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Tips for Doing Business in Japan


Japan Business Market

Photo by Benjamin Wong on Unsplash

Japan is a land of rich ancient traditions, innovation and technology, and one of the strongest economies with a highly developed infrastructure. It is an attractive hub for investors to implement their ideas, start a brand and expand globally. The question of whether or not it is easy to do/start a business in Japan is one that many are seeking answers to. It’s not a piece of cake to do/start a business in Japan contrary to other asian nations. Japan has its own state of business culture and customs that are crucial for success. This article will illustrate some essential tips for doing/starting a business in Japan.

1. Research The Market

The Japanese industry is highly specialized and diverse. Individual consumers have their own set of standards, beliefs, and fashions. In order to ensure the success of a new product or service, it is essential to first perform extensive market research. Find your customers, competitors, sales channels, and legal necessities. It is crucial to examine local purchasing patterns in light of cultural and societal contexts. To appeal to the tastes of Japanese customers, you should modify your offering accordingly. 

Starbucks introduced its practice of writing customers’ names on their cups as a way to show appreciation. Meanwhile, it goes against Japanese tradition as they prefer to keep their names private.

2. Japanese Laws and Regulations

There are numerous sectors in the Japanese economy that are subject to stringent rules and laws, including the food and beverage, cosmetics, and medical equipment. Failure to comply will result in financial and reputational damage, monetary and legal trouble.

Consult with area attorneys for guidance on legal and regulatory matters. Make sure you have all necessary approvals and permits in place before introducing your goods or services to the Japanese market. 

Make sure the labeling and safety features of your goods and packaging fulfill the Japanese standards. 

Read Legal Tips For Small Business Owners

3. Provide The Quality

The Japanese consumer market is not only educated, but also highly attentive to glamor. When it comes to purchasing products and services, Japanese customers are extremely picky. The quality of Japanese exports is universally lauded. If you want to succeed in the manufacturer industry, you need to provide a better user experience than the competition. If not, you will be neglected in the Japanese market very quickly. 

The Japanese Times reports that after a single negative interaction, 56 percent of Japanese consumers will never buy from that company again.

4. Follow Japanese Business Étiquettes

Unlike western Countries, Business cards, or meishi, are an important part of doing business in Japan. Bring plenty of business cards when meeting with Japanese counterparts in a meeting. When presenting your card, hold it with both hands and bow slightly. When receiving a card, take the time to read it carefully and show interest.

Also, learn etiquette to communicate with your Japanese business counterparts. Understanding Japanese business etiquette, like:

  1. Using both hands to receive and give gifts,
  2. Remove your shoes when entering a home or a traditional tatami room( with thick, woven straw mat flooring). 

5. Learn Japanese Language

The Japanese language is difficult to learn but mastering a few basic phrases would be helpful. Using honorific language (Keigo) and addressing people by their formal titles (san, sama) is a sign of respect and Japanese colleagues will appreciate this. To meet your Japanese business partner, hire an interpreter to ensure clear communication.

6. Dress Appropriately

The standard for business attire in Japan is quite formal. When speaking with Japanese businessmen and women, proper clothing is required. The gentlemen should dress in black suits with white shirts and ties, while the ladies should wear conservative suits and ties. Avoid wearing anything too fashionable or flashy, as this can be misconstrued as an attempt to draw attention to yourself.

7. Understand the Japanese Business Culture

The Japanese business culture is highly structured employing a slow decision-making process that needs consensus from all parties involved. Learning the concept of “Power distance” is crucial when doing business in Japan. So within the company, address the most senior person first. Also, the Japanese are peaceful folks. So it is important to be polite and respectful in all business interactions. Avoid any kind of rushing attitude and be patient in business dealings.

Japanese companies have unique business codes, such as kaizen (continuous improvement to achieve the business goal). It is imperative that you modify your company practices to conform to Japanese standards. Status-quo-technique will not work in Japan.

Read HR Tips For Small Business

8. Establish Punctuality

Japanese people value time and expect their business counterparts to do the same. So it is the essential tip of doing business in japan to arrive at the meeting on time. It is even more agreeable to arrive early, showing you are serious and respectful. If you run late, remember to inform and apologize to your Japanese counterpart.

9. Build Business Relationship

In Japan, business is all about relationships and building trust. Japanese companies prefer to work with people they know and can trust. So you need to invest time in building relationships with your Japanese business partners on a personal level. You should attend industry conferences, and trade shows to meet and connect with potential business counterparts and customers. Invest time and resources in regular visits to Japan. It can prove your commitment to the Japanese market and build rapport with your partners.

10. Make a Partnership With Locals

Finding a local partner is crucial for doing business in Japan. Japanese companies prefer to work with other Japanese or foreign companies with a local presence. Having a local partner can help to :1. navigate the local business landscape 2. understand the cultural norms.3. Help in building trustworthy relationships with Japanese clients. 

Catherine O’Connell – Law Firm CEO/Board Member/Podcaster on a recent Global Chamber Globinar (Global Webinar!), said:

“Always utilize your contacts for introductions in Japan as this is key to successful business here. It’s just the way things are done in Japan.”

11. Embrace Digital Marketing and E-commerce:

Digital marketing and e-commerce are rapidly gaining popularity in Japan, which is changing the business landscape. Consumers in Japan are increasingly making their way back to internet stores and social media sites.

The Japanese economy relies heavily on advanced technology. Today’s customer is more likely to execute their multiple tasks online or via social media.

In 2023, the eCommerce industry is expected to generate $175.40 billion in revenue. This makes it a major and rapidly expanding sector of the global online retail industry.

Some suggestions for flourishing in Japanese e-commerce and digital promotion:

11.1 Use Japanese Mode of Marketing

Contrary to the rest of the world, Yahoo is more popular than Google as a search engine here. If you want to succeed in Japan, you need to make sure that your website and advertising campaigns are tailored to the needs of Yahoo Japan and other regional search engines like Goo and Rakuten.

11.2 Offer Convenient And Secure Payment Options

When it comes to internet purchases, Japanese consumers place a premium on ease of use, security, and trustworthiness. You should accept a wide variety of payments, including those made via credit card, smartphone payment, and cash on delivery. They need quicker and safe shipping choices.

11.3 Get Celebrities on The Board

Invite some local celebrities and social media influencers to promote your brand. 


A complete knowledge of Japanese culture, regulations, and customs is necessary for doing business in Japan. It is a must to build strong relationships with local partners and customers. Embracing digital marketing and e-commerce can engage Japanese consumers and stay competitive. Remember to treat your Japanese colleagues with deference, patience, and courtesy. Try to get to know them. Following these expert tips to start a business in Japan, you can create a prosperous and long-lasting business presence in one of the most dynamic economies on the planet.

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