The next stage
Back in 2012 the phrase ‘Abroad in Japan’ only had meaning for one person, Mr Chris Broad. He had travelled to Japan to work as an English teaching assistant as part of Japan’s JET program, yet, he also decided to document his new life in the form of the occasional YouTube video. Ten years later, ‘Abroad in Japan’ has ballooned into one of the largest — if not the largest — Japanese focused travel/entertainment channels on the internet.
Now after the many years of posting highly engaging content on the world’s biggest video platform, Chris Broad has decided to sit down and share some of his trials and tribulations that he has encountered over the course of his time in Japan in his first published book: Abroad in Japan, Ten years in the Land of the Rising Sun.
This autobiographical style account starts from the very beginning, before Chris has even moved to Japan. He recalls the moments when he visits the Japanese embassy in London for an interview to get onto the JET program.
This is where the Abroad in Japan book shines. It’s full of details and scenarios like this that Chris has barely discussed on his channel (or podcast) until now.
He talks about moments that you would never consider to be different such as visiting the doctors or describing the qualities of a Japanese convenience store; on the face of it these seem quite boring, yet they are often incredibly insightful thanks to Chris’ grounded style of narration and his dry sense of humour that is periodically inserted. A candid retelling of an awkward situation in a Love Hotel is another example, in which he learned the valuable lesson of not having cash on him at all times when in Japan.
It’s these personal stories and encounters that, as well as being interesting to read, provide valuable insights and lessons to those wanting to visit the country. You are learning from a man that started from square one who is sharing both his successes and mistakes.
A dividing line
Despite the reference of ten years in Japan, over half the book covers experiences that occurred within the first twelve months of his stay; two-thirds cover the three year period of his teaching career. This may seem a bit misleading to some, but it is this period that has been somewhat unknown territory for many of his viewers over the years.
Chris talks you through these first few years at great length as he discovers Japan for the first time. From the trivial to the outlandish and the day-to-day life as a foreign language teacher, he successfully conjures each scene in vivid detail that invokes the imagination of the reader seemingly taking you along the journey with him.
The remaining third covers his YouTube era and goes into detail regarding some of his career highlights and popular videos. While still insightful, they don’t provide quite as much value as some of the earlier chapters. The extent of which depends really on how much Abroad in Japan content you’ve already consumed up to this point; previous Q&A sessions and the videos themselves will already tell you much, and the latter stages of the book only adds a little context.
This is something that can also be said about a few other anecdotes found throughout the book but to a much lesser extent.
That being said, if you are somewhat a newer fan of Chris Broad and his Abroad in Japan channel then they are perhaps stories that will feel fresher and more rewarding to discover.
An open book
The Abroad in Japan book however offers more than just the retelling of Japanese shenanigans, it very much sheds light on Chris Broad as a person.
A surprising amount is opened up to the reader regarding thoughts and personal experiences and has the ability of turning the on screen Mr Affable into someone more relatable. it’s a side that feels like it could only be expressed on the words of a page rather than the visual persona that is Abroad in Japan.
Details of near bankruptcy and thoughts of leaving Japan in the early years are some of the truly eye-opening revelations detailed within that brings this seemingly infallible success much closer to home. It showcases a personal resolve that is hard to detect outside of this book.
Viewers of Chris’ work will also be aware of his somewhat witty humour and playfully smug character of which has been dialled down here; it’s written instead with a tone that feels very genuine and far from what you see on-screen. He does however still manage to slip in some textbook Chris Broad style comedy now and then to add that personal touch.
For fans of Chris Broad and the Abroad in Japan channel this book is a good opportunity to dig a little deeper into his early life in Japan and the beginning of his now illustrious YouTube career. It’s an engaging account that not only sheds light on his own personal story but also simultaneously teaches the readers about numerous aspects of Japanese life and customs. In fact, if you are planning an extended first time trip, the contents of this book could prove highly beneficial.
It gets a little more disappointing as the account progresses towards the modern day however. The smooth transitions into subsequent stories become lost, and the last few chapters feel like isolated add-ons to an otherwise compelling account, much of which isn’t entirely new. This is somewhat expected as trying to cram 10 years worth of adventure into a 300 page book is a big ask.
Yet despite this disappointing aspect, it isn’t really enough to take away from the experience as a whole. It’s a milestone achievement for Chris himself, and a thoroughly engaging read for his many fans and followers.