• Bio

    Matt Ketchum: From Pittsburgh to Japan


Pittsburgh Roots: Where It All Began


hail from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I attended Howe Elementary School, Mellon Middle School, and Mt. Lebanon High School. During my school years, I was an active member of the high school crew team, a passionate skateboarder, and began developing a deep appreciation for literature.

At the age of 14, my journey with the Japanese language began, leading me to take University of Pittsburgh classes alongside my regular studies. Around the same time, I discovered Albert CamusThe Stranger and Daniel Quinn‘s Ishmael, books that profoundly influenced my perspective. My involvement in Pittsburgh’s underground music scene was just beginning, marked by my first encounter with a powerviolence band from Japan. These experiences collectively played a significant role in shaping my early development

Matthew Ketchum in college

New York: Where Matt Got More Interesting


carried those formative experiences from Pittsburgh into my undergraduate studies at Hobart & William Smith Colleges. There, my academic journey included delving into Kantian Philosophy and exploring the Kamakura-era political history of Emperor Go-Daigo. I also broadened my scope at the University of Rochester, where I studied Ukiyoe, Noh, Kabuki, and Butoh theater.

My academic exploration took a unique turn when I spent a semester abroad in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, Japan, at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities. Admittedly, it felt a bit odd being part of a Michigan State program as a student from a New York college.

While in Hikone, I wasn’t just confined to language studies; I traveled extensively throughout Honshu and Hokkaido, visiting historic and culturally rich places like Koya-san, Hakodate, and Nara. I immersed myself in the local community, which culminated in organizing a beach cleanup program that received sponsorship from the Hikone Governor.

Miyako: Where Matt Learned About Life


resh out of college with practically useless degrees in the job market, I struggled for a few months to find work in the US. Ultimately, I decided that my fortune lay elsewhere, and applied for a position with Japan’s leading English-teaching program, the JET Program. While I was accepted, I was also waitlisted. My impatience got the best of me and I instead took a position with Interac.

This was a decision that would teach me many things, mostly unforeseen.

Through Interac, I was first offered a position in the Galapagos-esque Ogasawara Islands. While attractive – a house with a garden, gorgeous scenery, excellent food – I ended up opting against it after calculating dating prospects.

As a result, I was placed in a rural fishing town on the coast of northern Iwate Prefecture, Miyako. There, I quickly got accustomed to inaka life, my job at Miyako High School and Miyako Kita High School, made friends, and started a band.

And then the tsunami happened. That’s a longer story. Get in touch if interested.

Suffice it to say, I survived that disaster. Following about 6 weeks of volunteer first-responder action, I then moved out of the disaster zone to Tokyo. There, in the center of one of the world’s largest megacities, is where things truly start to kick off.

Tokyo: Where Matt’s Trajectory Took Shape


he big city offers big opportunities. After a few years in the sticks and having survived a disaster, I was ready to do business, and quickly got to it.

First up was disaster relief fundraising. I accomplished this with the Subject Matter gallery in Azabu-juban, where I was Marketing Manager.

Following Subject Matter, I took a position as Project Manager with market research firm, CarterJMRN. There I really began to cut my teeth in Japanese business.

After a few years, I jumped ship to Langley Esquire, where I explored the immense complexities of Japanese public affairs and government relations.

Matthew Ketchum with his beloved bike in Waseda Park

During this time, I was also composing, recording, and gigging with bands in Japan’s underground music scene. Necessarily, this exposed me to the wealth of hidden talent in Japan’s underground art communities, and also the many fail points that keep it from breaking onto the world stage.

In Tokyo, I saw a wide range of business and social activities. Paired with my experience in Miyako, this eventually coalesced into a unique understanding of ecosystem dynamics.

With a sincere desire to support the artists I worked with by leveraging his business acumen, I decided to move to Seattle. There, I simultaneously worked in cryptocurrency and established U235, an LLC devoted to spreading the good word of Japanese music.

Yugawara: Where Matt Spent the Pandemic


ast forward to the present, and I am back in Japan up to my old antics.

I moved back to take the reins of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan. There, I served my role in streamlining business activities and communications between Japan and Canada.

But then the Coronavirus Pandemic happened, and mucked everything up. Mostly in a good way.

I moved to Yugawara to avoid the crowded and dangerous streets of Tokyo, and began creating like I hadn’t ever before.

Akiyaz, a real estate consultancy I co-founded, is working to change the narrative on rural lifestyles through vacant property acquisition. While nominally regulated, this is also a space that is extremely fragmented and requires much work to rectify.

With U235 – operating under the Kaala brand name – I was producing video and audio documentation of pandemic-era music culture in Japan. This is an unregulated space, with much to be done.

My consultancy also flips the script on accepted business practice. I work closely with clients, both individual and corporate, to understand the many pieces of the puzzle of reality that they operate in.

Matthew Ketchum hiking in the woods of Hakone

Meguro: Where Matt Made His Comeback

After spending the entirety of the Pandemic outside of the city building out projects, I moved back to Tokyo, this time to Meguro, to conduct business activities once again.

I’m a life-long learner, ever curious about the potentials around us not yet explored. I’m hellbent on pushing myself to the limit, be it business or real life, and can be found in my Meguro apartment or my office at Shibuya Scramble, just as often as atop Japan’s mountain peaks or beaches during storms with nothing but my Fuji Feather and a tent.