In the four years since Howard French took the helm as The New York Times' Tokyo bureau chief, he has witnessed -- and covered -- the rise of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the fall of his former foreign minister, Makiko Tanaka, the scandalous accident at the uranium-processing facility in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, and the historic summit between Japan and North Korea last September.

Now at the end of his Japan posting, the 45-year-old correspondent is preparing to turn his attention to matters on the Asian mainland. In August, French, who has an Ivoirian wife and two teenage sons, will move to Shanghai to join his New York Times colleagues in Beijing and Hong Kong in reporting on the emerging modern giant that is China.

French -- an imposing figure at 193 cm -- brings more than two decades of journalistic experience to his writing about East Asia. After earning a bachelor's in political science from the University of Massachusetts in 1979, French spent the early 1980s filing stories to The Washington Post, The Economist and other publications as a stringer in Africa. He then worked as a metro reporter for The New York Times for 3 1/2 years before being sent by the paper to Central America. Since that time, his stories have carried datelines from South America, the Caribbean, many countries in Africa, Japan and the Koreas. He was nominated for a Pulitzer in 1998 for his coverage of Africa, and won an Overseas Press Club award that year for the same. In March, French's first solo book effort, "A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa," will be published by Alfred A. Knopf.