Michael Penn was born in Los Angeles on June 21, 1970. He spent his early life in southern California until he graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a BA in History in 1992. He did his postgraduate work at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies of the University of Texas at Austin. His MA thesis was completed in 1996 and focused on the topic of modern art and politics in Iraq.
From June 1997, Mr. Penn arrived on Japanese shores, studied the local language, and began to examine Japanese relations with the Islamic world. By April 2000, he accepted a fulltime teaching position at The University of Kitakyushu. Sensing the relative institutional weakness of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies in Japan, he founded a volunteer academic organization called the Shingetsu Institute for the Study of Japanese-Islamic Relations in August 2004 together with several of his close Japanese colleagues. He has served as the institute’s Executive Director since that time and has primary responsibility for running the institute and issuing the Shingetsu Newsletter.
In April 2010, Mr. Penn gave up his academic position and began working as a television and print news reporter covering Japanese and East Asian affairs from his base in Tokyo. He established the Shingetsu News Agency in December 2010 and now contributes to various international news organizations, including Al-Jazeera, The Real News Network, Global Post, The Japan Times, and others.