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Norm Nakamura (Tokyo Lens)

Norm Nakamura is a popular YouTuber.

He has more than 900K subscribers on his YouTube channel, ‘Tokyo Lens.’

Norm is also a photographer and a musician.


Norm Nakamura was born on 22 August 1984 in Toronto, Canada.

Later, he moved to Kitchener-Waterloo (KW), Ontario and grew up here.

Norm has brothers namely, Alexander Norman Brandt and Jesse Brandt and a sister, Kayla.

Learning Japanese-

One of his high school teachers who knew Japanese inspired Norm to learn Japanese.

He borrowed his teacher’s dictionary, Yohan English Japanese-Japanese English Dictionary, and started learning Japanese words and vocabulary.

Norm also started reading kids’ Japanese books to learn reading and writing.

He learnt Japanese at his best when he later attended a university and befriended the Japanese community there and started using Japanese on a daily basis.

At a young age, Norm had a passion for studying French and he also won numerous French awards in his school but later, as he started learning Japanese and didn’t focus on French, he forgot French.

First trip to Japan-

In 2005, Norm visited Japan for the first time for a couple of months.

He travelled the most of Japan and visited places like Hokkaido, Sendai, etc. and got mesmerised by the country.

Even though Norm didn’t speak much Japanese on this trip, he managed to do well.

In this trip, he filmed himself, his experiences and Japan with a Sony handycam and this videography skill later greatly helped him in shooting videos for his YouTube channels.

Then, Norm returned to Canada.

Inspiration to move to Japan-

Once his friend gave Norm the Yoshida Brothers 2 CD and after listening to it, he was astonished by it.

As his younger brother, Alexander, was an anime fan, he dragged him to the Otakon anime convention in Washington and here, he got a chance to see the live performance of the Yoshida Brothers.

As Norm was amazed by their performance, he decided to move to Japan and become their apprentice.

Moving to Japan-

In 2007, Norm moved to Japan and started working in an English conversation school.

He drifted cars for a while and watched all the Initial D series (a Japanese street racing manga series) to better learn Japanese and eventually, with practice, he mastered Japanese and became fluent in it.

A terrible accident in November 2010 made Norm to quit car races and he decided to focus on playing the shamisen.

Becoming an apprentice of the Yoshida Brothers-

After trying and failing for a year to get in contact with Yoshida Brothers, in 2011, Norm purchased an expensive shamisen from a shop which sold goods to the Yoshida Brothers and requested the shop owners to introduce him to Yoshida Brothers.

Even though he got introduced to the Yoshida Brothers a couple of times, he got rejected every time.

Later, Norm approached Yoshida Brothers and expressed his passion for learning shamisen music.

Luckily, the elder Yoshida Brother, Ryoichiro Yoshida, accepted his request after noticing his passion for shamisen.

Likewise, Norm became an apprentice of the Yoshida Brothers in December 2011.

From December 2011 until 2019, he worked as a Tsugaru Shamisen player and did many live shows and performances all over the world and also got featured on a few television shows (in 2013, he debuted on Japanese TV- Waratte-ii-tomo) and in the opening scene of a movie.

Norm also won the Judge’s Special Prize for the rendition of “Tusgaru Jongara Bushi” and he also won the “Special Recognition Award” in the National Tsugaru Shamisen competition.

He was earning handsomely as a shamisen player and also worked as an international manager and ambassador for Japanese shamisen players.

His first YouTube channel-

On 3 October 2011, Norm started his first YouTube channel by the name Shamisen in Tokyo.

He started this channel to showcase the lives of shamisen players in Japan.

As of November 2023, Norm has 65.4K subscribers on this YouTube channel.

Tokyo Lens-

On 14 July 2015, Norm started his second YouTube channel, ‘Tokyo Lens’ and started posting videos about Japan.

In 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, he wasn’t able to tour and do shamisen performances and produce content for his Shamisen in Tokyo YouTube channel.

At that time, vlogging in Tokyo was difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions, so Norm decided to travel the countryside of Japan and produce videos for his Tokyo Lens channel.

He found many hidden gems in rural Japan thanks to his research process which involves reading Japanese blogs and scrolling through Google Maps for long hours.

Becoming a full-time YouTuber-

From 1 April 2011 to 1 April 2018, Norm worked in the field of corporate management.

He quit his full-time job to become a full-time YouTuber.

Now, Norm is a very successful YouTuber.

As of November 2023, he has 906K subscribers on his ‘Tokyo Lens’ YouTube channel.

He earns from a variety of sources like advertisements on his YouTube channel, receiving sponsorships, receiving donations on Patreon and affiliate marketing.

Previously, Norm was also earning by selling the prints of his photos.

He uses a Sony α7S III camera to shoot his videos.

Norm also has a website and runs a podcast.

He lives in Meguro City, Tokyo, Japan.

Some interesting facts about Norm Nakamura-

  • Norm is a cat lover and had several cats while living in Canada but he couldn’t have them in Japan thanks to his frequent travel schedule.
  • Spring is his favourite season in Japan.
  • Norm’s dream is to earn a helicopter pilot’s license near his retirement.
  • He also travelled to Australia and the United States.
  • Norm is interested in street photography.
  • His favourite places in Japan are Matsuyama in Shikoku Island, Kokura of Kitakyushu.

So, how are you inspired by the success story of Norm Nakamura?

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