About Michael Gakuran

Quick Links

  • Like what I write? Help support this website by donating!



Adventure. Doesn’t the word just send shivers down your spine? I like to think of life as one great quest, ever escaping the mundane and rebelling against the ordinary. I’m an explorer at heart and love photography.

Work-wise, I do a mix of consultation, sales and marketing, as well as website design and also specialise in Japanese translation, interpretation and international relations (full profile on LinkedIn). Here on Gakuran.com, I tell stories of my adventures, ruins (haikyo) explorations as well as writing about Japan and the Japanese culture. Over on Gakuu.com, I teach advanced Japanese language.

You can follow me pretty much everywhere on the internet, but check out Twitter for bitesize chunks of life from Japan or follow me on Facebook for more regular postings. I can also be found on Google+ when I try hard and Instagram for haikyo pictures when I’m off travelling.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the whole ‘Gakuranman‘ thing, it’s an amalgamation of ‘gakuran’ (meaning ‘schoolboy coat’) and ‘man’. Just because.


Here’s a run-down of all the stuff I have been involved in, ranging from design work to guest articles, interviews and television work. If you are interested in discussing a project with me, please get in touch via the contact form.

Television and Video

  • Flight 33 Productions / Discovery Channel – Abandoned Planet – (January 2011)
  • Filmed a documentary on Hashima (Gunkanjima) with the Flight 33 crew who made the popular Life After People television series. I was interviewed as an Urban Explorer and Photographer, giving historical and cultural background about the island.

    Documentary: (Coming mid 2011)

  • Youtube – How To Argue With Japanese People – (June 2010)
  • Teamed up with vlogger Hikosaemon to create a lighthearted video addressing the topic of my Japan Times article about arguing with Japanese people.

    Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR8-Z2RWYHY

  • Mics Network Corporation – Ieyasu Parade – (April 2010)
  • Played the role of Ii Naomasa, one of the four samurai guardians of the legendary Tokugawa Ieyasu in the annual Ieyasu Parade. Conducted several interviews and speeches in Japanese that were broadcast on Japanese television about my work and participation in the event.

    Article: Becoming a Samurai – The Ieyasu Parade


  • Private Buyer – Four 80x60cm prints of the White Stone Mine – (August 2010)
  • Negotiated with a private buyer who wanted huge enlargements of 4 of my haikyo White Stone Mine photographs.

  • Mark Batty Publishers – Vending Machines – (April 2010)
  • Several of my photos were used in a book exploring the colourful varieties of vending machines all over East Asia.

    Article: Panty Vending Machines
    Publisher link
    Amazon link

    Design and Development

    Coming soon

    Writing and Print

  • Japan Times – Some space helps a language relationship to grow – (September 2010)
  • Article about Japanese language learning, the forgetting curve and how to use SRS to improve your study. (Published in both the online and print versions of the newspaper).

    Article: Some space helps a language relationship to grow
    (Backup in case original site is down)

  • Japan Times – Lost Worlds of Japan – (August 2010)
  • Short interview about haikyo and Urban Exploration in the Japan Times article by Eriko Arita. (Published in both the online and print versions of the newspaper).

    Article: Lost Worlds of Japan
    (Backup in case original site is down)

  • Japan Times – Mastering the gentle art of arguing in Japanese – (June 2010)
  • Discussing a valuable lesson I learnt when arguing with Japanese people and advice on how to avoid some of the pitfalls that come with cultural differences. (Published in both the online and print versions of the newspaper).

    Article: Mastering the gentle art of arguing in Japanese
    (Backup in case original site is down)

    Speeches and Teaching

  • Japan Foundation – Japanese Speech Contest for University Students – (February 2008)
  • Going up against 5 other finalists from around the U.K, I gave a 10 minute speech in Japanese as well as answering some piercing questions from the judges on the topic of omoiyari (consideration for others). I was chosen as the winner of the contest and received a return trip to Japan and a Rail Pass.

    Article: Japanese Speech Contest 2008


  • NihongoUp – Interview with Gakuranman – (June 2010)
  • An interview for NihongoUp delving into my Japanese language education and some of the techniques I’ve used to pass level 1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

    Article: Interview with Gakuranman
    (Backup in case original site is down)

    A Short FAQ

    What the heck is Gakuranman!?

