A whim and a prayer
A whim and a prayer


A whim and a prayer

February 12, 2024

In his early twenties, fresh out of an undergraduate degree and without any knowledge of the culture or language, Associate Professor Dr Josh Kidd (PhD Applied Linguistics 2014) seized the opportunity to live and work in Japan. Thirty years later, the country has become his home, language learning has become his life’s work, and fostering ongoing connections as a leader of the Macquarie University Alumni Network in Japan remains central to a rich and rewarding life between two cultures.


Speaking from his office at Utsunomiya University (EPUU) in Japan, about an hour north of Tokyo by Shinkansen, Associate Professor Dr Josh Kidd tells how in 1992, as a 21-year-old fresh out of an arts degree, applying for a job in Japan didn’t feel like such a monumental decision at the time. ‘It was more about adventure,’ he explains. ‘It was about seeing a bit of the world and experiencing new things  – you could say I set off on a whim and a prayer!’

As he looks back on his last three decades in Japan, Dr kidd says, ‘One decision has led to another, and it has ended up being my life – I’ve been happily married to my wife, Miho, for nearly 30 years, and we have two grown daughters, Iysa and Sarika. Living in Japan has been transformative,’ he continues, ‘full of rich cultural immersion and unexpected personal and professional growth.’

Josh Kidd with family

It would seem the path less trodden has served him well, though living overseas and speaking foreign languages wasn’t exactly on the cards when he was growing up. ‘My family’s love for adventure took me around Australia, but my exposure to foreign languages was limited to Indonesian and French at school,’ he remembers. ‘Unfortunately, my memories of those classes aren’t particularly positive – I was often disengaged, passively listening while the teacher spoke.’

But his approach to language learning quickly changed when he relocated to Japan. ‘Based in a small town where English was hard to come by, mastering basic language skills became imperative for navigating daily life – language learning was no longer an academic exercise but a practical necessity, and this immersion marked the beginning of my fascination with the teaching and learning of languages.’

Several degrees in teaching and linguistics later, including a PhD in Applied Linguistics from Macquarie University, Dr Kidd is now an Associate Professor within the English Program of Utsunomiya University and deeply rooted in the city, the capital of Tochigi prefecture. Best known for strawberries and gyoza dumplings, Utsunomiya is a diverse economic centre just southeast of the famous temples and shrines of Nikko.

Josh Kidd streetscape

At Utsunomiya University, Dr Kidd’s work encompasses developing curriculum, delivering lectures, conducting staff/faculty development and undertaking research. ‘Our focus aligns with the evolving landscape of higher education in Japan, adapting to changes in our field and government directives, such as internationalising higher education to equip students with the skills and knowledge required for success in an increasingly globalised world.’

As a result of these changes, Japanese universities have moved from general English programs to those with a more academic orientation. ‘Consequently, there’s an increased emphasis on teaching specialised English for Academic Purposes (EAP),’ explains Dr Kidd. ‘This shift is closely tied to the broader trends of globalisation, glocalisation, and the rise of English as a lingua franca, necessitating adjustments in teaching pedagogy and theory.’

Beyond his position at Utsunomiya University, Dr Kidd also contributes to the Japanese academic community through his involvement with various journals and academic publications, serving as both an editor and a contributor, and engaging with a diverse range of research and practice areas in second-language acquisition.

However, it’s the personal experience that Dr Kidd emphasises most. ‘It was my daughters’ experience growing up and attending local schools that offered me a dual perspective into Japanese education, both as a teacher and a parent,’ he notes. ‘And it was this firsthand look into their educational experience, and that of their peers, which also enriched my insights into Japanese culture.’

Unsurprisingly, his pursuit of a PhD at Macquarie University became a family affair too. ‘I was based in Japan, working full-time with two young children,’ he says. ‘It was a key priority for me, as it is for everyone, but it was also one of several things I was juggling and required a significant commitment over an extended period. I’m profoundly thankful that my family embraced, supported and shared my dream.’

Josh Kidd grad with kids Josh Kidd grad with Michael Egan

Indeed, at Dr Kidd’s graduation in 2014, where he presented the student address, the Chancellor asked Dr Kidd’s family to stand, and the audience clapped. ‘The awareness of what undertaking a degree at Macquarie University meant to us as a family was very moving,’ says Dr Kidd. ‘And it just typified the whole experience – it was academically rigorous but also very personal.

‘For a large university with an expansive student population, I valued the fact that the professors took the time to understand each student and genuinely cared about their lives. This was especially true for my supervisor, the late Professor Christopher Candlin, who was deeply invested not just in my studies but also in my work, my future aspirations and my family.

‘He was interested in my children’s education, advised me on challenges I experienced at work, and consistently encouraged me to consider how I could apply my studies to positively impact the lives of others. I was his last PhD candidate and, with his encouragement, used my research as the foundation for a book on Japanese linguistics, published as Face and Enactment of Identities in the L2 Classroom by Multilingual Matters.

