About Me

Contact information: japaninsight(at)gmail.com

Aloha, I’m Tim Sullivan. And I’m happily married to my wife of 31 years, Kurumi. We are now officially empty-nesters.

Got two grown sons, one’s in college the other just entered the real world. Number-one-son Ry resides in Tokyo where he just lived through the biggest earthquake to hit Japan in recorded history.

Number-two son Grady attends University of Hawaii Hilo, works as a scribe at Hilo Hospital, teaches hip-hop dance at Center Stage, and lives with a roommate in Hilo Town. For my “oya baka” ramblings on Grady, check out this post.  For Grady’s trailer click here.

What’s My Gig?

I’m a cross-cultural business consultant. It’s not a profession easy to describe. My wife likens it to marriage counseling because often my job entails helping frustrated Japanese and American coworkers “kiss and make up,” so to speak. Every workshop we’ve ever done ends in a borderline love-fest. It’s kind of creepy but in a good way. Can’t think of a more rewarding way to make a living.

That’s one part of my gig. The other part is helping Western organizations connect with Japan. My work in Hawaii tends to be customer-service consulting and workshops for clients serving the Japanese visitor market. We start with “deep culture” by educating clients on Japanese history, values, cultural traditions, geography, etc., and through this cultural lens, how they view–rightly or wrongly or stereotypically–folks from the West. From this foundation we challenge participants to come up with their own ideas on ways to improve.

The beauty of this approach is that once folks get the big picture, most figure out on their own that they need to raise their game. And if you allow the improvement suggestions to be their ideas, then they’ll make sure those ideas become reality. It’s not rocket science–try it at your company, you’ll like it.

What qualifies me to do this?

It helps to have a knack for it. Lots of hard-knocks experience to back my knack, including 37 years dealing with Japan; 27 of that working with Japanese-owned subsidiaries in the U.S.; the other 10 living, studying and working in Japan.

If you want to put my name to a face and voice, here’s a short clip of me in action, taken at a seminar last year at Halekulani for my client Hawaiian Airlines:

I speak, read and write Japanese, just don’t ask me to write it without my computer.

My educational background includes a Liberal Arts degree from International Christian University in Tokyo in Communications, specializing in Cross-Cultural studies. That, and 27 years’ experience working elbow to elbow with, and between, Japanese and their foreign counterparts.

We work only with top-shelf organizations committed to quality and excellence. Clients include Hawaiian Airlines, Halekulani, Hilton Grand Vacations Hawaii, Nordstrom, Christian Dior, Royal Hawaiian, Sheraton, Gemini, Pacific Air Force Command, and Hawaii Tourism Authority to name a few.

As of this writing–and for the foreseeable future–I’m living the dream in Pahoa Hawaii, nestled in the lush green jungles of Puna. When I’m not working, I’m reading, writing, picking at my guitar or just putzin’ around my taro patch. And on a sunny, lazy Hawaii morning you might catch us swimming laps at Ahalanui, a beautiful hot-pond cove on the sleepy shores of Kapoho. Life is good.

Thanks for reading this far. And don’t be shy about making comments.

aloha nui from Pahoa,

Tim

41 responses to “About Me

  1. Hi Tim,

    Your blog is great.

    Thanks for your insight.

    Andy

  2. Thank you, I appreciate the feedback. Just curious, how did you find my blog? Are you interested in Japan?

    I went to your blog, but unfortunately didn’t understand. Wish I could speak…French?

    Hope you’ll drop in a gain to visit.

    Thanks again. Aloha!

  3. Hi Tim,

    I found your blog through a comment you left on Evolving Excellence.

    I’m interested in Japan as I am a Chinese French myself and also a keen admirer of the Japanese way of doing things (a lot of things but not everything).

    You are on my favorite now : )

    As we say in french “Il n’est jamais trop tard pour apprendre”

    Aloha,
    Andy

    PS: Aloha means Hi or Bye?

