Dr Nobumi Kobayashi, CELTA

Intercultural Consultant

Learning Facilitator

​I am a bilingual and bicultural social scientist, through a cosmopolitan education. Having said this, I don't feel that this describes me too well, probably because I spend half of my time writing and performing stand up comedy. This is of course incorporated into my work as a consultant and a language facilitator. I take having fun quite seriously. 

  • Born in Nagano, Japan and grew up in Tokyo

  • Went to a United World College (an international school) in the USA on a scholarship from the Keidanren, Japan

  • Completed the following degrees:

BA (Hon) Politics, University of York, UK 

MSc in State and Society, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), UK 

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded MRes in Social Science and PhD in Sociology, The Open University, UK

  • Gained a CELTA at International House London

  • Industry experience in banking, media and recruitment. Notably, I worked as a researcher for late Robert Whymant at The Daily Telegraph Tokyo Correspondent's Office.

  • Professional experience as a Japanese/English translator and interpreter

  • Training in acting and drama, including voice training and Received Pronunciation (RP)

  • Basic knowledge of Romance languages, including Spanish and French

  • Write and perform stand-up comedy in English

 

My Story

I was brought up under the significant influence of my father, Haruo Kobayashi, who was a child/educational psychologist. Like many Japanese academics born before the Second World War, he was progressive and pro-American/Western. He was liberal in many ways, except that he believed in communism.

My late father in 2016

 V.M. Axline's seminal book on play therapy, translated by my father.

Nagano Prefectural

College where my father taught for a number of years.

My father's positive attitude towards the West and Western concepts, especially liberty and individualism, in hindsight, has given me a rather un-Japanese upbringing.

Consequently, I did not fit into the system well.

My sister and I with ducklings which were hatched for my father's experiment on imprinting.

He had an avid interest in animal behaviour too.

On the DIY swing hanging from a walnut tree in our garden, while we lived on

Nagano Prefectural College Campus.

With my sister and nephews in Hokkaido where my father was from.  

We managed to keep some of the ducklings and used to travel with them on holiday. We always had animals in our house, including budgies and a tortoise.

My father would take us on holiday in our caravan for about a month every summer. He decorated the interior of the caravan himself. As a child, I never dreamt that these were out of the ordinary. 

I believe that this experience has helped me enormously in understanding intercultural communication between Japanese people and others, as I learnt to distance myself and observe human behaviour/action as an outsider. 

I have extensively studied Anglo-American understandings of Japan and Japanese culture, as well as cultural practices in Japan and other cultural spheres, especially of the Anglo-American variety. Over many years I have begun taking a more balanced approach and cultivated a critical eye to appreciate them differently.

I was familiar with Dr Morris' work, through my father's interest in behaviourism. However, it was him who encouraged me to take a comparative approach in my PhD when I met him professionally in 2005.

Taking Late Prof O'Brien's course was crucial in developing a more critical eye in understanding existing political/social theories. 

Encountering Maruyama's understanding of modernity was the starting point of the journey towards my PhD. 

In this regard, my experience of working for an outsourcing consultancy firm was tremendously helpful.

After attending a related conference held in India, I began questioning the rationale behind this popular business concept.  

Mauss's seminal work also played a significant role in shaping my approach

to branding as a cultural practice.  

At the same time, I began paying attention to how most business practices follow a certain cultural logic, leading to my PhD research on branding as an Anglo-American concept. For this, I used a combination of social scientific methods, including those found in anthropology. 

 

By investigating the development of branding historically, I shed light on how the theory behind this serves the need of largely Anglo-American practitioners to sell the business concept. More importantly, "branding" did not happen in Japan, as it followed a different path, mainly still focusing on manufacturing. 

Bourdieu's approach was highly influential in my PhD. 

"Arguably the most famous book in its field" according to LSE Review of Books and as such, this determined where I conducted my PhD. Initially, Prof Paul du Gay was my main supervisor before he moved to Copenhagen Business School. 

I substantiated my argument by studying Japanese retail brand MUJI: "no-brand" brand. In doing so, I have also demonstrated that MUJI's concept defies the fundamental thinking in the Laws of the Markets, providing quality products at reasonable prices. In many ways, their approach to branding reflects a typical Japanese attitude towards promotional work by focusing on providing excellent products/services. 

Seiji Tsutsumi, the founder of MUJI. He was very   supportive of my PhD research and without him,

I would not have been able to conduct any empirical work.  

The thinking behind MUJI reflects Japanese culture: actions speak volumes.

I have long been interested in intercultural communication work and language teaching. Having examined some of the main approaches, I have found that more often than not, these provide one-size-fits-all methods. If not, their foci are not appropriate for those who are not their target audience.  

Snow Monkey and Bee is a unique system of approaching intercultural communication, supported by deep cultural knowledge of Japan and Britain/the United States through a bilingual and bicultural perspective. 

I apply this method to help improve communication between Japanese and English speakers in various situations, from corporate relationships to language training. In so doing, I believe that being able to see both sides of the story is essential.  

©2020 by Snow Monkey and Bee