Leslie Donald Helm was born and raised in Yokohama, Japan, where his family has lived more or less continuously since 1869. He began his career as Tokyo correspondent for Business Week in 1982 before moving to Boston to become bureau chief there. He worked briefly as business reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before returning to Tokyo as correspondent for the Los Angeles Times from 1990 to 1993. It was during that time that he adopted two Japanese children and began the research that would result in his book, Yokohama Yankee, which will be published in March 2013.
Leslie attended the Yokohama International School from nursery school through high school, graduating from the school in 1973. He attended Occidental College for two years before graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in Asian studies. He then attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism on a U.S. Japan Friendship Commission Fellowship. He is currently editor of Seattle Business magazine.