  4. Well done! I like what I see – so I shall attempt to see more.

    Dan

  5. Hope you’ll keep coming back, Dan. I’ll try my best to keep it interesting and real. I’d be honored if you’d pass on my URL to anyone who might be interested in my ramblings. Of course, I’m happy to reciprocate.

    I’ll be sure to check into your blog for daily doses inspiration🙂

    Tim

  6. Just stopping by and feels good to find a nice reading in here. Keep on writing ^^

  7. Thanks Ansella. Hope you’ll stop by again. I’ll check out your blog as well.
    Tim

  8. Okay, this time I’m goin to grab a link so I want loss it again ya ^^ just like what I did to Ry’s blog, your son is talented in writing and you did a good job

  9. Thanks Ansella. I’ll pass along your kind words to Ry🙂

    Tim

  10. Any way that you can condense this to be about half the size and content for the FBI Profile pages?

  11. Came across the following blog you might be interested in:

    http://faroutliers.wordpress.com/category/japan/

  12. thehawaiianlion

    Hey Tim,

    I think that referral came from me checking and clicking a link to your post on the “related posts” section off one of my posts. Your post on “Can American Executives Manage Without Their Corporate Jets?” was very interesting and gave me and a buddy (he’s studying Business in Japan) a good topic of conversation.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know your buddy Karlton. I am 26 year old guy, born and raised in Kohala, who went to the mainland for University and is now in Japan – almost 5 years – learning day by day. I have some cousins in Pahoa, but I haven’t been in ages. Is Da Store still there? That name cracked me up.

    “Which store?” “Da store!”

    I think I will stop by the site. I learned a lot from that post, and am interested in learning more about Japanese and American cultural differences.

    Thanks for taking the time to post and checking out my site.

    Tyson

  13. Hey Tyson,

    thanks for checking in. It’s funny you mentioned Da Store–it’s about a stone’s throw away from my house, no kidding. (I’m just 3 streets makai of Da Store.) Pahoa is such a small town that if we tried hard enough, no doubt we’d eventually find a mutual acquaintance or distant relative. In the meantime…we’ve got the Japan connection so you’re already a kindred spirit.

    Are you a professional translator or a student?

    Look us up the next time you’re on island…

    Tim

  14. Nice blog Tim and fantastic insights as usual. Glad to see our time in Japan wasn’t wasted even though we might have been!😉 I’ll be checking back often to catch up.

  15. Peeking at your blog via Damon’s mention of you on Twitter. Look forward to reading more.

  16. Aloha and thanks for checking in, Cynthia. Making a strong case for twitter, eh?🙂

  17. Hi Tim,

    I came across your site through checking out blogs on Japan business and culture. I, too, am an interculturalist, lived in Japan a while ago with my family for six blissful years, and happen to adore Hawaii as well (great place to get a solid ‘Japan fix’ while still technically in the U.S.A.). I just started blogging myself, and can’t wait to dive in to your posts, beginning with those on customer service.

    Mata, ne!

  18. Hi Sue,

    Thanks for checking in, always good to hear from a kindred spirit.

    Just a year ago I wasn’t sure about all this blogging stuff. But now I’m hooked. Nothing beats having the freedom to write about whatever strikes one’s fancy–and get timely feedback on it to boot! (Naturally a straight business blog will have its restrictions…the Intercultural Twilight Zone gives me a little more wiggle room…)

    Anyway, hope you can make sense out of my cross-cultural ramblings. And don’t be shy about sharing your wisdom and experiences.

    Yes indeed Hawaii offers the best of both worlds. We are blessed to be here.

    Mahalo for checking in!

    Tim

  19. Shalom/Hello
    My name is Marion Burgheimer and I am an intercultural trainer. I live in Israel. I read several posts and learned and enjoyed. Is there a possibility to subscribe to your blog?
    Thank you in advance
    Marion Burgheimer

  20. Thanks so much for checking in Marion. I appreciate your kind words.

    By the way, how’s the intercultural training business in Israel? Several years ago a friend of mine spent some time there and still raves about the place even today. So I’m curious!🙂

    Anyone wanna coach me on how to get a “add-to-any” subscribe button at the top of my site?

