A Look Back at #Japanuary

Japanuary - Thank You

THANK YOU to everyone who took part in #Japanuary, my Instagram and Twitter challenge about Japan (in January).

This was my first time running an Instagram photo challenge. And in fact, the most I’ve ever managed to join in with one has been the first day… Which gives me even greater respect for everyone who managed to post every day! Here are my thoughts and a look back at how it went.

How it started

I first thought of the name Japanuary a few months ago and noted it down in my planner. I loved the name (as you know I’m a fan of puns) and knew I had to do something, but I wasn’t sure what. It was only in the last few weeks of December that I decided what it should be.

Instagram challenges are where you post every day for a week or a month, with prompts each day. There are lots of small business ones, and sketch / doodle challenges like Inktober, where people post drawings every day. Everyone uses the same hashtag, so you can all look through each others’ posts.

Japan turned out to be a perfect theme, as we could all share photos from our trips, chat about what we like about it and get ideas for places to go and things to try.

Japanuary Themes

All the details about how it works are here in a separate blog post.

#Japanuary Themes

Japanuary Community

It really felt like a little community. I really enjoyed looking through everyone’s pictures. But the best part was reading the stories behind them, and hearing about all your happy memories.

It was great to find out I’m not the only one with a fascination for vending machines, and it was a relief to know other people get excited about Japanese trains too.

I really am blown away by how many people joined in. To be completely honest, before I started I genuinely thought it might be just me posting on my own, but I decided to share the themes just in case anyone wanted to join in. I never expected so many people would participate, and carry on posting throughout the entire month.

It seemed to take on a life of its own in Germany too, with lots of posts in German! I made good use of Instagram’s translate feature for them!

It’s a bit tricky to count how many posts there were, as it turns out that Japanuary is also a skiing hashtag for people on winter sports holidays in Hokkaido. I’ve now discovered some stunning snowy mountains – Niseko looks amazing! But for example, on ramen day, looking up the hashtag and seeing so many ramen photos made me so happy! I really felt like I’d started something.

Japanuary - Sushi Photos
Day 27: Sushi (with some skiing thrown in!)

Spotting Trends

On some days people posted the same sorts of things, and other days were a complete mixture. On Day 24: Nature/Animals there were a lot of deer from Nara! And on Day 4: Temples and Shrines, there were lots of Senso-Ji in Asakusa, and beautiful Itsukishima Shrine in Miyajima (one of my favourites too!). It was really pretty interesting to see which places you’ve been to, which snacks most of you go for, and which views you found the most beautiful.

Favourite Themes

Some themes were harder than others. I found countryside quite tricky. I hadn’t realised before, but I haven’t really and truly been in the Japanese countryside – which gives me ideas for where to explore next! There were lots of pictures from bullet train windows. And some places, like Akihabara, I know really well but hadn’t taken that many pictures of.

The days I enjoyed most were the sweets and snacks – lots of ideas for things to try! And also the cute characters – seeing all the characters people had spotted on signs (a kind of obsession of mine!). As a designer I’m really interested in how and why Japan has a culture of cute, with character mascots and little characters on serious signs, to make them more friendly.

I also really enjoyed the first day: You and why you love Japan. It was genuinely heart-warming to hear your stories about how you got into Japanese culture, from an exchange student at school or a childhood interest in karate or anime, and then finally visiting Japan yourself, many years later.

Thank you for joining in!

So a big THANK YOU to everyone who took part – even if it was just for one day or a couple of days. Japanuary’s not about rules; 31 days is a lot to commit to so I wanted you to feel free to join in when you feel like it or when you have time, or pick up halfway through. In fact there are still some people doing a catch-up and going through the themes one by one when they have time.

I’ve learnt a few things, had some interesting insights and feel like part of a community of people who love Japan, which I hope will continue in the Instagram comments, and through YouTube in the comments section. Making videos is so one-sided, so I always appreciate it when you share your thoughts or tell me your stories – I read them all!

More about Japan

Stay tuned for more Japan videos every Thursday on YouTube. I’ll keep sharing my Japan pictures every now and then on Instagram – and you should too!

If you’d like to support Cakes with Faces, take a look at my merch right here in online shop. There’s worldwide shipping, and lots of my designs are inspired by Japan.