“As tourist season here in Paris winds to a close and the air once again becomes crisp, fresh, and new,” writes The Atlantic‘s Chelsea Fagan, “we must unfortunately acknowledge that it does not end without a few casualties.” That piece was published at this time of year, albeit a decade ago, when “tourist season” anywhere had a bit more bustle. But the worldwide downturn in travel hasn’t done away with the object of her concern: Paris Syndrome, “a collection of physical and psychological symptoms experienced by first-time visitors realizing that Paris isn’t, in fact, what they thought it would be.” This disorder, one often hears, is especially prevalent among the Japanese.
Japan, writes Fagan, is rich with portrayals of the French capital as a city “filled with thin, gorgeous, unbelievably rich citizens. The three stops of a Parisian’s day, according to the Japanese media, are a cafe, the Eiffel Tower, and Louis Vuitton.” To someone who knows it only through such images, a confrontation with the real Paris — with its service-industry workers who treat tourists “like something they recently scraped from the bottom of their shoes” to its subway cars “filled with groping couples, screaming children, and unimaginably loud accordion music” — can trigger “acute delusions, hallucinations, dizziness, sweating, and feelings of persecution.”
Not all Japanese visitors to Paris, of course, come down with Paris Syndrome. Some plunge into an even more overwhelming condition of love for the City of Light, as might well have been the case with the Youtuber France Guide Nakamura. “I studied art history at a university in France and was amazed at how interesting it was,” he writes on his about page. “When you study art, there is a moment of revelation! Something that was not visible until now suddenly appears. It is the ‘pleasure’ of ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding.’ I think this is the ‘core’ of tourism.” It is on that basis that he creates videos like the hour-long Louvre tour above, a smooth first-person walk through the world’s most famous museum that he narrates with a high degree of articulacy, knowledge, and enthusiasm.
Experienced in leading tours for his countrymen, he describes all his videos in his native Japanese. But in the case of his Louvre tour, you can turn on English subtitles by clicking the CC button in the toolbar at the bottom of the video. His other popular English-subtitled videos include walks through Montmartre, Marais, and the Latin Quarter, as well as certain excursions outside of Paris, such as this visit to Versailles. If you do speak Japanese, you’ll also be able to enjoy Nakamura’s many previous videos digging into the nature, history, and cultural context of other things French, from neighborhoods to works of art to convenience stores, but not, as yet, the Eiffel Tower — or for that matter, Louis Vuitton.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.