I love the internet. It's my favorite series of tubes. But it has fiercely exacerbated my insomnia. It turns out it is hard to sleep after leverage-trading Bitcoin, hate-typing at a troll, or just enjoying some old-fashioned nut-shot videos. Who da thunk it?

Coming of age alongside the web, for a time, it seemed my days of bedhead and missing teeth dreams were over. That was until I discovered ASMR.

ASMR

If you’re unfamiliar, ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. Likened to a “brain orgasm,” it is a tingly sensation through the scalp and spine. Similar to positive affirmations, it is also a genre of relaxation and sleep aid videos made possible by the popularity of YouTube.

In susceptible people, ASMR is triggered by certain kinds of auditory, visual, or tactile stimulation. There are ear-whispering videos, simulated cranial nerve examinations, simulated haircuts, and even videos where ASMRtists “massage” the camera.

Often themed as a kind of spa recreation to aid sleep, the experiences feature sounds and visual cues that are notably pleasant. This pleasantness is what delivers “tingles,” the subculture’s term for the sensory response.

It should be noted that not everyone experiences ASMR. If you're one of the lucky ones, you may already know your trigger sensations (e.g., fabric rustling, plastic crinkling, etc.). If you’re not susceptible, there’s likely little you can do. The science behind the phenomenon is undeveloped.

As much as I enjoy the prolific genre of videos—there are over 13 million recordings on YouTube—I admit it’s a peculiar trend. After all, how often do people let strangers chew inches from their face?

Fortunately for us all, there is Japan. A number of her residents are active in the community and taking the art form in “bold” new directions. Let’s have a listen. Headphones recommended.

A Four-Course Meal

Shall we begin with appetizers?

Mantis shrimp are commonly eaten in Japan, boiled, or as sushi. In Sakura Inagaki Saki’s video, the YouTuber cracks open a few crustaceans and chomps away. Her crunchy chewing and low-volume whispering may inspire tingles in the ASMR-inclined.

For the main course, Meiji Lamp has prepared a euphonic entree of KFC “Christmas” chicken and French fries.

Christmas Chicken

In her holiday-themed video, the YouTuber gets a little more "intimate," chewing and whispering in the listener's ear for about twenty minutes.

While her video may seem an odd combination of elements, there's the cultural context behind it. Christmas is celebrated a little differently in Japan. More like New Year's Eve in the West, it's mostly an event for couples or friends. Just like turkey on American Thanksgiving, there is Christmas chicken, a holiday staple in Japan, and a fantastic accomplishment by KFC’s marketing division.

But I'm still a bit hungry. Penis fish, anyone?

Put the Knife Down, Mr. Eat!

If you’ve had a look at my article on izakaya food for adventurous eaters, you know I’m entirely for human-fish eroticism. But in the case of Mr. Eat’s video, I feel more cringy than tingly. At least half of the readers will agree.

Regardless, there is a lot of munching in this video, but on a crunchier food item. Mr. Eat also slices the fish on a wooden cutting board. For many, myself included, wooden sounds are particularly effective at generating ASMR.

And full disclosure, I’ve cheated a bit: Mr. Eat is Korean. His work, however, is marketed to Japanese audiences. If you check out his other vids, you’ll see he’s quite good at what he does.

Finally, dessert is in order. Let’s check out hatomugi ASMR’s ice cream eating video to wash out the taste of all that penis fish.

Pikachu Ice Cream

This video features the ASMRtist eating ice cream. With nine delectables featured, I don’t know how hatomugi keeps such a slim figure. The Pikachu ice cream alluded to in the title starts at 1:21:40.

As everything is frozen, the triggers are very "gari gari." hatomugi also spends some time whispering—perhaps a chance to brush up on some Japanese.

Further Down the Rabbit Hole

All right, so not every installment is centered around food. And for a good reason. The ASMR community is very creative, incorporating unexpected scenarios to dish out mind-melting tingles.

This creativity, however, can be confusing for the uninitiated. Several videos have a sort-of intimacy about them and, at first glance, may even seem erotic. While ASMR erotica is a subgenre in its own right, the average vlog is not intentionally sexual. Most fans are genuinely interested in relaxing.

I approach ASMR videos like a massage. Naturally, there's a kind of "intimacy" involved—you're half-naked and being rubbed after all. The sales pitch, however, is entirely relaxation. Just like with a masseuse, I don’t expect to be creeped out by an ASMRtist.

Nevertheless, the evolution of the internet has made it painfully clear that there are many different types of people. What is cringy to most makes perfect sense to others (furries are a good example). With that in mind, let’s look “under the rock” as we wind down our listicle.

Lots of Licking

Everyone has those days when all you want to do is curl-up into the fetal position. And maybe suck your thumb? Have your ba-ba?

Well, vlogger Kawai Serori can help talk you down. Check out her baby bottle video.

The same artist has an ear licking video that is also very popular:

And again, totally not sexual.

Ear Salon

If you've been in Japan for a while, maybe you've noticed the spread of ear-cleaning salons. Well, forego the hassle and save your moola. Check out Takakuramuki’s 2-hour ear-cleaning video instead. It will definitely put you to sleep.

J-POP ASMR

Although I've mostly neglected it, there is a significant visual component to ASMR. Videos are often cinematographically compelling, and some even feature computer effects.

In Japan, anime avatars and virtual YouTubers are a thing. Because of course they are. One such Vtuber, Patra, makes popular ASMR videos. The persona is also an accomplished J-POP musician with spectacular music videos. That’s a lot of talent for a single channel.


By - Luke Mahoney.

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