Helen Macnaughtan was born and raised in New Zealand. She first went to Japan on a highschool trip in 1982 and thereafter decided to pursue a BA in Japanese at the University of Waikato, NZ.
She was subsequently awarded a Japanese Ministry of Education Scholarship to study in Osaka 1988-90 and after completing her studies and a year of teaching English in Japan she arrived in London in 1991. She spent several years working for Kubota in their London office and thereafter pursued her MA in Japanese Studies at SOAS and her PhD in Economic History at the London School of Economics. She spent another year in Osaka in 1998/9 for her PhD fieldwork conducting research on the role of female employment in the Japanese textile industry 1955-1975.
She joined SOAS as a postdoctoral candidate in 2002 and is now Senior Lecturer in International Business & Management (Japan) at SOAS. During
her time at SOAS she has taught undergraduate and postgraduate modules on Japanese business and employment as well as modules on International Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour.
Her research and publications have focused on a range of topics relating to gender, employment and sport in Japan - including research on women and employment in Japan, the history of the rice-cooker appliance in Japan, the history of the ‘Oriental Witches’ volleyball team at the Tokyo 1964 Olympics and more recently the history of corporate rugby teams in Japan.
She has been a member of the British Association for Japanese Studies (BAJS) for over two decades and has served on the BAJS Council in a variety of roles. She co-edited the BAJS academic journal ‘Japan Forum’ from 2014-2021. She recently completed six years tenure (2015-2021) as Chair of the SOAS Japan Research Centre (JRC) and continues as Convenor of the SOAS Japan Sports Symposia Series which she established in 2017.