Virtual Food for Thought
A Canadian Couple’s take on the culinary world in Asia
Do you like to eat? And wish eating was your day job? Well, for two Canadians residing in Japan tasting the best food the world has to offer, this is their bread and butter (so to speak). Along with their cheerfully ‘ugly’ (as Simon likes to describe him) rescue dog, Spudgy, and their grumpy cat Meemers, these Canucks are taking over the YouTube foodie world one bite at a time.
Known by their wildly popular YouTube channel, ‘Simon and Martina’, the duo originally moved to Korea in 2008. The foodie couple lived in Seoul for 9 years, the city that allowed them to expand and build their channel while working as English teachers. Just about a year ago they made the move to Tokyo. For the duo, the change was a simple way to tone down their working situation and destress. According to Martina, it became quite hard to be a boss and a creative person at the same time. Having a business, paying people salaries, having to structure what was needed when their blog and YouTube channel began to expand, clashed with their need to constantly come up with new ideas, create new content, edit videos, and put out an original piece that was worthwhile.
“Being a boss; as a fulltime YouTuber in South Korea, we had to apply to have a business, and an office space and a separate home. Along with paying people salaries and getting an accountant, it was a lot of paperwork and a lot of stress.”-Simon
In addition to a more complicated outlook for working creatives in regards to immigration in Korea, Japan just seemed like the next logical step. After nearly a decade in Seoul, Simon and Martina decided to make the move to Japan to begin a new phase in expanding their network. Not due to an insatiable hunger for more viewers (as other YouTube stars seem to focus on). Instead, it allowed them to simply showcase the food they love; and in Japan, they got to be closer to one of their culinary favorites, sushi!
Today, with over half a million views per video and 1.2 million followers, their channel is an absolute hit. Under their channel ‘Simon and Martina’, the married couple who met at a romantic poetry class while attending the University of Toronto are taking the culinary world of Tokyo by storm. From the finest gourmet restaurants serving up the best Kobe beef in the world, to homemade miso, their new adventures in Japan serve as a new chapter to the duo’s wildly successful food-blog venture.
Their YouTube fans, who eagerly await each new culinary or lifestyle episode, are also involved in seeing the couple go through the ins and outs of happy married life. Some of their videos, including ‘Saito: The Sushi God of Tokyo’, are revolutionizing the way YouTubers are presenting food blogs to viewers. For all those watching, their channel is the epitome of food porn. Their blogs are more than just beautifully displayed shots of food though. What makes Simon and Martina different is that they truly want to understand the way something is done. They also like to understand the people behind the culinary creations.
“The focus is about the energy and passion that gets transferred from the people that make the food to the way the food tastes and how you feel afterwards. Something that was made in a rush, will make you want to eat it quickly and make it disappear. Something made with care, makes you want to take your time and enjoy it.” -Martina
By describing, depicting and vividly defining the experience of visiting some of the best culinary haunts in South Korea, Japan and Asia, the couple has made it their soul mission to convey to their audience the zeal for life (and of course, food) they both share. Today, they are enjoying their working situation more than ever as part of the Breaker Network, a management company for YouTubers based in the fashionable Harajuku district of Tokyo.
“This is literally the best work environment that I could have imagined […] they don't pressure us to do anything that we don't want to do, they understand our artistic vision, they understand the integrity that we want to have in our work, they help us actualize all of these things.” -Simon
“And now we don't have to worry about all the legal and immigration and the accounting stuff and all these extra headaches that where in Korea. We don't have those things here in Japan and I just feel so much better as a creator.” -Martina
The Tokyo-based Breaker Network is a talent and management agency run by young creatives from different sectors of the Japanese entertainment industries (a normally stifling and highly regimented system of entertainment). The company seeks to represent YouTube personalities by finding talent that can translate in the real world. With an office that also serves as a studio in a basement with a grand staircase that used to be an opulent Italian restaurant during Japan’s bubble economy, the company offers a new lane for creative talent to get out into the world, regardless of nationality. While the agency handles the management side of their business, the twosome is able to focus on what they love most—food!
Aside from a successful YouTube channel supporting the couple’s passion, their active Instagram, website, and blog all have a cult-like following of hungry viewers. Their blog alone, eatyourkimchi.com, reaches millions of readers, from quirky fans to uber-stylish foodies. Their online outlets have also served as a vehicle for Martina to deal with chronic pain and Ehlers-Danios Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the way collagen acts in the body. Although Martina does not want this to be the focus of their work in any way; for those watching, their honest approach on how to handle difficulties in life has served as an inspiration for their own lives.
For fans and foodies alike, their videos dealing with their personal daily struggle represents an honest way for the couple to express the difficulty of living with chronic pain. In the meantime and inadvertently, the Canadian duo is quietly helping viewers that may suffer from similar conditions and their side effects, such as depression. Besides the fun-filled jokes, tasty eats and all around great times their regular videos encapsulate, rare videos that express this struggle have allowed their fans to see them in an open and honest way.
Something that a lot of other YouTube stars seem to ignore in an environment where videos tend to focus on subjects like ‘ketchup challenges’ and the ‘underwear prank’. For Simon and Martina though, the secret to success is living life to the fullest, doing what you love, and getting out there, despite any limitations.
During a low point during her high school days back in Canada, Martina even contemplated taking her own life; passing up on a chance to go on an exchange to Japan due to the side effects of her condition (such as constant dislocations). Their strong zest for life and unshakable bond has overcome any dark clouds that were looming though; now Martina is living her dreams to the fullest! You can catch their food-filled adventures on YouTube, Instagram and on their blog.
Check out Simon and Martina's Blog, Instagram and YouTube channel: