Evansville expat makes a new life in Japan

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he 44-year-old Evansville native has spent half his life there, writing English subtitles, translating scripts, working as a dialogue coach, translator, teacher, and actor and producer for television and film.

Storms has assisted other producers and operated his own production company working on sports, news, animated and other entertainment television shows, as well as documentary and feature films, music videos and electronic games.

He and Mayumi, his wife of 15 years, live in Chiba City with their 9-year-old daughter, Maya.

At this point in his life, “I guess I don’t know what I would do if I moved back to America,” he said during an afternoon visit in Narita City, not far from Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.

His introduction to Japan came when he was a boy and his father, Charley Storms, was president of Red Spot Paint and Varnish Co. Business representatives from other countries often visited their home, he explained.

“I liked the Japanese guys best because they gave the best presents.”

He still has Polaroids of himself playing with plastic swords and wearing happi coats, Japanese jackets “that look kind of like a judo outfit” that the visitors brought, he said.

Storms went on to study judo at the YMCA and, when it came time to go to Indiana University, he decided to pursue a multiple major in economics and Japanese language and culture.

“I think my dad thought I would learn Japanese and then come back and help him out at the company,” Storms said.

He took a job in Japan to master his Japanese, working initially as a teacher in an English language school before pursuing an advanced degree in Japanese literature from Sofia University in Tokyo.

When a friend in Japan gave up her job with an Australian film producer, Storms stepped in as his new assistant. It was the beginning of a career that has taken Storms across Japan and around the world.

He’s traveled to 14 countries working on Japanese, Australian, British and American projects, including “The Amazing Race,” “America’s Top Model” and “Top Gear,” a show that pitted a Nissan GRT in a cross-country race against Japan’s public transportation, including the bullet train.

Storms has shared vegetarian sushi with Paul McCartney and his band while working on a behind-the-scenes segment for a DVD of the music icon’s 2002 Driving World tour performance in Tokyo.

He translated the script, worked as an assistant dialogue coach and appeared as an actor in “Sukiyaki Western: Django,” a Japanese feature film with a cast including Quentin Tarantino. And when the film screened in Italy’s Venice Film Festival, he went along as a translator for director Miike Takashi, whom he’s helped on many projects.

Storms has worked on documentaries about a Scot who helped modernize Japan and about a 97-year-old Japanese veteran who joined the attack on Pearl Harbor and nearly died in a submarine off the California coast. He also teaches visual media translation — subtitling — at two schools.

After 22 years there, Storms clearly is comfortable in Japan and enjoys his work.

“I don’t really have much money in the bank, but I’m happy enough,” he said. Full health insurance for a family is affordable, sales and income taxes are reasonable, “and the people here are just so darned nice,” he said.

He often has time for surfing and rock climbing, but sometimes projects consume him.

“Two summers ago, I worked 14 to 18 hours a day, 45 days straight,” he said. “But it’s better than showing up at 8 a.m. every day for some job you hate.”

Storms returns home nearly every year and he has fond memories of growing up in Evansville. The Evansville Day School graduate remembers Cub Scouts, 4-H fairs and the West Side Nut Club’s Fall Festival.

“I love nostalgia in general, and I want the world to go back to when I was in the sixth grade,” he said. “The Facebook page ‘Evansville, Pictures of the Past’ is a favorite of mine.”

It’s impossible to know how his life might have gone if he’d returned to Evansville after college or after a year in Japan. Joining his father’s business would have proved an ironic choice, however.

A few years ago, a Japanese company bought Red Spot, said Storms — “the same company that gave me those presents when I was a little kid.”

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