Meet Alum Nathan Michon

Gesshin Claire Greenwood  |  October 8, 2020

The Institute of Buddhist Studies has so many amazing alumni entering the fields of chaplaincy, ministry, academia, and more. We’re excited to share this update on Nathan Michon, class of 2020.

Q: What brought you to IBS, and what did you study? What are your current academic interests?

I was ordained as a Shingon priest in around 2010, and had already spent a couple years living in Japan. I also completed a M.Div. in Buddhist chaplaincy in LA. During that time, I began to find out about the new chaplaincy movements developing in Japan. I also wanted to contribute to the developing field of Buddhist chaplaincy in the West. I hoped that by doing a PhD, I could begin contributing to Buddhist chaplaincy research and help build bridges between the dialogs on Buddhist chaplaincy that were developing on both sides of the Pacific.

Going into my PhD, I knew I had an interest in researching the new Buddhist chaplaincy movement in Japan. I also had a particular interest in the Shingon aspects of Buddhist care. Drs. Richard Payne and Daijaku Kinst were an excellent combination within the department to meet my needs. IBS itself also had strong connections to Japan.

Q: Where are you working/what are you up to now?

I was scheduled to begin a postdoc as a visiting professor at Ryukoku University this Autumn. It was delayed until next January because of COVID, but I will assist in Ryukoku University’s Buddhist chaplain training programs and continue to research Japanese Buddhist chaplaincy (especially within the areas of disaster care, elderly care, and Buddhist practices applied to care), while publishing about it for English-speaking audiences.

Graphic novel “Providing Presence to the Suffering”


For now, while waiting to leave, I am in the middle of working on three books. One is an adaptation of my dissertation into a book for University of Hawaii Press. Another book is an anthology about Buddhist crisis care. A third is a translation of an autobiographical graphic novel called その悲しみに寄り添えたなら (Providing Presence to the Suffering) by Amano Wako, a female Jodo Shinshu priest in Japan who undertook chaplaincy training there after the large tsunami of 2011 and depicted her journey of self-discovery and care within a manga-format.

Q: That’s really cool! I can’t wait to read it. What was your favorite part about studying at IBS?

The people are all so incredibly friendly around the institute and it helped create a very close atmosphere, enriching both the academic and personal discussions with people in the institute.

Q: What are your hobbies right now, and how have you been taking care of yourself during COVID?
My hobbies are meditation, chanting, and tai chi sword. I actually haven’t struggled much with quarantine, since my long-term retreats were essentially like shelter in place. But I do enjoy getting out into nature, especially kayaking down quiet rivers.

Q: That is one benefit of a regular spiritual practice, for sure. Any advice for current or prospective students?

Make full use of not only the resources at IBS, but also what’s available through GTU, CAL, and the rich resources available in the Bay Area. The location has so much to offer.