Mike Jacobs

Georges HassamOccupation:
Writer, photojournalist, artist...
Time in Japan:
16 years

I landed in Japan in pursuit of love and to escape Thatcher. After my Japanese girlfriend left England and came home, I decided to visit for a few months, and 16 years later love is still holding me here, with the same woman.
I' done a lot here in Japan I'm a photojournalist, a performance artist (I was the first overseas artist to give a performance at the New Tokyo International Forum), and an actor (playing Einstein in NHK's six-part series about his life). But basically, I am an avid writer and photographer for newspapers and magazines, including Tokyo Classified, whose varied readership is always a great challenge.

When I first came here, I wanted to carry on as a freelance writer and I had to take the bottom end of the work, which was small magazines, and supplement this with English teaching which became quite tedious. Fortunately, my writing abilities began to be noticed, and I could afford to stop teaching and make a meagre living as a writer.
I then took up photography, because being a trained artist, I already had the compositional values and other esthetic aspects of image making. Technique was lacking and I taught myself over a period of one year by shooting one or two rolls every day no matter the weather conditions, and analysed the bad results, rather than feel pleased with the good ones. Within a year, I had developed a technique reliable enough to produce 70% of the roll as good photographs.

My development as an artist in Japan has been more than I dreamt of. In the West, nature is seen as something separate from art or indeed man. Because of the Buddhist influence of nature within Japanese tradition, I began to fully appreciate nature as an inherent part of art. Hence, I had much more freedom as an artist to exploit my natural eye as opposed to the Western intellectual who had to put art into words as a concept.

Another thing I liked about Japan was the fact that there was no religion being thrust down your throat, except by Western missionaries. The Japanese believe that it doesn't matter which train you take if they all go to the same destination. Even as an atheist, I'd buy that!
Tokyo seems a city without a past, apart from the Imperial Palace and the modern reproductions of ancient shrines and temples. I love the way a shop can boast of being founded in 1990. In contrast to London, where I can see buildings and rituals dating back to who cares when, in Tokyo I've seen nothing but things being pulled down and things going up. I think this is a much healthier approach in the modern world because this is precisely how evolution works to cope with a rapidly changing environment. Everything in Tokyo clashes because it has no direction. Yebisu Gardens, for example, is a disastrous hodge-podge that insults my senses. But somehow, I would hate to see uniformity determine a city.

Tokyo is a good place for me to be in, because if you've got the money, you can obtain anything in the world -- if it's not here already. When I arrived 16 years ago, Tokyo was at the edge of the map. Now, it has become one of the major crossroads of the world and I don't feel like I'm out of the world by living here. Cyberspace is also a great equalizer in this sense.
I have great hope for Tokyo -- eventually! After many years, commuters are learning to stand on one side of the escalator, allowing others to walk up. I never thought it would happen, and now it's spreading as a form of common sense. I hope eventually Tokyoites will learn to use the same common sense as pedestrians.

Mike Jacobs spoke to Chang-Ran Kim (chan!)

Do you know an interesting person in Tokyo? E-mail us at

199: Diane Morris
Media & Advertising
198: Ross Mihara
NHK Sumo Announcer
196: Corky Alexander
Tokyo Weekender
195: Edward Obaidey
194: Merry Angel
Managing Director
193: Alison Pockett
Managing Partner
192: Zack Konno
Car Export Representive
191: Pamela S. Caudill
Assistant U.S. Customs
190: Caroline Power
Being a Broad
189: Geoffrey Tudor
P.R. Section Chief JAL
188: Ryuko Ishikawa M.D.
Family Psychiatrist
187: Georges Hassam
Arabic Dance Instructor
186: Larry London
DJ at InterFM
185: Richard James
Photographer & Writer
184: Alan Kidd
Rock Musician & Editor
183: Adam Hitchens
Mobile Hairdresser/Masseur
182: Lylian de la Vega
181: Annie Chang
Computer Training
180: Mike Jacobs
179: Jimmy Angel
Rock'n'Roll Singer
178: Dante
177: Elizabeth Spencer
Tokyo Classified Intern
175: Paul E. Ainlay
Proprietor of D.B. Cooper's
174: Steve Bindon
173: Nanae Nagata & Naji Rahman
Proprietors of Heart Cocktail
172: Tom Holiday
171: Gordon Hutchingson
170: Barry Cardinal
Renshi Aikido Instructor
169: Tammy
168: Steve Feldman
Computer Dealer
167: Eve Suter
Flower Designer
166: Paul Goldsmith
Computer/H.R. Consultant
165: Avry Gottesman
Auto Dealer
164: Russell Pollard
Financial Advisor
163: Sa'dia
Belly Dancer
162: Marcel L'Esperance
Choral Director
161: Gregg Alan
Used Motorcycle/Car Dealer
160: Dr. Greg Sapplers OMD
Oriental Medical Doctor
159: Ute Ikuta
Cat Lover
158: Pam Adkins
Shaw College
157: Cloudy Bong Water
156: Melissa
Internet Company Director
155: Paul Gibson
Proprietor, The Fiddler Pub
154: Ann Spiers
153: Evans M. Asare
152: Sandy Weiss
Acting Teacher
150: Kike

Issues 300-360

Issues 250-299
Issues 200-249
Issues 138-149