photo profile    




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 16, 13 and 10 years old. Photos when they were much younger show you why I am a proud grandfather.






ken hartmann family 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 may not win anymore beauty contests. I will simply have to bask in the glow of my wife's and daughter's beauty.


THE CURRENT FAMILY: My Japanese wife, nicknamed DeeDee, loves opera and also sings a variety of music in several chorus groups. As you can see, I married a much younger woman, who hopefully will help keep me feeling young for a long time to come. Our daughter Reina graduated from Tokyo University and worked for the Ministry of Agriculture for several years, before switching to an International Patent company headquartered in Gifu. In December 2016, she married a young man from Hiroshima, who is employed by Toyota as a patent researcher. They set up home in Nagoya. In February 2021, our daughter blessed our family with a grandson namd Rikuto.  In February 2022, our daughter's family moved to Suzhou, China, as her husband was sent there by Toyota. They are enjoying their lives in China. Mother and child will return to Japan in December 2022, while papa will stay until the summer of 2023. I will add a photo of her family when the spirit moves me. Now, here is a brief history of the long winding road that led me to Japan in 1984.


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 Yankee 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 Maryville College in East Tennessee. Being a true New Yorker, I had no idea where Tennessee was located, and I never imagined 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 in Florida and gaining experience in computer programming. 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 math and finally earned a B.S. degree. My friends say I always had the BS, and I 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 with a Master's degree from UT at the same time, and both of us found jobs in Louisiana. I focused on computer information system design for an insurance company in New Orleans, while she taught at a small college where we lived 60 miles away. We could only stand the heat and humidity in Louisiana for two years, and thanks to her lifetime dream and ability to save money, we were able to quit work and embark on a trip around the world for one year starting in 1968. After returning to America, exactly one year later, I found a job as a computer systems analyst for a bank in San Diego, California. Together we decided to settle down in Southern California and our son Neil was born in 1972. This California boy currently lives in Hokkaido and works as a professional cameraman and creator of snowboard films, among other small business ventures. 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: After five years we got itchy feet, so I quit my job and took a computer consulting position with a large bank in Bangkok, Thailand. That contract lasted two years and we took our time returning to California, traveling through Asia and Europe with Neil. After returning to the States and attempting to readjust to life in San Diego, we moved to Northern California and purchased a 20-acre homestead with a log cabin, outside Hayfork, a town with about 3,000 people. Neil entered the 2nd grade, but after 6 monrha we pulled him out of school, and began a future of home schooling and travel. Two years later we decided to sell the property and use the income to purchase a big old school bus converted into a camping vehicle. Our next year and a half was spent traversing the west half of Mexico and then on up to Montreal, Canada, returning to Mexico to explore the Yucatan and south to Oaxaca. When our American motorhome caught on fire, we decided it must be time to head back to San Diego, where her parents lived, in order to think about what to do next with our lives.


We eventually decided to sell everything, except a cabin we owned in the mountains east of San Diego, and took off for Hokkaido to visit some Japanese friends living in Sapporo, whom we had known in Bangkok. That visit in February 1984 resulted in the ultimate end of one "life" and the beginning of another. After one year in Hokkaido, we decided to divorce, so my first wife returned to San Diego with Neil, who was now a mature 13-year-old. I ended up staying in Sapporo, and married the sweetest girl in all of Hokkaido.


WHAT ABOUT NEIL: Neil ultimately returned to Japan after his 18th birthday to begin his adult life and never returned to live in the States, settling down in Jozankei a 30-minute drive from Sapporo. He too, ended up married to a wonderful Japanese woman, and she has brought into the world my first three grandchildren, all girls. The images are a bit old and need to be updated, but they are still adorble girls. Life does indeed take many interesting twists and turns, and it has been and still is fun traveling an adventuresome path, wherever it may lead. I think Neil's life might be more interesting, but he will have to write his own story.


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 several group lessons each day at home. I also taught part-time at a private high school, because my new mother-in-law thought I needed a "real" job. Over the years, I added part-time work at several universities. When I became 70, 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 discovered that one could be quite happy living on less. Nowadays, I focus on a handful of private and group classes, which gives me a little more time to manage the Hokkaido Insider, exercise outdoors a bit more and try to keep my life in balance, both mentally and physically.


HOKKAIDO IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE and I can understand why so many people want to come here. Unfortunately, the job market is tight with more people staying longer, as the Japanese economy has experienced long-term problems, not to mention the effect of the pandemic. 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 I recommned checking the FAQ page and my personal bookmark links that I share with everyone.