  21. Thank you for your answer. I answer your question soon.
    With regards to “add to any” I used in my blog a feature from feedburner

    feedbirner.com

    WordPress has in his “help” section an explanation about it, and it works very well.

    Good Luck

  22. Aloha Tim! I’ve been enjoying your posts since I started reading them a few weeks ago, and in honor of all the great ideas on these pages, I posted a piece on the recent Japan election and its relation to Japanese culture. Would love to share it but will wait for your OK before posting a link.

    Mahalo arigatoo (ha! too much writing today!)

  23. You asked me several weeks ago “how’s the intercultural training business in Israel?”

    Well, it is very interesting. First Israel in itself is an intercultural place. Many people from different places around the world.
    2nd, Israeli companies export and import a lot. In addition many international companies have offices in Israel, so the contact between employees and managers from Israel and people from abroad exists, and demands attention and development.
    I like my job and find it fascinating.
    You are more then welcome to Israel.

  24. Sue, thanks again for checking in. Politics normally doesn’t interest me but what just happened in Japan is an historic event that begs for analysis. I’d love you to shed some light on the cultural underpinnings. So lay your link on us! Hey, we “interculturalists” are a minority; we gotta stick together, right?🙂

    Is it already posted on your blog?

    • Thanks, Tim; it’s freshly posted and up there for the looking: http://www.globalcoachingandconsulting.com/Banter-Without-Borders-Blog/ . I’m the same way, if it’s cultural, count me in. If it’s politics…..’not so much’! This time round, though, there were some cultural connections I thought might be interesting to put out there. On another note, I read your latest comment on alcohol in Japan while my husband was out with his J-clients tonight in the thick of it. I forwarded it to him then and there and only hope he read it in time. LOL. I always love the Japanese use of the term ‘allergic,’ as it turns up in all kinds of situations. I especially love it when used with people in the workplace; it’s such a perfect way to express extreme dislike for someone without actually saying it.

  25. Thanks for checking back in Marion, and thanks for welcoming me to your country. Sure hope I get the chance to go someday! And also hope you can find your way to Hawaii as well!

    Also, glad to hear you’re busy. Wasn’t sure how the economic downturn was affecting your part of the world.

    As an aside, have you ever heard of a book called “The Anatomy of Peace”. I mention it for two reasons: one, it’s just great book that inspired reflection on my part about our shared humanity and how we create conflict and also ways to solve it. It covers some very profound leadership principles that have helped me tremendously. (Wish I read it 25 years ago; I’d have been a better husband and father…but better late than never.) The other reason I mention the book is that it goes into great detail about the history of the Middle East, a real eye-opener for me. I’m thinking about doing a post on this book in the future.

    Thanks again for checking in, and let me know when you’re coming to Hawaii😉

    Aloha nui!

    Tim

  26. I would love to come to Hawaii.
    When this happens I will let you know.
    The world is beautiful & it’s upon us to discover it.

    It will be interesting to read a post about the book , “The Anatomy of Peace”.

    In a week time it is Rosh Hashana (Jewish new year holiday) so I am wishing you and other people who read this blog Shana Tova= Good Year.

  27. Hi Tim,

    RT’d your article on Twitter. Used bit.ly to shorten the link so that others can easily RT as well. Hope it sends some readers your way.

    Thanks for the insights,

    Cynthia

    Twitter: @Cynthia_Hoskins

  28. tim, thanks for an awesome international training class with HA….

    • Kelly san, thank you so much for the kind words. Gotta say in all sincerity, I feed off the energy of the audience, so in this case it truly was a team effort! I love working with you and your wonderful company. You will be VERY successful in this new market. And I feel very honored that I’m now part of the “HA ohana”🙂

  29. Just found your blog by searching for Japanese customer service and it was the 2nd or 3rd. I have 15 years living experience in Japan, wife is Japanese and we have 3 children. Your stuff is really good and obviously you know your subject matter. Thanks.