‘I remember writing about him in the acknowledgments,’ continues Dr Kidd. ‘Professor Candlin had an extraordinary ability to make the confusing comprehensible by interweaving his vast knowledge of linguistic theory, classroom practice and mesmerising anecdotes. He remains an inspiration, and the intersection of theoretical knowledge and practical application gained from my PhD has proven invaluable in my professional journey.’

But Dr Kidd says his story is everyone’s story. ‘Everyone I meet who studied at Macquarie shares inspirational stories of how their experience has impacted the trajectory of their lives. Of course, it’s different for all of us, but there’s a common thread – the experience was transformative, taking us out of our comfort zones and compelling us to delve deep within ourselves to confront challenges that pushed our limits.’

It’s no surprise then that Dr Kidd has been influential in establishing the Macquarie University Alumni Network in Japan. ‘My involvement stems from fond memories of my time at Macquarie,’ he says. ‘Even though I had limited time on campus, the strong bond I developed with my supervisor Professor Candlin and other staff within the University community motivated me to maintain this connection after graduation, both for myself and to facilitate connections among other alumni, and even beyond.’

And he continues to make good on his word. During COVID, Dr Kidd worked closely with the Macquarie University Alumni team in Sydney to set up the Japan Alumni Network on LinkedIn and now, thanks to Saki Origuchi, on Facebook. ‘Limited to online events at first, we conducted a series of diverse presentations with notable Macquarie figures such as Dr Prashan Karunaratne, Waminda Parker, Tina McKenzie and Dr Andreea Heriseanu.

‘My goal with the network is to bring the University’s alumni together,’ says Dr Kidd. ‘Macquarie has played a crucial role in all our journeys, one that binds us, and I aspire to create opportunities for us to connect personally and professionally. The wealth of talent and experience within our community is remarkable, and I envision a supportive network where we can share knowledge, provide professional assistance and build lasting friendships.’

Josh Kidd profile pic

Dr Kidd has also been instrumental in expanding the network beyond Australia and Japan, connecting with various global alumni groups, including the Philippine network through leader Macy Cruz. ‘Macy has participated in our presentations and provided support for our initiatives,’ explains Dr Kidd, who met her in person during a business trip to the Philippines and looks forward to hosting Macy in Japan, adding another layer to the reciprocal nature of these connections.

And yet, it’s not just alumni who benefit from Dr Kidd’s broad experience and enthusiasm. Last year, he was instrumental in supporting the Macquarie Business School to find an industry partner for an upcoming Business Innovation Challenge project, deepening Australian undergraduate students’ understanding of the Indo-Pacific region as part of the New Colombo Plan.

‘This project is designed to immerse students in the economy of Japan, enhancing their business and cultural competencies through direct engagement with local businesses,’ says Dr Kidd. ‘We advertised on our network in Japan to look for a partner, and my son-in-law, Marco Romano, Senior Global Sales Director at Seiya Nakamura 2.24 in Tokyo, generously offered to host the students and help put together a program for 2024.

‘There’s a lot of joy for me in being able to help graduates and connect family members to Macquarie,’ he says. ‘It’s about extending the network I experienced as an individual student, but it also says Macquarie University is an institute I highly value. I respect the academics and the courses they put together, and have great confidence in the graduates.’

Whether welcoming alumni into the Japan network, encouraging Macquarie students and staff to connect with him to explore research collaborations, or supporting the broader alumni network, Dr Kidd may have left Australia over 30 years ago, but it would seem his adventure continues, and his connections remain as strong as ever.

Josh Kidd on beach with motorbikes Josh Kidd motorbikes

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Dr Josh Kidd is an experienced educator in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) and applied linguistics. He has lived in Japan for over 30 years and is skilled in language research, public speaking, teacher training and program development.

Dr Kidd graduated from Macquarie University with a PhD in Applied Linguistics (2014) and is an Associate Professor in the English Program of Utsunomiya University (EPUU) in Japan. He hopes to contribute to the growing development of EPUU, fostering academic excellence and international collaboration. His plans include further engagement with the academic community through research and publications, contributing to the ongoing discourse in applied linguistics and second-language acquisition.

As a leader of the Macquarie University Alumni Japan, Dr Kidd aims to strengthen connections within the alumni network locally and globally, building a community that fosters knowledge-sharing, professional support and enduring friendships.


Are you a Macquarie University graduate, student or staff member based in Japan? Want to connect with your alma mater and be part of a network that meets to socialise, foster discussion and encourage collaboration? Find the Macquarie University Alumni Network Japan on Facebook and LinkedIn, and follow us to keep in touch with events and opportunities, and make new connections!


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