Before graduating from Harvard University in 2011, Mikael Bauer studied pre-modern Japanese Buddhism and History at several Japanese universities. In 2003 he entered the graduate program at Otani University in Kyoto and a year later he was accepted to both Princeton and Harvard. He opted to study under Prof. Ryuichi Abe at Harvard and focused on the development of exoteric-esoteric Buddhism in Heian Japan. In order to strengthen his historical skills he studied Japanese pre-modern history mainly under Prof. Mikael Adolphson.
After having completed his general examinations in 2007 he started working on his dissertation The Power of Ritual: An Integrated History of Medieval Kôfukuji. After a short research period at Kyoto Prefectural University in 2009 under the guidance of Prof. Uejima Susumu he submitted his dissertation on Kôfukuji in 2011. In his dissertation he stressed the importance of looking at the slow development of particular exoteric-esoteric lineages from the tenth century on. By following this gradual development through an examination of Yuima-e participation and commentarial production, it is shown that the study of this particular ritual can provide a new way of looking at the larger socio-political developments in which the temple operated. This way, the Yuima-e is used as a vehicle to question particular categorizations such as the shift from Fujiwara no Michinaga's height of power to the rise of the powerful retired emperors. Central in his analysis is a close examination of the relations between inner and outer temple developments to thoroughly reformulate Kuroda Toshio's notion of exoteric-esoteric Buddhism.