We started our YouTube channel Rachel & Jun because...
Youtubers Rachel and Jun get ready for their close up — Photo by Nathan Hosken
Rachel here! We had a lot of reasons for starting! We were going to be living in different countries for a few years so we wanted a hobby we could work on to help keep us close, even when we couldn't talk or see each other. I (Rachel) wanted a way for my family to be able see more of me and my life. I wanted an artistic hobby to focus on in my spare time. I was a very poor public speaker and wanted to practice my speaking. And I wanted to be able to share my experiences in Japan with people who hadn't gone yet, especially since when I started YouTube I felt like there was a lack of succinct informational videos about Japan.
Our Japan is...
Odigo47: A dream come true!
Rachel and Jun are ready to create some amazing Youtube videos about Japan — Photo by Nathan Hosken
We've been wanting to travel around Japan for a long time, but travel costs here can be pretty prohibitive. So when we got an offer to travel for free in exchange for making YouTube videos (which is what we would have been doing anyway under the Rachel and Jun channel) and supporting a website we genuinely really like
, we were ecstatic. It was pretty much a dream offer for us.
The Odigo itinerary planner really rocks!
So I actually had a secret mental plan of developing some sort of interactive map for people to use when planning a trip to Japan, since that's how I prefer to plan trips myself. I, however, had no real plans for implementing this, and so when I found out Odigo had already created it I was super excited and immediately on board. I think maps help people visualize their trip more clearly. It helps emphasize exactly how far away different locations are and if their plans are realistic. And since Odigo marks interesting spots directly on their map, it helps people discover locations they might not have known about otherwise. I genuinely (irrespective of us working together!) think it's a fantastic resource for visitors to Japan.
We left our hearts in Fukui
We were happy to explore all of them, but our most positive memories were probably Fukui because it was unexpectedly amazing. Who even knew about Fukui
before that? Not many people! Nagasaki
was also the first prefecture in Kyushu we'd ever been to, and it was beautiful
. And of course the tropical paradise Okinawa is just all-around incredible. Hokkaido was also an incredible experience, although very cold!
If we had more time
As tough as the winter weather can be in Hokkaido, there are so many other winter things to see there that we didn't get to experience! I very much would like to go back and "complete" our tour of Hokkaido. Okinawa
also has a lot of beaches and diving spots, and we definitely would not have objected to exploring more of them. :D We're also absolutely dying to get to Fukuoka
! So far it seems to be the #1 city in Japan for everyone who's traveled there, so we need to discover what that's about! And I'd love to visit Tokushima
at some point because there's a cat sanctuary there that we helped raise funds for a few years ago, and I'd like to go see it in person and film a mini-documentary with the owner.
The food. Oh, the food!
I think it was always the hole-in-the-wall restaurants that looked like nothing from the outside and were just hidden away in the middle of nowhere that turned out to be the best. We stumbled upon an izakaya in rural Hokkaido that had the best yakitori with spicy mustard dressing. There was a sushi restaurant in Fukui that was just astounding. Jun like the kanpachi, nodoguro, and anago the best. I had the best chicken
nanban in Miyazaki Prefecture
(which is where it was invented, so that's no surprise!)
Extreme weather & how to handle it
Hokkaido is the best for winter. They've built their prefecture around winter tourism so you'd get the most out of your trip there. We went to the ice village, the snow festival, and the lantern walk, but they also have things like hot air balloons that fly over winter wonderlands and sled dog rides, both of which we really want to go back and try! If you go to the extreme ends of the prefecture, they have an underwater viewing area and museum, and a place where you can actually walk on ice floes! It's one of my dreams to get out there at some point! Japan has special winter undergarments from stores like Uniqlo
, and sticky heat pads called kairo
that you can buy pretty much anywhere if you get cold easily!
The height of summer anywhere in Japan is extraordinarily hot and humid. It is extremely important to remember to both eat (don't skip breakfast!!) and hydrate a lot throughout the day, especially if you're walking around a lot (which you will be doing as a tourist!) Always have sports drink on you. Heat exhaustion and stroke are very, very common, and if you go to an outdoor event in the height of summer there will often be several people leaving in ambulances. If you get a headache or you start feeling light-headed, you might have heat exhaustion and should go sit down somewhere cool and have some sports drink. Look for these symptoms in your friends as well as yourself. Stay hydrated.
These feet are made for walking if you treat them right
Traveling in Japan means a lot of walking. Make sure you bring the most comfortable shoes you can possibly find! If your feet are sore by the end of a single day in your shoes, imagine what it'll be like five days of walking later! Constant walking and experiencing new things can also be pretty tiring after a few days, so it also might be worth it to plan a down day into your trip somewhere in the second half so you can sleep in or just chill that day and recoup some of your energy. Plan for some events to be flexible in case of adverse weather, or in case you just want to cancel that day and do something else!
What we learned
I think traveling really lets you experience the best Japan has to offer. There are a lot of wonderfully kind people who are excited to meet foreigners and eager to help you have a great trip. Be brave and step out of your comfort zone! Talk to new people. Try things you're not sure you'd like. I don't think we've ever regretted putting ourselves out there. Often the human connection is what makes a trip extra special, so don't discount the importance of communicating with locals on your trip.
I'll never forget...
For Jun: The Ice Village
because that was very memorable for me. I'd never been to Hokkaido before. Even though it was freezing I was so excited that I wasn't cold. I felt like I was in a fantasy world or something, sitting on the ice couch
. And the bartender was very nice. Also at Bentenzushi
in Hokkaido, the food was absolutely amazing. But it was the taisho
, the sushi chef, who made the experience unforgettable
. His personality was super nice and friendly. I enjoyed his conversation as much as I enjoyed the sushi.
For Rachel: I think my most memorable experience was swimming at Aharen beach in Okinawa
. The water was so perfectly blue and clear and warm
, and it felt like you could just float in the waters with no effort for hours. It just felt magical. They said that whales show up around February as well, so I can't stop thinking about going back to see the whales!
If we could do it all again...
We only started daily vlogging on our Adventures channel
recently, and so I would have recorded more footage for the vlogs, definitely! I also have an idea for an interactive trip with our viewers where Jun and I will start in Nagoya
and drive around using our car, and viewers get to choose our direction and stops for the next day at the end of each of our vlogs based on the comment with the most thumbs up, so they'll end up deciding where we go and what we experience/film! Kind of like an interactive "choose your own adventure" for viewers. :D
Faux pas and other mistakes
I think people already tend to be aware of the major faux pas related to Japan
since it's such a popular tourist destination. Wearing shoes indoors and tipping are probably the two biggest things tourists shouldn't do.
Words that work
Osusume (オススメ) means "recommendation". If you show up in a Japanese restaurant with a menu with no pictures and you can't read anything, you can ask for their recommendation by saying "Osusume kudasai."
Ryoushushou (領収証) means "official receipt". It's usually hand written with the name of your business on the receipt itself, so if you're able to claim traveling expenses for a business and you come across places that don't offer printed receipts, you can ask for a ryoushushou.
A multitude of thanks!
Together with the Odigo47 crew!
Finally, we just want to say thank you Odigo for this opportunity! It's been an absolutely incredible experience for us and we feel so blessed that we were able to take part in it this year. We hope to work together with Odigo for a long time coming in the future, so let's do our best together! Gambarimashou! (頑張りましょう！)
Follow in Rachel and Jun's footsteps. Plan your unforgettable trip to Japan!