Real Gaijin

  • Expert insight about Japan delivered directly to your inbox periodically

  • Commentary and analysis from the perspective of a long-term expat with 30+ years living, studying, and working in Japan

  • In-depth coverage of a wide range of subjects related to the culture, history, language, and the business-world of Japan

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What does Real Gaijin cover?

Real Gaijin leverages decades of in-country experience and fluency in Japanese to provide insights written in English weekly on a variety of topics including…

About the author of Real Gaijin

After spending nearly three decades living and working in Tokyo, Mark Kennedy became semi-retired and relocated to Oita Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan in 2019. (He still visits the capital city regularly and travels extensively throughout Japan for Nexdigm.)

Since childhood Mark has always been fascinated with the culture and language of Japan where he is a permanent resident. He is eager to share this passion via Real Gaijin.

Mark is passionate about hiking. Here he is descending from the summit of Mt. Tengugajo (天狗ヶ城) at 1,780m (5,840 feet) above sea level (Kyushu Renzan).

Mark is currently the Country Head - Business Development, Nexdigm, Japan. Nexdigm is an employee-owned, independent, global organization serving clients from more than 50 countries. Harnessing multifunctional and digital capabilities across Business Services and Professional Services, Nexdigm provides customers with integrated solutions navigating complex challenges.

From January 1993 until his retirement in July 2019 Mark held various positions of increasing responsibility at Hollister Incorporated in Chicago and its wholly owned subsidiary in Japan, Hollister Co., Ltd. in Tokyo, which Mark helped to establish in 1996. Hollister is an independent, employee-owned company that develops, manufactures and markets healthcare products and services worldwide with a special focus on Ostomy, Continence, and Critical Care. Mark worked in sales, marketing and general management while spending approximately half of his career as a line manager in Japan. As general manager in Japan he had full P & L responsibility and oversaw every aspect of the business including sales, marketing, HR, finance, logistics and quality assurance. Mark also held product management and product portfolio management positions in Global Marketing with worldwide responsibility where he helped to manage new product introductions, product life-cycle and product rationalization.

Before Hollister and after completing a year-long Fulbright grant at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, Mark worked for two years as an executive assistant to the president of Nikken Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mitsubishi Corporation, which is a leading construction equipment rental service in Japan. Mark is a 2007 graduate of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management in Lake Forest, Illinois, U.S.A. where he earned an MBA with a focus on healthcare. Mark is also a 1990 graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, U.S.A. where he earned a BA in both History and the Japanese language. During college Mark was an exchange student at both Waseda University and Nichibeikaiwagakuin in Tokyo where he studied intensive Japanese.

Mark speaks business level Japanese and intends to remain in Japan indefinitely where he has lived for almost three decades. He likes to write about his experiences and has been a frequent contributor to the on-line media resource Japan Insider for which he typically writes about business-related issues, the unique culture of Japan, and travel.

Mark likes the outdoors and is passionate about hiking, bicycle touring, and marine sports—particularly sailing and windsurfing. He documents his sporting excursions via Country Roads Japan ( and his two YouTube channels called Country Roads Japan and Coastal Sailing Japan.

The author of Real Gaijin always prefers full immersion in both the Japanese culture and literally at a hot spring like this one called Suji-yu (筋湯温泉) in the mountains of Oita Prefecture

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