    • Aloha Christopher, thanks for checking in, and also for your kind words. Sounds like we’ve got a lot in common. Just curious, do you still live in Japan? If so, what part? I lived in the Kanto area for 10 years but my wife is from Shizuoka (Atami) and first son currently living in Tokyo. Hope you’ll come back and visit again!

  30. Hi Tim, we moved from Japan just this past May and I am now in Texas, near Houston. We lived in Yokohama and I worked in Tokyo for 6 years this past time and 10 years my first time. I have been scuba diving in Atami, lovely little Hawaii! I will continue to follow your blog. Thanks.

    • Wow Houston, that’s gotta be a big adjustment after 15 years in Japan! Best of luck in making it your new home.

  31. 先生,
    I am in Huntsville, AL. There are 15 Japanese companies in Madison county and 65 in Alabama. We even have a Saturday Japanese Supplementary School for the children. I am trying to learn about Japanese culture and using the Genki text to learn the language. I have a native speaker with whom we trade off teaching each others language. I am looking for more source materials and books to help me understand the culture gap. My own back ground is “old South” (which I hated and tried to ignore) with “new South” supporting a high tech education (Ga Tech, Information and Computer Science). In reading 漫画 I see parallels between “The War of Northern Aggression” vs “The Holy War” and “Reconstruction” vs “Occupation”. (I recommend “And I was There…” by Edwin Layton for the connect to Yamamoto). What do you recommend?

    Sincerely, ….

    Dani Richard

    • Sorry for taking so long to respond to this as well. Here’s a standard reading list, although I haven’t updated it in a while:

      Anything by Robert Whiting, especially (and in no particular order):

      Ya Gotta Have “Wa”

      “Wa” means “harmony”; even in Japanese Baseball, “Ya gotta have harmony!” American major-leaguers playing ball in Japan collide with the host culture, a microcosm of our respective cultures at large. Well-written with lots of humorous anecdotes and spot-on analysis.

      Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan

      I loved this book. A tragic/comical look at the life of an American gangster in Japan from the U.S. occupation. Great information, fascinating look at the development of post-war Japan through the life of a colorful character. Packed with interesting kernels of information–for example: most of the occupying forces had NOT (by design) fought in the Japan theater; this was because SCAP didn’t think angry, emotional, resentful soldiers could bring the needed stability for a peaceful Occupation and rebuilding of Japan. Another tidbit: The reason Pachinko games use ball bearings even today is because they were made available via the black market by folks in the Occupying forces.

      The Samurai Way of Baseball: The Impact of Ichiro and the New Wave from Japan

      Once again Whiting uses baseball as a lens for peering into our respective cultures. Unlike “Ya Gotta Have Wa”, this book looks at culture through Japanese ballplayers who made it to the big leagues in America. A thoroughly enjoyable read, even if you’re not into baseball.

      Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West, T.R. Reid

      A fun read. Lot’s of anecdotes that teach and entertain. If you want to understand Japanese culture, you have to gain a basic grasp of Confucianism. T.R. Reid makes it fun and accessible.

      Hidden Differences: Doing Business with the Japanese, Edward & Mildred Hall

      A tad academic, but fascinating perspective and instructive. Edward and Mildred are respected cross-cultural anthropologists. Lots of light bulbs clicked on when I read this.

      The Japanese Negotiator: Subtlety & Strategy Beyond Western Logic, Robert M. March

      Useful information for anyone negotiating with the Japanese on any level. Much of the focus is on the importance of emotions in Japanese culture, and building human relationships.

      Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Peter Drucker

      Drucker, the “father of modern management theory” is not known as an expert on Japanese business culture. He is. It’s a thick classic. His description of decision-making East and West is enlightening for anyone working with the Japanese.

      The Japanese Today: Change and Continuity, Edwin O. Reishchauer & Marius B. Jansen

      Another classic, considered one of the most knowledgeable authorities on Japan, he was former ambassador to Japan. Raised in a missionary home in Japan, he spoke native level Japanese. His books tend to be dry but they are packed with a useful, well-organized information. Probably as good a book as any to get your head into Japan.)

