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Like father, like son!

Father and Son

Neil has created a successful business and lifestyle in Hokkaido. It is nice having him so near. Click on his photo below to visit his YouTube channel.

Neil Vlogs

My three cute granddaughters are named Siena, Safia and Kashmia currently 11, 8 and 5 years old. Photos show you why I am a proud grandfather.





ken hartmann profile

THE PICTURE STORY Usually I like pictures that show me with a New York Yankee cap on my head. This is very useful for keeping the dome warm in Hokkaido's winter, avoiding sunburn and generally just trying to look younger. I do want you to be able to see the face of the man behind the Insider, so I think this should do it. With a face like that you will realize that this is a guy who can be trusted, but won't win too many beauty contests. I will simply have to bask in the glow of my wife and daughter's beauty.


THE CURRENT FAMILY: My Japanese wife nicknamed DeeDee loves opera and sings in several chorus groups. As you can see, I married a younger woman, who hopefully will help keep me feeling young for a long time to come. Our daughter Reina graduated from Tokyo University and has been working for the Ministry of Agriculture for the past 5 years. In December 2016, she married a young man from Hiroshima, who is employed by Toyota as a researcher in Shizuoka prefecture. Reina is currently living and working in Nagoya. More about the family later but for now here is a brief history of the long winding road that led me to settle down in Japan almost 35 years ago.


A LONG TIME AGO: I was born and raised in New York City and eventually moved to Hempstead, Long Island for my wild teenage years. As a youngster, I spent a few years in the Bronx and became a diehard Yankees fan. I remember going to games in the old Yankee Stadium. Somehow I managed to get out of high school with a diploma, and the minister at my church helped me to enter a small Christian college in Maryville, Tennessee. Being a true New Yorker, I had no idea where Tennessee was located, nor that people could walk and talk so slowly. After struggling a while with the maturation process, not to mention a lack of funding, I decided to enter the U.S. Air Force for four years. Most of that time was spent getting a tan at the beach and experience in computer programming in Orlando, Florida. I took classes at night school during those years and after completing my four year commitment, I entered the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I studied Computer Science and finally earned a B.S. degree. My friends say I always had the BS, and finally received the paper to acknowledge it.


AFTER GRADUATION: (THE FIRST WIFE/LIFE) After college, I married a young woman from New York who also graduated from UT at the same time, and we found jobs in Louisiana. I focused on information systems design for an insurance company in New Orleans, while my wife taught at a small college. We could only stand the heat and humidity in Louisiana for two years, and thanks to my first wife's dream and her ability to save money, we were able to quit work and travel around the world for one year. After returning to America, I was employed as a computer systems analyst for a bank in San Diego, California. Together we decided to enjoy Southern California and our son Neil was born. This California boy currently lives and "works" in Hokkaido as a professional outdoor cameraman and creator of snowboard DVD films. Please visit his website to learn more and to view his most recent video clips, by clicking on his photo to the right. Many people say he looks like me and I think the hairline proves it.


MOVING ON: Always looking for something better we spent a couple of years in Bangkok, Thailand where we developed several Japanese friendships. After returning to the States and attempting to readjust to life in San Diego, we eventually decided to come to Hokkaido to visit our Japanese friends. That visit resulted in the ultimate end of one relationship and the beginning of another. After one year in Hokkaido, we decided to divorce, so she returned to the States with Neil. I ended up staying here in Sapporo and married the sweetest girl in Hokkaido.


Neil also married a wonderful Japanese woman and she has brought into the world my first three grandchildren. The first girl in January 2007, the second girl was born in September 2009 and most recently Kashmia in August 2012. People always told me that I should write a book about my life, but I think this profile will have to suffice for now. Life does indeed take many interesting turns, and it has been and still is fun traveling the path, wherever it may lead.


WHAT ABOUT WORK? I had entered Hokkaido at a time when there were very few foreigners working in Japan. Being able to speak English (with a natural New York accent) and having a BS degree, I decided the best plan was to open my own English school. It began with one small group of kids and slowly built up to where I was teaching about three or four group lessons per day at home. I also taught part-time at a private high school because my new "Mom" thought I needed a "real" job. Over the years I added part-time work at several universities.  About six years ago I was informed that I had reached retirement age at the universities, and saw my daily life change rather abruptly. Fortunately, I had a number of private classes and actually realized that one could be quite happy living on less. Now I focus on a limited schedule of private and group classes which gives me a little more time to manage the Hokkaido Insider, exercise outdoors a lot more and get my life in balance, both mental and physical.


HOKKAIDO IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE and I can understand why everyone wants to come here. Unfortunately, the job market is tight with more people staying longer and the Japanese economy having experienced long-term problems. However, there are always opportunities that most people never hear about. I have become an Internet voice for Hokkaido and hopefully my knowledge can be of benefit to you.


If you made it all the way through this soap opera, you deserve congratulations. Keep smiling, and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, but first you might check the FAQ page.