Reels and Shorts in Japan – The Role of Short-Form Content in Japanese Social Media

Posted By Jim Kersey

Short-form video has become a fundamental aspect of social media in Japan, with TikTok, Reels, and Shorts gaining immense popularity.

These formats seamlessly cater to the constantly changing preferences and behaviours of users today, as well as increasingly short attention spans in Japanese society.

We explore how the engaging nature, shareability, and entertainment value of short video content is so uniquely effective in Japan today.

Table of Contents

  1. Short-form video in Japanese Society
  2. The power of short-form content
  3. Tiktok, Reels and Shorts: how are they different?
  4. Is long form content still important in Japan?
  5. Should you add reels and shorts to your Japan social media strategy?

Have Questions About Marketing in Japan?

Contact Us!

The Role of Short-Form Video Content in Japanese Society

Long before the emergence of TikTok, Reels and Shorts in Japan, the short-form video format was already a staple of modern media.

With competition and cost for television commercial slots being so high, it was common practice for advertisers to opt for quick and punchy ads—often featuring big-name celebrity endorsements to grab attention and make the most of short airing times.

Today, 15–second video spots are also widespread on the digital screens of Japan’s metro system, displaying bursts of branded content to the millions of citizens who use this form of public transport each day.

A few reasons short-form video has been so prevalent in Japanese society include:

  • Attention Span and Time Constraints — Japanese audiences, like many others worldwide, have increasingly short attention spans due to information overload and busy lifestyles. Short-form content caters to this reality by delivering concise and engaging messages that can be quickly consumed on the go.
  • Mobile Dominance — Short-form content is optimised for mobile devices, making it easily accessible and shareable on various platforms, aligning well with the Japanese population’s mobile consumption habits.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and Collectivism — In a collectivist culture where social connections and group identity are highly valued, short-form videos can trigger the fear of missing out (FOMO). Viewers may feel compelled to engage with and share content quickly to feel connected to their peers and stay up-to-date with the latest trends.
  • Cultural Aesthetics — Japan has a rich artistic and cultural heritage that values minimalism, simplicity, and aesthetics. Short-form content often aligns well with these cultural sensibilities, focusing on conveying messages succinctly and creatively.
  • Adaptability to New Trends — Short-form content allows brands to quickly respond to trends and current events, staying relevant and engaging with their audience in real-time. With new trends constantly emerging in Japan, creating short-form content can be more cost-effective and less time-consuming than producing long-form ads or marketing campaigns. This aspect is especially appealing to businesses with limited budgets or those seeking to maintain an agile marketing approach.

The fast-paced nature of short-form content resonates well with Japanese audiences, making it an effective strategy for brands seeking to capture attention and build connections in such a dynamic market.

HB Pro Tip: The spread of trends from other Asian nations to Japan can vary depending on the nature of the trend, technology, cultural similarities, language, media influence, and more. However, it is common for trends to spread quickly between China (the home of TikTok) and Japan, due to proximity and cultural exchange.

Explore the Difference between American and Japanese Advertising

The Power of Short Form Content

Japanese friends creating Reels and Shorts in Japan

Short-form video content possesses a unique power to capture audience attention quickly, align with modern consumption habits, and leverage psychological drivers such as FOMO and emotional triggers.

Its accessibility, shareability, and ability to evoke quick reactions make it an essential tool for brands, influencers, and content creators seeking to engage audiences and carve out a reputation for themselves in the Japanese market.

Capturing Audience Attention in a Fast-Paced World

Short-form videos excel at capturing audience attention quickly. Their concise nature allows them to convey a message or tell a story within a brief timeframe, making them ideal for a fast-paced society where individuals are constantly bombarded with content.

Accessibility and Consumption Habits

Viewers can watch Reels and Shorts on the go, during short breaks, or while waiting in line. This accessibility encourages frequent engagement, increasing the chances of content going viral and reaching a vast audience.

Leveraging Mobile-Friendly Content

Japan’s extensive and efficient public transportation system, which includes Tokyo’s metro system that caters to over 6 million daily passengers, is a major factor in mobile phone usage in Japan.

Commuting times are often long, and people spend a significant amount of time on social media—offering them a way to pass the time, stay productive, or engage with their online communities.

Short-form videos have emerged during this time of widespread mobile usage and work perfectly on smartphone screens, allowing users to easily consume and share content on the move.

Psychological Drivers Behind Short-Form Content Popularity

Japan has a highly collectivist culture and the fear of missing out (FOMO) is prevalent. There are several potential implications of this on social media trends, including the perceived importance of staying on top of circulating trends, opinions and stories.

Digesting content in a quick and engaging way through TikTok, Reels and Shorts in Japan is a popular way for many people to do this, requiring minimal time to stay connected with the community. The same goes for Tweets, memes and other short forms of content.

Short-form videos also present information in bite-sized chunks, making them easier for the brain to process and retain. This cognitive ease enhances the likelihood of viewers absorbing and remembering the content.

Trigger Emotional Responses

The brevity of short-form videos often focuses on creating emotional impact. Whether it’s humour, excitement, or shock, these emotions can elicit quick and strong reactions from viewers, encouraging them to engage with and share the content.

