• Bio

    Matthew Ketchum: From Pittsburgh to Japan

Overview

Pittsburgh: Where My Journey Began

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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 Matthew Got More Interesting

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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 Matthew Learned About Life

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

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

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

As a result, Matthew was placed in a rural fishing town on the coast of northern Iwate Prefecture, Miyako. There, he quickly got accustomed to inaka life, his 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, Matthew survived the disaster. Following about 6 weeks of volunteer first-responder action, he 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 for Matthew.

Tokyo: Where Matthew’s Trajectory Took Shape

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

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

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

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

Matthew Ketchum with his beloved bike in Waseda Park

During this time, Matthew was also composing, recording, and gigging with bands in Japan’s underground music scene. Necessarily, this exposed him 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, Matthew experienced a wide range of business and social activities. Paired with his experience in Miyako, this eventually coalesced into a unique understanding of ecosystem dynamics.

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

Yugawara: Where Matthew Currently Resides

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ast forward to the present, and Matthew is back in Japan up to his old antics.

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

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

Akiya & Inaka, a real estate consultancy he co-founded, he 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.

Matthew Ketchum hiking in the woods of Hakone

Matthew’s consultancy also flips the script on accepted business practice. He works closely with clients, both individual and corporate, to understand the many pieces of the puzzle of reality that they operate in.

Matthew is a life-long learner, ever curious about the potentials around us not yet explored. He is hellbent on pushing himself to the limit, be it business or real life, and will be found in his Omotesando office just as often as he will be atop Japan’s mountain peaks or beaches during storms with nothing but his Fuji Feather and a tent.