There are books on the wall, a table in the middle of the room, a plant, maybe a floor lamp or two. But something doesn’t feel right in this room, like it’s a set. Suddenly, a gigantic hand reaches into the frame, revealing that the room was indeed a set built entirely in miniature form. The chopping board is maybe the size of a pinky; the knife slightly smaller. This is the world of Japanese miniature enthusiast and YouTuber ‘Joken’ aka AAAJoken, or triple-A Joken.
Currently a member of the YouTuber management agency UUUM, Joken got his start by introducing toys for kids and creating stop motion animations using those toys. But since 2014 he’s created over 200 videos on a YouTube channel called Miniature Space. In it, he creates all kinds of miniature Japanese meals like tempura and okonomiyaki, but also everyday foods like spaghetti carbonara and corn dogs.
The channel currently has over 1.2 million subscribers. And many of the videos have views in the hundred-thousand range; some in the millions. It’s hard to verbalize what exactly we find so mesmerizing and satisfying about these videos. (Heck, we even have a sub-category dedicated to the art of miniatures.) Kelley Kitely, a mental health expert based in Chicago, suggests that control is behind our undeniable appeal for things shrunken to a fraction of their normal size: “It can give you a sense of control when we’re able to fit an entire scene into what feels like, the palm of our hands,” she explains.
But for me, another joy comes from imagining the meticulous planning that goes into each set. And then seeing the creative substitution that is also required. For example, in his tempura video Joken substitutes shrimp with sakura shrimp, a species that grows to about 4-5cm. In his okonomiyaki video he substitutes cabbage for its miniature equivalent: a single Brussel sprout.
Of course then again there’s the other theory: tiny things are just damn adorable.