A Polish-American Vlogger in Tokyo
SNA (Tokyo) — Kasia Mecinski is one of the most famous YouTubers who vlogs in both Polish and English language, broadcasting from Japan. In an exclusive interview with the Shingetsu News Agency, Mecinski shares her experience as a successful foreign vlogger in Tokyo. She has two YouTube channels, TheUwagaPies, which mainly focuses on travel, and Fifty na Pol, which explores similarities and differences between Polish and American culture.
Mecinski herself has dual nationality, Polish and American. She explains her perception of Japanese culture as well, and also how she deals with being a Polish-American vlogger living in Japan and having a mainly Polish audience.
Paulina Kowalska: Tell me something about your experience with vlogging. Why did you decide to vlog?
Kasia Mecinski: My origins in vlogging are very different than other peoples’. It is not something I truly intended to get into. It is just kind of happened to me because I started appearing on my business partner’s vlogs. I decided that since I was already recognizable and there is like a level of privacy that was already passed, why not start vlogging and doing it for myself as well? That is how I started. I think some people start really intentionally. It is something that they’ve dreamed about and wanted to do. For me, it was like I kind of fell into it. However, if we are speaking about my Polish channel, I guess the second motivation was that the reaction to myself on my business partner’s channel made me think I should start a channel. The reaction was mostly kind of like a lot of questions and confusion about my identity, which, as I say, in English most comfortably I’m Polish-American and in Poland it’s a very homogenous country so it really upsets and disrupts like a lot of people’s idea of an identity. That is a bigger motivation.
Paulina Kowalska: Have you come across any criticism from Polish people since you are not a native Polish speaker?
Kasia Mecinski: Yes. All the time. I would say there are a lot of similarities between Japan and Poland in this homogeneity of the people. It is really upsetting for some reason when a Miss of Japan was half-black half-Japanese. It is really upsetting for so many people. Likewise, when people find out that…(pauses)… My parents are both Polish and I am born in America so my identity for me is Polish-American. It is really upsetting for them as well. Yes, I do get criticism for my language. At the beginning there was so much criticism on Kris’ [Krzysztof Gonciarz’] channel like, why am I faking it? There is also another layer of complexes that comes out that is not maybe present in Japan. Why am I making mistakes, which is very interesting for me that so many people believed that I am faking my mistakes to appear more American. Or why am I so stupid? Why would I bother? Why am I purposely upsetting people? A lot of people thought I was doing this intentionally. This was very strange.
Paulina Kowalska: How would you describe your YouTube channels?
Kasia Mecinski: I have two YouTube channels, Fifty na Pol and TheUwagaPies. Fifty na Pol is a cultural exploration with Polish. My favorite video that I have done on there is the life of the Vietnamese minority in Poland, because it was the largest minority. TheUwagaPies, English-language channel, is about a life in Japan. What do you know about Japan? How is life in Japan? This is a simpler concept. This is how my life is like in Japan. This is what you can see.
Paulina Kowalska: How is it to live as a foreigner in Japan?
Kasia Mecinski: It is a really strong hate-love relationship. Mostly love, because I am still here. But once in a while, something happens and you just… “why is that happening”? I think that is a different experience as a woman in Japan. You don’t really get as much interaction as foreign men in Japan because, culturally, I guess we are very different. It can be really alienating and lonely, and I think that is why often times you find foreigners friends with other foreigners. Because it makes interactions easier as much as we would love to have hundreds of the Japanese friends. I find that a lot of foreigners gravitate towards each other for an easier comfort which I wish they did that differently, but it is what it is. Otherwise, Japan is a great place to live. It is really comfortable. It is really safe. I mean this is the thing that everyone appreciates about Japan: how safe it is, how much people respect each other, how much people respect each other’s privacy. This is something you don’t find in other countries. I wish the rest of the world could learn from Japan just to respect each other, respect each other’s space. Everything functions so much better just from just like walking through the train station. Your daily life is just easier when people care for each other, for each other’s well-being and space.
Paulina Kowalska: What intrigues you the most about the Japanese culture?
Kasia Mecinski: The most intriguing thing about the Japanese culture is the same thing when I first arrived and first imagined Japan and living in Japan, which is a duality of really modern society that holds on to its tradition so well. I think it is really impressive that Japan is the third economy in the world; that it has not lost its identity and culture which you find it happens in a lot of countries as their economies are growing, get better. Poland is a good example. You don’t see people wearing ethnic regional costumes. You don’t see people wear them on a regular basis. I mean when the people wear it in Poland? They don’t. You see people wearing yukata and kimonos here regularly. Young ladies and young men go to fireworks shows in yukatas. They are excited to put on their yukatas. You find people who love and appreciate Japanese tea making. These type of traditions Japan holds onto and appreciates so much better than the other countries. I think it is very admirable.
Paulina Kowalska: In your vlogging, you share an experience about living in Japan. How do manage to attract both the English- and Polish-speaking audiences?
