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Interview with Pekaso-san

I asked Pekaso-san, one of the most influential members of the Japanese mechanical keyboard scene, about his weekly show on Youtube and related side gigs.

KBD.news
Published September 9, 2022

Every Sunday, at 10PM in the late evening, Pekaso and Biacco, two revered members of the Japanese mechanical keyboard community, start streaming on... well.. keyboards.

(Just to clarify things: This post is about キーボードニュース (Keyboard News), a weekly streaming show in Japanese available on Youtube or at kbdnews.jp, which, despite the similarity of the names, is obviously not related to this blog (kbd.news) in any way.)

When I started my @KbdNews Twitter channel, thanks to a lot of active Japanese followers, I was quickly exposed to Pekaso-san's work – and wanted to make an interview with one of the main characters behind the series.

The time has come, and Pekaso-san, an electric engineer at a big computer company and one half of the duo running the channel, was kind enough to answer my ignorant questions:

キーボードニュース is a weekly show with 166 episodes (holy cow!). It doesn't need an introduction for the Japanese community but how would you introduce it in your own words to non-Japanese keyboard enthusiasts?

We are the group behind the weekly stream about Japanese and international keyboards.

Japan is a country with popular keyboards such as HHKB and REALFORCE, but also a lot of handmade custom keyboards (自作キーボード “Jisaku keyboard”). So we don’t run out of topics for even a single week. If you want the latest keyboard info in Japan, this is the place!

So you do this together with Biacco-san. Any other members of the team (now or in the past) worth mentioning?

Me and Biacco-san are making Keyboard News together. In the past, there was Biacco-“chan” but she is on hiatus now.

Can you remember how all this started out? Checking out some early episodes suggests the format was well-established and has been largely unchanged since more than three years.

When we started Keyboard News, most of the information on how to make keyboards in Japan was in English (most people in Japan are not good at foreign languages), and the hurdles to get the parts were very high. I thought that if the number of keyboard fans in Japan increased, someone would open a keyboard parts shop in Japan and the information would be written in Japanese, and the community would become more active!

And we wanted to be VTubers!

Speaking of the VTuber phenomenon, can you tell us about Pekaso-chan, the virtual character?

Pekaso has been my handle name on the internet for over 20 years. The “real” person is male, but gender is not revealed on the internet.

Pekaso-chan is just another online identity of mine, just like an avatar. Pekaso-chan (ぺかそちゃん) is the character (the "-chan" suffix means a friendly person), and Pekaso-san or simply Pekaso (ぺかそさん/ぺかそ) is the real me.

The reason why Pekaso-chan was born is: Japanese people have a deep-rooted trend of not showing their real face/name on the internet, and on the other hand VTubers using characters are popular.

Using this double-identity is mostly accepted by the Japanese community.

For example, when streaming on YouTube or uploading illustrations on Twitter, Pekaso-chan will do it. When reporting keyboard meetup events and reviewing actual products, Pekaso-san will do it.

What were some important milestones during these years?

We appeared on famous TV shows in Japan in 2020. Thanks to this, the popularity of Japanese keyboards has increased dramatically.

Pic:

How are you able to record/edit/publish a one-hour show each week – technically and with regards to organizing/schedule?

We usually start preparation through the week. Looking for newly released keyboards and parts, such as keycaps, on social media or shops. Interviews with makers. Then we are starting and we do the final preparations 5 hours before the streaming.

All program design (script, UI design) is made by just the two of us. Also, most of the video (except product reviews) is streaming. But we don't have a studio for this. We use a system to synchronize over the network and send to YouTube Live.

Beside the show you do various projects ranging from a printed book to branded props like the acrylic Pekaso-chan. Can you tell us about your side-projects?

Making self-published books (called "Doujin-shi(同人誌)") is part of the Japanese culture. Originally, I liked leaving information in physical books rather than digital. Character goods are also similar to this.

There are no significant returns on these. We make it because we like it, we want to make it.

Btw, what setup(s) do you type on? Favorite keyboard/switch/profile/set?

I usually use my Cornelius, VEGA, and TABULA-TKL keyboards. (TABURA-TKL is one of my "canceled" projects.)

I prefer the relatively standard row-staggered or columnar-staggered layouts. My favorite profile is Cherry, and I like PBT keycaps because they are strong and durable. I recently started using Kinetic Labs Whale keycaps on my VEGA.

My keyswitch choices are constantly changing. I like smoothly linear switches such as MOMOKA Flamingos.

Most of your initial goals you mentioned earlier seem to be reached: There are Japanese shops, the community is active and growing, and you established yourself as a VTuber. What's next? Do you have further plans and projects in mind?

Certainly. The Japanese keyboard community has grown a lot compared to the beginning but still not enough. We need to think about content that makes newer people interested in keyboards. My hope is to grow a healthy keyboard community.

First of all, I want to resume my split keyboard project. Because I want to be a good keyboard designer just like with keyboard news. I have a lot of new ideas to try I got from keyboard news.

And I want to reboot mechanical keyboard meetups in Japan. It is still risky to hold an event where a large number of people can touch the keyboard but it is needed for our community.

Published on Fri 9th Sep 2022. Featured in KBD #94.


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