Ben Leibson

Ben Leibson

Maki Nibayashi

Scuba Diver

Time in Japan:

Seven years

Where are you from?
Originally, Louisville, Kentucky, home of Kentucky Fried Chicken. But I' lived in Las Vegas for 12 years, Hawaii for a year and Key Largo for two years. I've been around.

How did you end up in Tokyo?
I came with National Panasonic to develop the English program for them. It was just awful. Working in a big Japanese company environment is just not my cup of tea.

How did you go from there to scuba diving?
Well I've been diving for about 25 years - since I was a teenager. When I first came to Tokyo, I wanted to dive and I looked around for someplace to go. I couldn't find one organization that would take me because they didn't speak English or some other odd reason. It seemed strange that in this huge city, I would be the only English speaking person who wanted to go diving.

Have you started your own scuba diving school?
Well, I've been organizing it. I got a contract to teach at Yokota Air Base, but it's been a struggle. It took six weeks to get the day pass, then I got the gate pass. Now I have a lot of problems getting my tanks filled because they are American-made. The Japanese have a big issue because they have all this paper work to do and submit to the government whenever you fill USA-made tanks. But we're dealing with all that, so hopefully it'll all get sorted out. I also teach privates at Yokota and out of my house and at this diving shop in Toranomon. I teach confined water instruction at Yokota.

How's diving in Japan?
Down south is just gorgeous. It's beautiful, especially around Okinawa. It's a lot like any other recreational area around Tokyo; it's always bombarded and polluted with people. If you go to Futsu for the weekend during the summer, there's a line to get into the water. Ridiculous. There are like 500 divers, and people are kicking each other's masks off. If you go up north, it's too cold and the visibility is bad.

Where's your favorite diving spot in Japan?
I haven't gone diving in enough places to tell you, but as of now, Ishigaki Islands. There are other places where I'd like to go, like the Ogasawara Island chain.

What was the weirdest thing you've seen or experienced in Japan?
On a school outing there were three guys, maybe ninth or tenth graders, who were trying to be the tough guys in the crowd. All three of them were eating big pink lollipops and putting on this tough-as-a-Chevy-truck" front. I thought that was kind of strange.

What's one thing you'd like to take back to your own country?
The heated toilets-the coolest invention ever.

What's your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
Eat good food, get a little exercise every day, and smile.

Contact Ben at 

Ben Leibson spoke to Maki Nibayashi

Do you know an interesting person in Tokyo? If so, email us at

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352/3: Mary Frenzel
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300: Miguel Angel

Issues 250-299

Issues 150-199