What pushed me out of the comfy confines of Kansas City where I grew up, I’m still not sure. I left at first to study philosophy at Brown University and from there, the world just kept opening wider and inviting me onward. After college, I couldn’t see myself going to graduate school or getting a job, so I took off to travel around the world for two years.
I quickly found traveling without much money to be wearisome, so after a stint in graduate school, I headed for China in the mid-80s to teach English. After two years there, I traveled, taught, traveled, studied and taught through my 20s. I went back to America for a second MA degree and finished a PhD in England, but Tokyo really grabbed me. So, after the usual turbulence, I settled in, maybe for good.
Tokyo is as exciting, unsettling and overpowering as other big Asian cities, but with a westernized element, too. Every day, I feel as if I’m traveling to a new place, since so much of the city remains undiscovered enough to amaze me. But everyday I also feel right at home, since life here now feels so natural, no different than life would have been elsewhere.
In addition to a great wife, good friends and regular hangouts, I have a job teaching American literature and culture at Meiji Gakuin University. My research and academic writing focuses on film adaptations, contemporary novels and American music. University work keeps up a flow of ideas and, more importantly, daily contact with students. It’s enlivening and inspiring.
I was lucky not long after I arrived here fifteen years ago to start writing about music for an online site about Tokyo. That led to more writing for newspapers, weeklies, magazines and regular TV appearances. I still write on topics ranging from politics to art to Tokyo life, and started my own website about jazz in Japan, still going strong after seven years. Recently, though, I have re-focused on writing essays about Tokyo and on a series of mystery novels set in the gritty backstreets of the city.
The essays in Beauty and Chaos and the second collection, Tokyo’s Mystery Deepens, were culled from my regular column in Newsweek Japan and first published in collections in Japanese. They are now available in English. Two more volumes of essays on Tokyo, along with the mystery novels, await publication in 2015 and early 2016.
You can also find Michael on his own website.
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