Erik Gain

Erik Gain

Co-founder, gaijinpot


Originally published on on November 2007


Where are you from?
I grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, then moved to the University of Arizona and studied computers and engineering. I first came to Japan as a student in 1989. Spending the winter holidays here that year—when Japan’s real estate bubble was at its peak—was absolutely out of control. All things considered, I think Japan is a much more comfortable place to be now, but those days were still lots of fun.

What work did you do?
I started out translating and teaching corporate English classes, but got the entrepreneur bug early on and tried all kinds of businesses, ranging from “gaijin haken” agencies and translating services to paid subscription services for English Nikkei summaries and stock picks. The latter went pretty well in 1999 and 2000 until the dot-com crash.

How did GaijinPot get started?
In late 1999, when a colleague and I were running the stock market info services every night until 3 or 4am—and not making much money in the process—we decided to get into something completely different, to create a gaijin-targeting info-portal site to help make life easier for foreigners in Japan, featuring info on apartments, visas and our core service, JobMail for jobs in Japan via email. We decided to call our site, a melting pot of foreigners in Japan. We later called the company GPlus Media, which we used to launch a series of new websites and IT services.

How do you relax?
I make it an absolute personal requirement to spend time with my family. Beyond that, it comes down to juggling the work schedule to include time for studying, squash, golf, traveling and doing yard work at our weekend retreat.

Any weird stories to tell?
A friend of mine was driving outside Nagoya one night, and stopped to check out a black bag lying in the middle of the road. It had ¥3.5 million in neatly stacked ¥10,000 notes. He reported it to the local koban, but no one claimed it, so he eventually got to keep it. Back in the bubble days, this kind of thing was fairly common—and in much larger amounts. None of my friends back in the US have ever picked up 30 grand sitting in the middle of the road.