I am an urban activist and writer in Tokyo, where I’ve lived since 2014 and earn my living as a freelance translator for museums, companies, artists, architects and academics. These days I devote most of my energy to renovating buildings and thinking about Japan’s post-growth transition. In 2017, I helped to start Tokyo Little House, and since 2020, I have also been renovating vacant houses in Onomichi, Hiroshima, and a new community space at Inari-yu public bath in Tokyo, which is a project of my non-profit organization Sento & Neighborhood. Head over to the projects page for more details and links.

Originally from Denver, Colorado, I first came to Japan as an AFS student from 2006-2007, when I picked up Japanese in the wonderful city of Niigata, in those wonderful days before smartphones trapped us all in our social and linguistic bubbles. I returned to the U.S. and studied at Pomona College before working as an assistant reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun in New York. In 2014, I came to Tokyo to pursue graduate studies, spending my first year as a research student in human geography at Waseda University, when I traveled the country seeking out ancient festivals and new trends in rural Japan. I became particularly interested in the potential of vacant spaces. From 2015-2017, I studied with sociologist Shunya Yoshimi at the University of Tokyo, where I wrote my master’s dissertation on the emergence of alternative spatial cultures in the margins of the post-growth city.

If you are interested in what I do, subscribe to my newsletter on Substack, follow me and my projects on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, or become a supporting member of Sento & Neighborhood. My email is samueljholden (at) gmail.com. Thanks!