No Comfort, New Year


ey there. It’s a new year, and I feel like shirking the comfort of my surroundings and exploring things. I use this site enough, so I figure it’ll be fun to see what trouble I can get myself into with this blog. So here goes.

The Land of Comfort, Surfing, and Wild Boar


I live in Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, and it has its fair share of creature comforts. The city officially has over 1,100 years of history as an onsen resort, so there’s that. More recently, Yugawara has long been a citrus farming community, focusing on mikan, Japan’s answer to the tangerine. In particular, the townspeople are quite proud of the Shonan Gold varietal.

Yugawara also has a relatively well-established, if comparatively small surf community. Additionally, the hiking and climbing at Mt. Makuyama is an attraction for many. Yugawara boasts pretty decent food culture, too, such as one of Japan’s more revered ramen shops, Iidashoten. There’s a great wild game butcher, Yama no Megumi, in the hills, too.

Mt. Makuyama included, Yugawara is surrounded by nature. The aforementioned surfers occupy the shallows of Yoshihama Bay. The Chitose River marks the boundary between Kanagawa and Shizuoka Prefecture. People flock to view the sakura & ume blooms in spring.

Oddly enough, we’ve also got an ex-Prime Minister turned potter, Hosokawa Morihiro, here. So yeah, Yugawara is pretty laid back, pretty comfortable, and pretty… pretty. Since moving here from Tokyo around the start of the pandemic, I’m quite happy with the idyllic lifestyle it provides.

Threshold Exceeded


ow, its one thing to have a comfortable home in atop a mountain overlooking the ocean, and another thing to only have that. Throughout my adult life, I have cast a pretty wide net in my business and cultural activities. I’ve done my time in corporate, and that’s a great place to be, for a time. While I wouldn’t state this universally, corporate has its fare share of comforts. Perks. Benefits. Bonuses. Whatever you like to call them, corporate life tends to provide a routine and safety.

So what a lot of my experience in modern business boils down to for me is… comfort. Comfortable products, comfortable operations, comfortable margins, and this is all well and good… to a point. And once you’ve hit that point – whomever you are – I’m sure you too will discover the itch to explore lesser known reaches not accessible from the board room.

Shedding Comfort


utside of the office, I’m also a musician, and I dabble in some pretty fringe scenes. There are any number of reasons to invest in the Arts, however you choose to participate, and one of them is novel experience.

For example, I’ve explored art scenes with no chance of gaining popular traction, and have come out of it for the better. And this shows you interesting things. These products, by their sheer uncomfortability, fail to enter major markets, but they nevertheless produce high quality products. More importantly, they have communities coalesce around them at a local and national level.

This is part of what bugs me about all of this comfort – how prominent, and stifling, it is. Which isn’t to say comfort is bad, but merely that too much of a good thing never helped anyone.

Matthew Ketchum hiking in the woods of Hakone

In my practice, I try to introduce the occasional splash of chaos to an otherwise pretty comfortable existence between Yugawara & Omotesando. This is partially for the sheer thrill of it, sure, but also because adventures into the unknown often enough produce some pretty powerful breakthroughs. Without that, I fear – and I use that word considerately – the worst may come to pass: overwhelming boredom and predictability.

That’s also why I make time to hike and wander: the world opens up, and you discover things.


‘m thinking this blog will attempt to document some of my adventures in reducing comfort. That’s not to say eliminate it, but I’d like to introduce a bit of gonzo activism into my business and leisure activities alike to hopefully direct the the universe to somewhere a little bit better. If it doesn’t fizzle, hopefully these musings will impart upon its readers some insights to use in bettering the world we all inhabit, together.

Akiya Adventures

As of this writing, most of my energy goes into facilitating the sale of Japan’s millions of abandoned properties. I do this via the consultancy I co-founded with my business partner.

Our work is a great example of shirking comfort for something more exciting. Why? Great question. Because the entire national Japanese real estate ecosystem is completely mismanaged. You can read about those problems here, but suffice it to say the cards are stacked against it. Thusly, most have avoided it like the plague.

But I’ve learned some things over the years. One of those things is that just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. I would argue that hoisting the cheaper housing market out of the clutches of inaccessibility is an important endeavor. As is, Tokyo real estate is the only thing that matters in Japan, and it’s arbitrarily over-priced. I’d almost call it a bubble, but that might cause panic.

Matthew Ketchum in the attic of an akiya

We make a point by doing the hard, often agonizingly analogue, work to get keys of otherwise untouchable properties into the hands of new owners. That point is, there are alternatives to Tokyo Life that can be accessed with the right approach. Of course, some people like the Metro Life, and that’s just fine – to each their own. But through our business activities we’ve conclusively proven that there is a market for this kind of thing, it’s just been underserved for decades.

Good Ol’ Rock & Roll

I also run Kaala which is about as perfect a definition of labor of love that you could get. Kaala is a lot of things, but at its core it’s a support system for independent musicians in Japan. That’s taken many forms over the years – data analytics, art exhibitions, travel services, and more, and for good reason. Just like akiya, independent music world-round doesn’t get it’s fair shake because it’s more niche than the lowest common denominator.

In an age where clicks = dollars, then, it makes perfect sense to pursue highly accessible content and products. And, again, to an extent, this is acceptable. But when it dominates the narrative, it ends up suffocating other cultures not because they’re objectively bad but rather because they’re simply different.

So Kaala seeks to engage with the untouchables of contemporary Japanese culture. It’s out there in droves, but severely lacking in resources, financial or otherwise. In an effort to jumpstart those cultural ecosystems, we necessarily need to eat the cost of good production and services until we can affect some kind of critical mass, if ever.

Comfort & Chaos

And this is where comfort comes in again – when things get too comfortable, its easy to ignore amazing things that go untouched for only existing on the periphery of your accepted, daily reality, and that’s just a shame. A waste. Japan would say mottainai. The world deserves better, and can get better with just a bit of effort, what I might also call discomfort.

Finances are a no-brainer, but assessing your emotional, spatial, spiritual, social circumstances occasionally is a great way to realize a lesser-travelled path just on the periphery to play around on for a time. One doesn’t need to devote themselves to wholly pursuing a new lifestyle to find a bit of adventure and thus learnings, but just remember every once in a while that there’s a whole world out there to explore if you just put your mind to it.

Read the genesis post on Linkedin here.