A Japanese researcher whose worldview was shaped by a transcontinental journey in his youth has spent years chronicling the lives of Native Americans and other minorities in the United States.

"While moving across the continents to the west, just like a runaway boy, the faces of people I met changed," Jun Kamata, 44, now an associate professor at Asia University in Tokyo, said of his two-month trip from China to Portugal in 1990.

Attracted by the diversity he saw, Kamata left for the United States after graduating from high school. It was there that he happened to become acquainted with indigenous peoples while studying at a rural community college in New Mexico.