Aged 27, Tokyo No Jo is more and more talked about on Youtube and TikTok where he combines more than 650,000 subscribers. His specialty: humorous videos in which he compares the cultural differences between Japan, his country, and France, where he has lived since 2014. A subject that entertains as much as it pleases, reflecting the growing interest French people for manga and Japanese pop culture. Jo will also be one of the guests of honor this weekendart-to-play in Nantes, one of the biggest festivals in the sector in France.
You grew up in Japan, your whole family lives there, but you have been living in France for almost 8 years now. Why this choice ?
I studied French as a second language, somewhat by chance, and one day I wanted to discover France for myself. I liked it a lot and I decided to settle there. Basically it was for a year and, finally, I stayed! I was enrolled for two years at the Sorbonne, I also worked in a travel agency, then in a company that organized repatriations. I discovered the sea, other cities, I have friends, French food is delicious. I feel good here.
What surprised you the most when you arrived in France?
Perhaps the coldness of people, at the start. People in the street, shopkeepers, waiters don’t smile, barely say hello, at least in Paris. I was also shocked by the filth in transport, the delays, the begging. You never see that in Japan. I appreciated the frankness of the French, it’s easier than in Japan to know what someone is thinking. While traveling, I was also very surprised by the diversity of the regions, the dialects, the pride. It is as if there were several small countries in one.
Why did you start posting videos?
Since I’m a bit shy, I threw myself into getting attention and trying to make friends. The idea was to break the clichés about Japan, give my point of view on the differences with France, criticize the two countries while making people laugh. I didn’t think it would be so successful. Today, I earn between 3,000 and 4,000 euros per month with YouTube and TikTok, not counting partnerships. I devote myself entirely to my videos, even if I publish a lot less than most other Youtubers.
In your videos, you have fun with the pitfalls of the French language. Was learning difficult?
It was really a hassle at first. In Japan, when you learn French, you mainly work on writing. The first weeks in France, I didn’t understand anything orally. There are notions that are not obvious, like the masculine-feminine which does not exist in Japanese. And then there are many subtleties that can create misunderstandings. When a girl says “I like you” or “I like you a lot”, it’s much less strong than “I love you” for example! Why ? There are also French phrases or expressions which, when spoken, sound like profanities in Japanese. It’s quite unsettling (laughs).
One of your most successful videos is about supermarkets. You also confide that you spend a lot of time there…
I like it, yes. I find ideas there. When you look at shopping carts, you learn things about people, about their lives, about their tastes. And it must be said that here the supermarkets are quite different from Japan. There are security guards, a lot of alcohol, a lot of mineral water, few fresh prepared meals… Customers tear the plastic from milk or Coke packs to take only one bottle. That is unimaginable in Japan.
Another particularly popular video, the one dealing with parties…
In France, everyone comes late to parties and that’s normal. If you arrive right on time, you’ll find yourself alone! The Japanese would have arrived ten minutes earlier! The other big difference is that the guests chat in all corners: on a sofa, in the kitchen, in the hallway, on the balcony… It’s weird. In Japan, everyone is gathered around a table. And then for a classic evening in France, there are sweets, aperitif cakes, sausage, beers and that’s about it. Finally, quite a bit of cooking. But it’s cool, it’s more relaxed than in Japan I think.
You also talk a lot about romantic relationships, of course…
Because the codes are not the same at all. In Japan, we don’t call a woman we don’t know very well by her first name and we kiss her even less! Things are going much faster in France. I also have the impression that French women have more personality.
What ideas do the Japanese have of France?
For my parents’ generation, France was the top, the great travel dream. To see Paris, drink champagne, all that… But I think that has changed a bit. Young people have a somewhat snobbish image of France: gastronomy, elegance, castles, museums… An expensive destination that’s not necessarily cool for having fun. They are more attracted by the pop culture of other countries like the United States or Australia.
And the French then? They are among the biggest manga readers in the world…
Some young French people are very savvy, know manga much better than the Japanese themselves who, sometimes, are content to One Piece Where naruto. Those who enter through the manga are often then interested in Japanese culture, its history, food. I think Japan is attracting more and more people. I get asked a lot of questions about him. But some clichés still die hard. Not all Japanese are calm, polite and eat a lot of fish! (laughs)