Kasia Mecinski: These are two very really different approaches. We attract English-speaking viewers to our channel with a content. Japan is a very hot destination. This is a really exotic destination right now that everyone is really intrigued by. You see pop cultures in movies a lot of more. You see music videos a lot. There are so many music videos that are being filmed in Japan. And with that anime and manga culture, Japan is such an interesting place in the world. So many people just want to know about it. Japan does all the work, we are just there with the camera. For the Polish channel, it’s a really different approach. It is just much more emotional and more related to the psyche of Polish people. I guess it goes back to why I started a channel, because I was so upsetting and interesting. I evoked so many emotions from people, so I continued to make my content based on that. I continued to answer questions that I know or either explaining misconceptions about people like me, like Polish-Americans. I wanted to get to the heart why there is so much tension between these cultural mixes and that is why I do a channel based on it. That’s what attracts viewers, just kind of curiosity about living somewhere else, just regular things, the mundane things, are interesting on that channel for my viewers.
Paulina Kowalska: What is your biggest achievement related to vlogging?
Kasia Mecinski: My biggest achievement of vlogging is the ability to do it and have viewers interested in it. I really time I post a video and I see the number of people who watch it. I am always a little emotional, why do you care? And it is very flattering. It is an amazing platform to share your ideas with so many people and get some many people’s feedback. I am obsessed with reading people’s comments. I want to know what everyone is thinking. I want to know what everyone is feeling. This is for me the biggest accomplishment, creating this community of people who want to talk and share ideas about sometimes difficult topics.
Paulina Kowalska: How did you manage to get such a big audience in your vlogging?
Kasia Mecinski: Again, the English channel and Polish channel are different. So, with the English one, I would say it is kind of a matter of people being interested in Japan. We used to systematically upload and care about the content and people were responding to that. With the Polish channel, I am also pretty irregular with uploading there. I always think what does a viewer want to know? What does a viewer want to see? What they are curious about. And it seems to get their interest, so the numbers are there, I guess.
Paulina Kowalska: What has inspired you to come to Japan and start vlogging about the Japanese culture?
Kasia Mecinski: What inspired me to come to Japan, it was my original interest in Japan and curiosity about the duality mentioned earlier. I originally meant to come just for a year. However, after the year, Kris and I met at some point and started a company, Tofu Media. That is what kept me here. And because we have this company here, which is a video production company. We have the resources to vlog. And we have, I would say an interesting and unique perspective on Japan as we have our own company here that deals with a video production. We get to experience Japan in a different way than many other people, so that it is what made me want to share my experiences.
Paulina Kowalska: Do you have any advice on how to become a successful YouTuber?
Kasia Mecinski: If you are doing it mainly to get views, you are going to be really frustrated. Do it because there is something that really interests you and intrigues you. If it is interesting and intriguing enough for other people, they will find you and you will grow your audience. However, doing it just for views and money or whatever the reason may be, often times viewers see through it and they don’t feel connected to the YouTuber, so you have to find some passion that you want to share and then people will appreciate that passion in you and follow you.
Paulina Kowalska: Are you passionate about what you are doing?
Kasia Mecinski: I am really passionate about what I do. Recently my Polish channel has been where all my passion has gone. My English channel is also what I am passionate about now. It is more a matter of time that is the issue. because with a company we are doing more and more work and more of a client work. As I said, more people are interested in Japan so there is more incoming inbound work for us. It is the matter of now having enough time and resources to do all of it. I am definitely really passionate. I am really excited about the ideas and concepts I get to share and the feedback that I get from it. It is really motivating and makes me feel close to this community. We are sharing and changing views on something that it is important. It is really motivating.
Paulina Kowalska: As far as I know, you do the vlogging about traveling. What places have you gone to? What have you explored?
Kasia Mecinski: My channel and the channel that I do with Kris, we do quite a bit of traveling. For my channel, I have been to Spain and Dubai and the U.S. My channel is less than two years old. I think these are the only places, and Poland of course. And on another English channel, we have traveled a lot around Japan. In TheUwagaPies we have been able to go to Nikko, Fukushima, Okinawa, a lot of prefectures down south, like Fukuoka, island Kyushu. I love Fukuoka, I love Okinawa. So, getting that opportunities to travel around Japan like that are really rewarding. Through Kris’s channel, there has been a lot of traveling. There has been Hong Kong, South Korea. We got to go to the Olympics and we were the first YouTubers to get full publicity rights at the Olympics. This was a huge honor for us. We got to meet so many great people. We were in Greenland, we were in Indonesia, Poland. There have been so many opportunities. I can’t think of everything. Last year, it felt like there was almost no time we that we weren’t traveling. Sometimes it is really a whirlwind, just moving and traveling and creating a content. It is all very amazing. We get to meet so many people through this work and you also get to build such a great community that you share ideas with and learn from.
Paulina Kowalska: What is your favorite place you have travelled to?
Kasia Mecinski: I don’t know if I have a favorite place, but I think the most unique was Greenland. There are no trees there. It is just crazy! You see it in the movies about dog sledding. We were dog sledding. This is just something that to me it is just only a nature documentary in the movies, so it is amazing.
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