      The Geography of Thought: How Asians & Westerners Think Differently…and Why, by Richard E. Nisbett

      A fascinating study on how differently Asians and Westerners look at the world, even at young ages.

      Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation, by Michael Zielenziger

      A rare, disturbing look at the young generation in Japan. When I read this it occurred to me that Japan has roughly 20 years before they hit bottom. And when they hit, they will hit hard. The sad reality: once the plus-60 generation passes on, Japan will be run by the lost generation.

      The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Ruth Benedict The original classic. Anthropologists tend to be academic, but Ms. Benedict offers lots of cultural information. An amazing book considering all research was done during WWII, in the U.S.

      Japanese Patterns of Behavior, Takie Sugiyama Lebra

      Extremely informative, but dry & academic. Sometimes you wonder if Professor Lebra is talking about human beings or specimens. That said, this book went a long way in explaining many of the perceived contradictions that confound Westerners. Light bulbs clicked on as dots started connecting. My only hope is that someday anthropologists will lighten up on the “anthropology-speak” and just explain stuff in plain, simple English. It’s not rocket science.

      Doing Business with the Japanese, Mark Zimmerman

      Common sense advice from a master American salesman who knew how to do business with the Japanese.

      Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne, by Ben Hills

      A compelling read, packed with information about the tragic Princess Masako, a Western-educated Japanese diplomat who chucked a career and life of freedom to marry the Prince, with the promise that she would be allowed to use her position in the Imperial family to play a diplomatic role in the world. Tragically, the promise was broken, and today Masako remains a prisoner in her own Palace, some say psychologically broken. A fascinating look at the Imperial family, its history, and lingering traditions. Only downside: no happy ending in sight.

      Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig

      One of my all-time favorites! Tag along inside the head of a mad genius on a quest for self-discovery, while he constructs his philosophical masterpiece, “the Metaphysics of Quality”. A thought-provoking book that sheds light on the spiritual and philosophical dimensions of “Quality”. Whether Pirsig intended it or not, he articulates how the Japanese innately and implicitly frame the notion of quality in their daily lives. The human and spiritual need to connect with quality drives the Japanese continuous self-improvement philosophy.

      A History of Western Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell

      To understand other cultures, you first have to understand your own. An intellectual history of the West. Russell’s style is very accessible and offers valuable sweeping perspectives of how the great minds of history shaped the development of Western culture.

      Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples, by Nakamura Hajime

      A classic, but academic. Fascinating study of Buddhism from its birthplace in India, and eventual migration to China, Tibet and Japan. Nakamura looks at how Buddhism influenced the cultures it touched and conversely, how these different cultures put their own spin on the religion. Packed with cultural information about Japan.

      A more recent book: Re-imagining Japan…check it out on Amazon…

      Hope it helps. Possible stocking stuffers for the holidays.

      Aloha!

  32. Dear Mr. Sullivan,
    I am very interested in working in the intercultural communication field similar to your interests as seen posted on your About Me page. I graduated from Global College of Long Island University in May 2011, a program where I lived abroad in several countries for three and a half years out of four. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies with an area of concentration in Intercultural Communication and Comparative Religions. I am very passionate about learning cultures, languages, etc. The field I want to hone in on stresses more about cultural distinctions than language differences (although I am conversational in Hebrew, Lao, Mandarin, and Spanish) like seen in your live trailer with Japanese culture. So many aspects of life become lost when they cross cultures. I am struggling to get my foot in the door for this field. Do you have any suggestions on where I could be looking/applying?
    Thank you in advance for your assistance!
    Melannie

  33. Hi Tim
    Same to your blog via a comment you left on a Malay girl’s blog. I am an Indian, now settled in Canada. Like your cross cultural work.

    Viswanathan

  34. Pingback: Guest Post with TIM SULLIVAN from JAPAN INSIGHT | Cherry Blossom Stories Blog

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