TikTok, Reels and Shorts – Similarities and Differences

Social media users creating Reels and Shorts in Japan

TikTok videos, IG Reels and YouTube shorts all share several similarities, each catering to the growing demand for short-form, visually engaging, and easily shareable content in the digital landscape.

Instagram Reels Reels is a short-form video format on Instagram that allows users to create and share videos up to 60 seconds long. It offers various creative tools like audio, effects, and editing features, enabling users to produce engaging and entertaining content.
YouTube Shorts Shorts is a short-form video format on YouTube that allows users to create and watch videos of up to 60 seconds. It focuses on vertical videos and offers a set of editing tools for users to craft compelling content.
TikTok Videos On TikTok, users can create, share, and discover short-form videos, typically ranging from 15 to 60 seconds. The platform is known for its user-friendly video editing tools, a vast library of audio clips and music, and the ability to use various effects and filters.
Snapchat Snapchat is a multimedia messaging app that allows users to send and receive self-destructing photos and videos, called Snaps. The app also offers Stories, short videos and photos that can be viewed by friends for 24 hours before disappearing.
Memes Memes are humorous or viral images, videos, or text that spread rapidly across the internet, often conveying cultural references or inside jokes.
GIFs GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) are short animated images that loop continuously, conveying emotions or reactions in a visually engaging manner. Both memes and GIFs are widely used in social media and online conversations to express thoughts and emotions succinctly.

Common Features of Short-Form Video Content

Boy watching Reels and Shorts in Japan

  • Brevity — All these formats and platforms prioritise brevity, offering content that is typically brief and concise. Videos on these platforms are usually limited in duration, ranging from a few seconds to a minute, catering to users with short attention spans.
  • Visual Storytelling — Each format relies heavily on visual elements to convey messages, stories, or emotions. Visual content is highly engaging and more likely to resonate with audiences in shorter time windows, making it a central aspect of these platforms.
  • User-Generated Content — Reels, Shorts, TikTok, and Snapchat, in particular, are known for their emphasis on user-generated content. Users are encouraged to create and share their videos, fostering a sense of community and creativity among the user base.
  • Interactivity — Many of these platforms offer interactive features, allowing users to engage with content through likes, comments, shares, and follows. This interactivity enhances user engagement and participation.
  • Social Sharing — Sharing content is a key aspect of Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, relying on users to spread videos and images.
  • Popularity Among Younger Audiences — TikTok videos, Reels and Shorts have gained immense popularity among younger generations, such as Gen Z and Millennials. These demographics often prefer visually appealing, quick-to-consume content that aligns with their fast-paced lifestyles and their desire for fresh content, daily.
  • Emphasis on Creativity and Trends — Short-form content often encourages originality, creativity and trends, prompting users to participate in challenges, use popular audio tracks, and incorporate special effects.

Is Long-Form Content Still Important in Japan?

Japanese brand marketer creating podcast in Japan

While short-form content has gained significant popularity, long-form content such as podcasts, webinars, video interviews, educational series, guides, and thought leadership still offer their own distinct advantages.

  • In-Depth Communication — Long-form content allows brands to convey complex messages, tell elaborate stories, and provide in-depth information about their products or services. It is well-suited for educating and engaging information-hungry Japanese audiences on topics that require more comprehensive explanations.
  • Thought Leadership and Expertise — Long-form content, such as articles, blog posts, or whitepapers, positions brands as thought leaders in their industry. By offering valuable insights and expertise, brands can establish themselves as authorities and build credibility among their target audience.
  • SEO and Search Visibility — Long-form content can improve a brand’s search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Search engines often prioritise longer, informative content, leading to higher search visibility and organic traffic to a brand’s website.
  • Targeting Specific Audiences — It can sometimes be easier to target niche audiences with specific interests or needs using long-form content by dialling in on very specific issues and customer pain points.
  • Brand Storytelling — Longer formats can help brands to craft compelling narratives and share their brand story in a more immersive way. As part of a well-rounded marketing matrix, it can support short-form lifestyle content by going deeper into the “why?” and “how?”, such as explaining a brand’s key values or a company mission in more detail.
  • Educational Content — For certain industries, educational content is essential to help customers make informed decisions. For instance, the Japanese healthcare industry is one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors in Japan, and long-form content can provide tutorials, guides, or product demonstrations that enrich the customer experience and achieve greater customer confidence.

Read Our Guide on Entering the Japanese Market

What About Ephemeral Content?

Ephemeral content, also known as temporary or non-permanent content, is particularly appealing to many Japanese social media users who are concerned about their online privacy and staying anonymous. This has made content such as Stories and Snapchat videos incredibly popular.

Want to learn how we can support your brand in gaining traction in the Japanese market? Contact us!

Adding Reels and Shorts to Your Japanese Marketing Mix

App icons for TikTok, Reels and Shorts in Japan

As we’ve shown, short-form content like TikTok videos, Reels and Shorts in Japan are well suited to the taste and preferences of the Japanese market.

With the shrinking attention spans of consumers and the dominance of social media platforms, short-form content has become a powerful tool to capture and retain audience attention.

By incorporating both short and long-form content in their marketing strategies, brands can create a well-rounded approach that maximizes engagement and impact in the diverse Japanese market.

Let Us Know How We Can Help!

Want More?

Get up-to-date on the Japanese market with our monthly newsletter.

Nearly done, one more thing