When conducting interviews, I tend to ask people what initially brought them to Japan, because I like to compare their before and after lives.

I've found that a good number of expats here are no longer engaged in what originally prompted them to leave home. They come here and follow whatever opportunities present themselves and wind up in wholly unrelated fields. I've known English instructors to become models, photographers, DJs, professional YouTubers — you name it. Meanwhile, others come here with an expertise they acquired back home, determined to take it to the next level.

Chuck Johnson, 39, is a bit of both. He landed here with, literally, some kick-ass skills under his belt, being a former taekwondo champion. However, this high-level skill set would eventually lead him into a world he couldn't have seen coming back in 1996 in Lansing, Michigan, when he won the Michigan State Junior Olympic Taekwondo Championship — this just 2½ years after he'd taken up the sport at 15, and six days after becoming a black belt.