Special Interview

Ms. Ashiya

Ms. Ashiya, who is Russian living in Japan and YouTuber sharing aspects of Japan.

Ashiya

A Russian living in the Tokyo metropolitan area. In 2012, videos she posted onto YouTube on topics such as Japanese sightseeing spots and Russian culture and language became very popular. Her original viewpoint, humorous compilation, and fluent command of the Japanese language have won her many fans. She also acts as a guide in the Kanto area, particularly Tokyo, both professionally and in her free time, and she has appeared on many TV programs.
YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/user/fujiashiy

Vol. 1
Sharing Aspects of Japan Even Japanese People Don't Know

--- When did you come to Japan and what brought you here?

Over six years ago.
I had wanted to come to Japan since I was in high school. At first, I thought that if I could find Japan-related work in the future, I would be able to come, but actually, I found it was simpler to study at a Japanese language school, so I came over as a language student.

--- How did you become interested in Japan?

When I was young, Japanese anime shows such as Sailor Moon and Pokemon were popular, so I was influenced by my friends who were into that kind of Japanese culture

--- While you were studying Japanese, what did you think you were going to do once you finished?

When I was still living in Russia, I thought I wanted to work in Japan, but I wouldn't know for sure until I actually went there. The impression I got from reading blogs and books by foreign residents in Japan was that Japanese tend to not be very receptive to people from other countries, but the truth is actually completely different.

Ms. Ashiya discusses her time right after coming to Japan.

--- How did you get on with the people around you?

Everyone was really nice. For example, in Russia, sometimes people like supermarket staff or doctors can be upset with you. They say things like "I haven't got change so don't you have any coins?" or "You caught a cold because you weren't wearing enough clothes." (laughs) That kind of thing doesn't happen in Japan.

--- That true (laughs).

Obviously, they are not upset all the time in Russia (laughs). However, one time when I spilt my drink in a café in Japan, I was surprised by the reaction of the waitstaff. Even though I spilt over half my drink on the floor, they cleaned it up neatly and even brought me a new drink free of charge. Also, in Japan, if you break tableware by accident they don't try and charge you for it, do they? In Russia, the charge you have to pay if you break tableware is written on the menu. I think it is kind that they don't do that here (laughs).

--- Have you had any problems or doubts since moving to Japan?

There are too many buttons on the toilets (laughs). Sometimes I have to search for the one that makes it flush. Electric toilets are pretty rare in Russia, so I'm often asked about it when I'm showing around Russian tourists.

--- In addition to your YouTube work, I heard you also work as a tour guide. Where do you take people?

I often lead tours around Asakusa, Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Shibuya. It involves a lot of walking around Tokyo, so it can be tough if you're not used to it. I'm often asked, "Do you always walk this much?" and "You take the train this often?"

--- Do you also take the bus?

Unless I'm going to somewhere that can only be accessed by bus, I don't use it that often. Even I sometimes get lost looking for bus stops. You can check bus times using the internet, but it's really difficult to find the stops. Although they obviously have English signage, I think it would be better if they made it more and easier to understand for non-Japanese readers on routes that are not heading towards popular spots.

--- When did you start posting on YouTube?

Four or five years ago. I started soon after I came to Japan. At first, I did it as a hobby. Now I keep it going as one of my jobs as well as my hobby.

--- What made you try showing people Japan using videos?

I had enjoyed watching YouTube videos for a long time, but when I lived in Russia, there had been very few people sharing information from Japan. So, I thought I should try sharing information about places in Japan I wanted to go and my everyday life here.

A picture of Plum Blossoms taken by Ms Ashiya when she went to Mt. Takao.
Picture taken by Ashiya when she was in Mt. Takao Courtesy of Ashiya

However, once I actually started, I was unsure about who I should make the videos for. There are already a lot of non-Japanese who share information about Japan to viewers overseas, so I decided to do the opposite and share a non-Japanese's perspective with a Japanese audience. There weren't many people doing that and I thought I could get a more accurate understanding of Japan while having fun.

--- What kind of thing do you normally think about when making videos?

I want to show people sightseeing spots that are not very well known.
I also go to the really popular spots, but I feel that these kinds of places have become standard, even for tourists from abroad.
The internet is absolutely full of information about them, so I thought it would be more interesting to focus on less well-known places and help people to make discoveries.
For example, in my videos I have introduced Arakurayama Sengen Park in Yamanashi Prefecture, where you can see both Mt. Fuji and a five-story pagoda, and the Ikuta Ryokuchi Rose Garden in the city of Kawasaki. These are places that are popular with non-Japanese but a lot of Japanese don't know about.
By the way, you have the Mitsumine Shrine in Saitama Prefecture, which is still unknown to tourists from other countries, but I think it's going to become popular.

Also, the other day I made a video introducing Oyaki, a famous food from Nagano Prefecture, and I was surprised to find there were Japanese people who had never eaten or heard of it.
When people tell me things like "I didn't realize we had this in Japan," and "I've never heard of that," I feel rewarded and a little happy. I find something regional in Tokyo. In addition, when I share an interesting product or something unusual, I get a lot of reaction from Japanese people. This makes creating videos and sharing information with a Japanese audience really interesting.

--- There are a surprising number of things that people don't know about in their own country.

Aren't there. That's why it's so appealing to introduce sightseeing spots and interesting things, and interact with viewers to create new videos.

Ms. Ashiya explains the attraction and beauty of Japan which Japanese do not know.