「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


YouTube cramming

By Patrick St. Michel


I found myself in a familiar position during the first week of December. With just five days to go before I was scheduled to take the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test, I realized I hadn’t really studied for it. Normally, I would spend the next few days staring at my textbooks, hoping I could soak up all the information like a heavy-duty sponge. I don’t recommend this course of action!

Yet this time around, I got creative with my cramming. I found a series of YouTube videos devoted to the test, and binge-watched them. I didn’t trust myself to study hard for this exam, so I put my faith in a stranger talking about proper particle usage.

The entire situation reminded me just how much of my life flows through the small video player of that streaming site. And I’m not alone. Last year was a pretty massive year for YouTube in Japan, as the platform started seeing homemade stars getting wider media attention and some of the artists who started out on it crossing over to mainstream success. Not to mention the many ways YouTube has replaced other parts of daily life.

YouTube has come a long way over the last decade, when I remember using the site primarily as a way to watch cat videos and compilations of trampoline accidents instead of studying (some things don’t change!). Today, though, YouTube features a sea of people from all over the world talking into the camera and sharing. Some of the most famous YouTube users offer make-up tutorials, cooking lessons or simply just talk about topics ranging from major news stories to personal issues.

Japan has had something like this for a while, in the form of video platform Niconico. But over the last year, YouTube has carved out its own space with a younger generation. Personalities such as Hikakin and Daichi have amassed thousands of followers by being earnest and a little goofy ― both initially got attention for beatboxing ― and have used this online momentum to reach an even wider audience.

One of the year’s biggest YouTube success stories was the singer Maco, who got her start singing Japanese versions of famous Western pop songs. She signed to Universal Music Japan and released a solid-selling debut album.

Yet as diverse as YouTube has become, I find myself (and many people I know) turning to it for more practical applications. My wife and I watch videos on the site to learn how to cook new dishes, while I’ve bookmarked multiple “how to tie a tie” clips. And, despite the rise of streaming music services worldwide, I still think YouTube has the largest collection of music from all places and times within its digital confines.

That said, sometimes traditional means trump digital ones. Despite loading up on Japanese lessons before the test, I’m not sure I aced the exam. Next time, maybe I should watch online clips and also read my textbooks well in advance.



The Japan Times ST: January 22, 2016

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版