episodes regularly crest 2 hours. So you do the math as to how much I have watched since the end of May. And that estimate won’t include live stream feeds.

Truth be told, I was not a fan of the whole “YouTuber” thing. I think that most influencers are incredibly fake. Particularly the ones of the Instagram variety. But all of the above people that I mentioned, after extensive research, I have found to be very genuine people. And I have not read anything about them being fake. They all appear to have really great interactions with fans and followers. And I think that is great. It kind of restores some faith in humanity. Well, by definition a VTuber is a character… but in that instance, it is a person portraying a character as her herself. Anyway.

These people all have a great interest in Japan and Japan’s culture. Or maybe they are Japanese, and they are trying to showcase the country to the outside world. Another reason I am drawn to them. I am more or less living vicariously through all these YouTubers and their videos. I haven’t been back to Japan since late summer in 2019. Which sucks. Hell, it hurts. Japan is my home away from home. Before COVID grabbed the world by the throat and punched everyone in the lungs with a serrated knife, I would travel to that small country on the other side of the world by boarding a 14 hour flight once a year. And every other year I would make the trip twice a year. I miss my friends over there, and I miss traveling around, going to baseball and sumo matches, eating the food, seeing the sights, and just being part of the culture. 

The Nanba Grand Kagetsu is a comedy theater in Osaka. It is more or less the home of Yoshimoto Kogyo, the most famous comedy agency in Japan. My wife and I love Owarai, Japanese comedy.
The Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo is the home of Sumo in Japan. And it plays host to three Sumo Tournaments each year. Going to a match is an all day event. Great fun.

All of these pics were taken during my last trip to Japan, in the summer of 2019. During this trip my wife and I split our time between Tokyo and Osaka.

Beer at the Tokyo Dome is always consumed in moderation. Yebisu is my favorite beer. And I CANNOT BUY IT IN USA!!!!
This is an actual shirt being sold at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. And I kick myself every time I see this picture, because I did not buy one. In my defense they did not have my size. A regular occurrence.
Sekai no Yama-chan has the absolute best dry rubbed wings in the world. I said it. And I will die on that hill.

So there it is. Be it a live camera of the train tracks around Shinjuku Station, cameras showing the sceneryin Tokyo or Yokohama, someone sitting in a park near Haneda Airport streaming planes taking off and landing, or the above YouTubers traveling the country/showing off stuff/trying new things, YouTube is helping me feed my need for Japan in my life. 

And as long as that is so, I hope I never find the bottom of the rabbit hole.


Afterword

Late last year I got pissed off with all the commercials that were thrown into Youtube videos. You can skip some, you cannot others. Some videos had none. Some had a ton. They always showed up at shitty times, and somehow you would miss stuff in the video. They always broke up the flow of a video. So to fix this, I decided to pay for YouTube Premium, which gets rid of the commercials completely. And It was completely worth it. 

Back then my wife used Youtube much more than I did. She has a lot of favorite YouTubers based back in Japan that she has watched for years. And these constant commercials were annoying her too. So I paid for a family plan for the two of us and never looked back. Had I not had this feature when I got sick with COVID, I probably would have gone insane.

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]



Robert

All of these are true except for one:

Robert is: a Hobbyist, a Music Lover, an RPG Gamer, a Mustard Lover, Chaotic Neutral, a Japanese Speaker, a Veteran, an Otaku, a Table Tennis Player, an Anime Fan, an Aviation Professional, a New York Rangers Fan, a Chaos Lover With Loyalist Tendencies.

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