Vietnam ranks as YouTube’s second largest market in the world for many video watching metrics. And many of the country’s content creators are not just Vietnamese, but also Americans, Japanese, and overseas Vietnamese content creators serving the Vietnamese market.
Riding the wave of Vietnam’s demand for more global content and perspectives, we discovered aNcari Room, a Japanese YouTuber who lives in Vietnam. With over 20,000 subscribers, the Japanese host of the show, Akari hopes that her channel will build bridges between her native country of Japan and her new home, Vietnam. We meet with Akari and Duyen, her Vietnamese co-host, to learn more about their YouTube journey and where they hope to go next.
How did you two meet?
We first met in February 2016. Akari was traveling to Vietnam during Tet and my friend introduced me to her. While I was a student and before I met Akari, I had a narrow impression of Japanese people and culture. I thought the language was difficult and the people were distant. I prioritized learning English first, before Japanese. Speaking English for me is easier and more comfortable.
And while I had met many fun and nice Japanese during my university life, I didn’t have any connection. Meeting Akari, who spoke Vietnamese and was living here, changed my view. We communicate in English, but we’re both learning each other’s native languages.
Akari, what was your first video on YouTube? What inspired you to share it?
I started my channel in Japan as a way to share and document how I improved my Vietnamese over time. The choice I made to study and live in Vietnam is different from most Japanese. I thought that if I filmed it, maybe it can inspire others to think differently too. I started learning Vietnamese in Japan during my last year of university. The channel only has 17 videos so far, we started about 18 months ago. We’re really happy that we’ve gotten this far and we’re excited to see where it’ll go.
What are you doing in Vietnam? What motivated you to move to Vietnam from Japan?
My best friend while I was studying in Japan is Vietnamese. The university I attended hosts many international students. I wasn’t interested in Vietnam previously. During our studies, she brought me here and I got to know her family. After that experience and studying the Vietnamese language, I decided to move here.
I have no full-time job here, I teach Vietnamese and Japanese part time. YouTube is also part time. I also have Japanese people contacting me through YouTube and through my friends, who are coming to Vietnam. That keeps me busy, though we’re happy to help them in anyway!
Why are Japanese people so interested in Vietnam?
In my experience, Vietnam is attractive to Japanese people because it’s growing fast. It offers many business opportunities. The second is that Vietnamese products and craftsmanship are cute and affordable, making Vietnam popular with younger Japanese. It’s a part of Japanese culture to love trinkets, souvenirs, and collectibles. Vietnam is full of them.
What do your Japanese friends and family think about you moving overseas?
Most are wondering why I moved to Vietnam and why I wouldn’t go get a full time job in Japan. Why go overseas and learn Vietnamese? I decided for myself that it would be fun and rewarding. My mother is Taiwanese and also went overseas when she was 18. She’s been living in Japan ever since.
How did you shoot your video? Do you plan your videos or go with the flow?
We use the Sony a5100 16-50mm Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3-Inch Flip Up LCD (Black). We use a tripod, there’s no cameraman. I don’t have any air conditioning in my room, I need to turn off the fan to reduce the noise when we’re filming. And we need to close the door and open the curtain for light. Sometimes the room becomes too warm and the camera stops working because it overheats. If you see my videos, this will help explain why I’m sweating profusely. We’re going to need a solution eventually…
We try to improvise and be natural on video. We share notes and how we plan to structure the beginning and ending of the video. But usually, we don’t know what the other will say.
What sort of opportunities has come through your YouTube channel?
This past summer we received a lot of messages. Many were interested in finding out more about how Akari ended up in Vietnam and how she was able to learn Vietnamese so quickly. We’ve been contacted by some other media personalities and companies wanting to advertise. We haven’t worked with any brands yet, we’re still figuring out what the best way is first. We’ve also had some opportunities to be featured on media, like VTV in Vietnam and others from overseas.
How often do you make videos and what videos are most effective?
We try to release a video twice a week, though in reality it’s once every two weeks right now. The team is just the two of us, Duyen speaks native Vietnamese and I speak native Japanese.
Our audience is mostly 60-70% Vietnamese who want to learn the Japanese language. They’re also curious about what Japanese people are doing in Vietnam and why some Japanese are learning Vietnamese. Most Vietnamese followers want to learn more about Japanese vocabulary and pronunciation. For our Japanese audience, which is about 30% of all followers, they’re mostly living in Vietnam or interested in traveling to Vietnam. The rest of the audience is from the US and more recently other parts of Southeast Asia like Indonesia.
Do you ever hope to run the YouTube channel full time?
I would love to. One of my dreams is to be a bridge between Japan and Vietnam through media. YouTube is one of those tools to reach both a Vietnamese and Japanese audience. I’m using it as a way for both Vietnamese and Japanese people to learn about each other’s cultures and be supportive of one another.
What does aNcari Room stand for?
When my Vietnamese friend introduced me to her friends, it was hard to pronounce or remember my name, Akari. So aNcari just came to be. An cari means to ‘eat curry’ in Vietnamese. For those that are curious, Akari means ‘light’ in Japanese.
What about Vietnam do you enjoy the most? What do you miss about Japan?
In Vietnam, I like the people the most. Right now I’m living with my best friend’s family here in Ho Chi Minh City. I miss the nature and seasons of Japan. The fall foliage, the Sakura season, and the snow.
Which video is the most meaningful to you? What sort of new content can your followers expect to see from the aNcari Room?
Each video has a different feeling and meaning to us. If I had to pick one, our video featuring Vietnamese tongue twisters had a lot of encouraging feedback. We shot it a few times before we got the result we wanted and spent some time cutting scenes out. In the end, our followers enjoyed the video. We were happy with the feedback.
We’re probably going to produce more content about the cultural differences between Japan and Vietnam. We might do more singing in Vietnamese and videos that feature both of us speaking more in Vietnamese.
Akari, do you see yourself living in Vietnam for a while?
Depends on what I can accomplish while I’m here in Vietnam. My family from Japan visited recently, it was their first time here. And my younger brother had a great time. Like most parents of young expats, my parents insist that I must wear a mask because of the pollution in Ho Chi Minh City. I also drive a bike here.
If your channel had a full team, what would you create? How long does it take to produce a video?
I’d love to show more of Vietnam to my audience. Right now it’s just myself and Duyen. We’re both a bit shy to do any videos out on the street and city, as many people know carrying a camera outside is not the best idea here. We’re always on the lookout for places that are more quiet, have less people, and offers good light. We also want to feature more travel videos, but we don’t have the team to produce that content quite yet. Normally, recording the video takes about two to three hours and editing takes about 12 hours. To completely finish a video takes 24 hours of work.
Who watches your videos?
Most of our followers are 14 to 30 years old. There’s also an older Japanese audience that is also interested in our channel because of our coverage of Vietnam. Many come to Vietnam and struggle with pronunciation and basic communication, so our videos help.
What was the channel’s big break on YouTube?
We experienced our first big bounce in followers with the help of a well-known Facebook personality, Samurai Chan. He’s Vietnamese and lives in Japan. He’s known for teaching Japanese to Vietnamese people. He was kind enough to introduce our channel to his page. After showing up on his page, lots of Japanese and Vietnamese groups shared our channel. The second was through Kyle Le’s profile of us.