J. W. Traphagan was born in Boston, Massachusetts and currently resides in Austin, Texas. He is a professor and Mitsubishi Fellow in the Department of Religious Studies and the Program in Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas at Austin and has been a visiting professor at Waseda University in Tokyo. He received his BA in political science from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, his MA in religion from Yale University, and his PhD in social anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh. Traphagan first visited Japan in the late 1980s, and in the 1990s he conducted research for almost two years there as a Fulbright scholar. He has returned annually and spent a total of almost five years in rural areas and Tokyo.
After publishing numerous scientific papers and monographs describing and analyzing Japanese culture and society, Traphagan became disenchanted and bored with the jargon and theory-laden prose that typifies academic writing. He decided to explore ethnography by drawing on his fieldnotes as a basis for creating fiction intended to capture the richness and complexity of life in the rural area where he has lived and worked. His first novel, Blood of Gutoku: A Jack Riddley Mystery in Japan (Balestier 2021), is a product of that endeavor.
His two other most recent books are Cosmopolitan Rurality, Depopulation, and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in 21st Century Japan (Cambria Press, 2020) and Embracing Uncertainty: Future Jazz, That 13th Century Buddhist Monk, and the Invention of Cultures (Sumeru Press, 2021).
John W. Traphagan, Ph.D. is Professor and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Fellow in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor in the Program in Human Dimensions of Organizations.