    A ‘gakuran’ is a Japanese schoolboy jacket and the ‘man’ is me (in the weakest sense of the word, I assure you). An amalgamation of the two create the Gakuranman! Ho ho. (Really though, it’s just a bit of fun and an experiment in branding). The site originally started out as gakuranman.com, but a deft hand played in domain acquisition late 2012 saw me snag gakuran.com. That’s three less characters to mistype!

    In life outside the internet, I work in sales and marketing for a large media organisation. Previously I was a CIR (Coordinator of International Relations) on the JET programme in Japan, which involved lots of Japanese-English translation, interpretation, seminars and other intercultural events.

    I read Philosophy and Japanese at university in the United Kingdom, but I feel like I’m forever just a student. I started this website to write about things of interest, a penchant for playing with words and more recently, to showcase my stories and photography.

    And? Why should I read your website?

    Oh yeah, that part. Against the millions of others, likely with daily updates and fecund content bursting with imagination, I feel hard pressed to compete. But if you enjoy tales of adventure, ruins explorations and stuff from Japan, then by all means please give my writing a second thought! Every so often I’ll throw a flash of bioluminescence in here and there.

    Hey! Tell me more about the design.

    The site is best viewed at 1280×800 and above, but you can view the site on pretty much any device, including smartphones. It’s a lovingly-crafted WordPress theme designed and built completely from scratch by yours truly. I wrote about how the design has progressed over the years here: Gakuran.com Website and Logo.

    Adventure First?

    ‘No, no! The adventures first,’ said the Gryphon in an impatient tone: ‘explanations take such a dreadful time.’ – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

    I stand in humble regard to Lewis Carroll’s writing on this point. The adventures come first. That’s right. That’s how life should be!

    Can I use stuff from your website?

    Short answer: All content on Gakuran.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Basically, if you’re an individual or blogger feel free to share stuff but please provide a link back to this website! If you’re part of an organisation or wish to use my content in a commercial context (which of course includes websites with advertisements), please contact me to discuss.

    Long answer: We’re all just dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants. Very little these days is original, but we do owe a great deal to those people who taught and inspired us. So feel free to borrow some of my content, but please give proper credit where it is due. Please don’t copy whole articles or long chunks of text and be sensible about how many images you use. Ask yourself the question: ‘Am I creating something with mostly new content?‘ If the answer is no or you are not really sure, there’s a good chance you are just copying my work, which as flattering as it can be, isn’t cool.

    How to properly give credit depends on the type of material and the purpose for which you want to use it. But for most people, it’s dead easy.

    For individuals and bloggers creating non-commercial content on the internet, it’s a simple matter of providing a link back to my website when you quote me for written text or borrow pictures and videos. You’ll know which photographs are my own because they will have my watermark in the corner. Please be nice and leave the watermark alone :).

    For everything commercial (such as websites supported by advertising), material you want to use in printed media, media other than the internet, when you want to edit my photographs or videos or if you are business or large entity, I ask that you please contact me first to ask permission. I like to know where my work is being used. If it’s for a good cause, I usually won’t say no.

    If you have any doubt about using something found on my website, please feel free to contact me. I’ll be happy to help and it’ll avoid a lot of headaches later on :).

    Tell me more about the reviews on this site.

    I only allow advertisements or endorse products that I think are useful and try very hard to keep things transparent on this website. I will always give my honest opinion and state whether or not I have been commissioned to write a review. To finance the hosting costs of this site, I sometimes use affiliate links. You can help say thank-you by using these links when you shop – I get a small referral kickback when you buy something, at no extra cost to you. Alternatively, you can donate using the button at the top of this page :).

    Can I subscribe?

    Sure! Sign up below and receive:

  • Secret Previews of New Haikyo Articles
  • Exclusive Stories & Tales of Adventure
  • Unreleased Photos & Bonus Information
  • Get the Gakuranman Newsletter!

    You can also click here to subscribe by email to receive notifications for each new post, or click here to subscribe to the RSS feed.

    Get the Gakuranman Newsletter!

    Greetings, fellow Adventurer!

    For a limited time, subscribe free and get:

    Just enter your name and email below: