Troubador Exploring Japanese Culture: Not Inscrutable After All

Released: 28/06/2020

ISBN: 9781838593346

eISBN: 9781838595708

Format: Paperback/eBook

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Exploring Japanese Culture: Not Inscrutable After All

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Dr. Nicos Rossides spent seven unforgettable years in Japan from the late 1970s, when the country began to emerge as a major player on the world stage. From a humbled nation, post-war Japan metamorphosed into an example to admire and emulate. Rossides witnessed this staggering growth and the “lost decade” that followed, only for the country to rebound again as a significant global player. 


Rossides eventually married into a Japanese family and grew a network of close Japanese friends. In eleven succinct and entertaining essays, the Author exposes the reader to multiple lenses or perspectives on Japanese culture and society. He does this based on what he experienced first-hand and only later digested as a kaleidoscope of different cultural nuances and insights. 

A fascinating read for those with a sincere interest in Japan and its socio-cultural practices and traditions and, may include students and academics, international businessmen and diplomats and their accompanying families. Written in a breezy style, Dr. Rossides offers his personal vision of how contemporary Japan is changing to address the realities of life in the twenty-first century.

A Great Read for the Culturally Curious

Nicos takes us on his personal journey of the complexities and contradictions of Japanese culture. As he warns, this is not a travel guide, it is a broad, deep, and at times personal look at Japan through many lenses – like: art, economics, societal structures and behaviors, history and foreshadowing.

The thing I like most about the book is its balance. Nicos is not imposing his opinion. He gives us an insight and then explores its many sides through the eyes of cited experts.

Nicos warns about falling into the trap of generalizing or stereotyping culture; however, I spent many years in Korea and couldn't help but draw many comparisons to Korean language, food, hierarchy, respect for authority, dark underbelly of society, but most of all the struggle to maintain cultural core values in the persistent onslaught from the West.

Full disclosure – I’ve known Nicos for about 15 years. He’s a former boss and now a consulting colleague, and friend. He is at heart an enlightened researcher and academic. All of this training is brought to the pages of this book where he proudly polishes his observations with broad and deep cross-cultural examples. This book is written by a rare intellect.

by Bud Taylor


Helpfully, it includes chapters on business, government and legal systems. If you are looking to improve your Japanese by reading the newspaper or watching NHK, having an understanding of these systems is quite useful for comprehending current events.

Exploring Japanese Culture is refreshing in that it consistently makes a reference to an aspect of Japanese culture, and then seeks to find a similar example in another culture. The author constantly self-examines his research and the field of Japanese studies to ask whether this is distinctive or truly unique, or perhaps unique in the way it is expressed. For example, the Japanese may have a wider range of words related to the types of love, but that is not to say those feelings or categories of love are not experienced elsewhere. This approach again provides a frame of reference to a reader unfamiliar with these aspects of Japanese culture.

It also avoids one of the major off-putting issues found in other books and articles about Japan. The Japanese people are described as a people, not unknowable creatures like Tolkien’s elves on some other mystical plane of existence. Social issues are addressed with understanding, compassion and sympathy, rather than yet another “Weird Japan” take. Cross-cultural references include drawing parallels between karoshi (death by overwork) and the opioid crisis in the United States. In describing restraint, he compares Japanese viewpoints on self-indulgence to the Protestant work ethic and the above mentioned different categories of ‘love’ in Japan to similar categories in Greek. An in-depth look at the relationships between masters and apprentices reveals how these relationships affect Japanese arts, business relationships and employment. This process is compared to the artistic workshops found in Renaissance Italy. Rossides recognises that Japanese culture is distinctive, but attempts to present these ideas and concepts in a way that is accessible and humanising.

Perhaps it’s too early, or the author is too ensconced in academia and big business, but it would have been good to see a bit more about entrepreneurship in Japan. It’s mentioned briefly near the end of the book, in a section on how the Japanese seem to have little interest in amassing wealth, despite having a taste for good food and luxury goods. I believe more and more young people are turning toward entrepreneurship. More rural areas are offering incentives to bring in tech workers from the city, and many young women are finding that entrepreneurship is the only option when childcare waiting lists are years long. However, this developing trend may be too recent to be included in this text.

