Photographer. Far East Expert. Author.
Sony Ambassador Michael Yamashita has shot for National Geographic for more than 30 years, combining his passions of travel and photography with his love of history and culture. An Asian Studies major at Wesleyan University and fluent in Japanese, Michael has followed his roots to become a Far East expert. In addition to his work throughout Asia, which has included intensive concentrations in China, Japan, Korea, and India, his work has taken him to six continents.
Michael’s specialty has been in retracing the journeys of iconic explorers, such as Marco Polo and the Chinese admiral Zheng He, along their historic routes to illuminate their discoveries and help us understand the early roots of globalization. His work has been exhibited in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Italy, Germany, and closer to home, at The Carter Center, LACMA, and the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art. Along with two documentary feature films, Yamashita has published 16 books in multiple languages, including his latest, Shangri-La (spring 2020).
When not speaking or on assignment, Michael can be found with his family at his home and photography studio in rural New Jersey, where he is an active volunteer firefighter.
Photos: courtesy Michael Yamashita
East Meets West: The Epic Journeys of Marco Polo and Zheng He
China’s sweeping global development strategy known as “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) inside China, renamed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) outside China for diplomatic reasons, is a 36-year initiative designed to “enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future.” It is designed to be completed in time for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, in 2049.
To understand the psychology behind OBOR, Michael retraces the journeys of two of the greatest explorers of all time: Marco Polo and Zheng He, showing how the East and West first learned about each other and how the decisions China made at the end of this era would lock its citizens into near darkness for more than 500 years, earning it the nickname, the "Sleeping Giant.”