I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in cross-cultural research, the social sciences and of course, Japanese culture. I believe this book covers such a wide range of topics that there will be something of interest to you, even if you are already familiar with terms such as karoshi or hikikomori. A few references to relatively recent events, such as Brexit, the election of President Trump, Harvey Weinstein and the saga of Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn might prematurely date this excellent book, but overall it is an excellent read.

by Amanda


Very informative! But also a great Read that had very engaging writing. Good reading for a world traveler or an arm chair traveler!

by Heather


Japanese culture has always been fascinating, after taking a class on the history of China and Japan I've become even more enamoured with discovering more about the culture. I enjoyed the fact that Rossides was a foreigner who had engrained himself in the culture; he was able to explain it in a way I could understand. Rossides covers a wide range of topics from work to fashion. "Exploring Japanese Culture" really covers a little bit of everything. The chapters are short and compact which I appreciated; they aren't connected together in any way which I also enjoyed, it did not need to be one cohesive narrative throughout. It made the book easier to pick up, put down and come back to. Rossides does not hold back but dives right in, and it can be tad overwhelming. The phrases Rossides uses can be a bit confusing, but once you dive into its easy to take into stride. I learned a few new interesting facts about Japan and its culture that I had not known before, overall it's a great book for someone who is ignorant about Japan to read to become knowledgeable about the subject.

by Sasha


Dr. Nicos Rossides examines and explores the nuances and complexities inherent in Japanese culture and society.

He provides a guide to understanding what seems at frist sight impenetrable and impermeable to the outsider.

Rossides lived in Japan for 7 years and married into a Japanese family.

The book consists of 11 essays covering such subjects as business, education, literature, language and the legal system.

Aspects of daily life are examined which will give someone an idea of how to avoid certain social faux pas.

Certainly of interest if you are looking to start a business relationship with a Japanese company. The book also provides the author's views of how Japan has adapted to meet the changes and challenges of the modern world.

A fascinating read which provides some insight and clarity into a complex subject.

by G


Many things were already known to me, but some others, like the different way of talking and the Japanese world of Business were super interesting. This is a book to recommend to every person who is interested in Japan and Japanese people.

by Maria


A wonderful informative read as I sat in my home my armchair I felt I was transported to Japan.Inlearned so much about the Japanese people their culture and traditions.

by Abby


I went into "Exploring Japanese Culture" hoping for fresh insights in said culture that I wouldn't have read someplace else already. What I got was a detailed view of all aspects regarding daily life, literature, the legal system and communication. The author lived in Japan for 7 years and therefore is a very reliable source for all the nuances that Japanese culture confronts us with. As a learner of the Japanese language, planning my own trip in my head, and loving Japanese literature (in translation), this book was very helpful. Now, the Japanese culture is a bit less of a mystery for me! In contrast to other reviews I've read, I quite liked the personal touch in this book, otherwise it would have been very dry and boring to read.

In conclusion I would recommend "Exploring Japanese Culture" for everyone with an interest in Japan and its culture, as it's a detailed yet personal analysis of day-to-day life in this (for me) exotic and mysterious country.

by Martina


Nicos Rossides

Nicos Rossides is an accomplished CEO and organizational development consultant. Having studied in the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar, he earned his doctorate in engineering from Japan's prestigious Kyoto University, where he studied as a Mombusho scholar. He later received his senior management training at MIT's Sloan School. He lived in Japan for 7 years in the late 70's and early 80's, is married to a Japanese, and has frequently visited Japan since then on business as well as to visit friends and family.

Dr. Rossides is Co-Founder and Chairman of the Advisory Board of DigitalMR, an international digital marketing insights firm, based in London. He also runs, as CEO, his own management consultancy firm. He was previously CEO of Synovate's Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region as well as its Head of Global Solutions, and CEO of Medochemie, a global generic pharmaceutical company.

Dr. Rossides currently devotes most of his time to writing, managing his management consulting company and his Boardroom duties.


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