Stay in touch!

Never miss out on the latest articles and get sneak peeks of our favorite classes.

Japanese Business Culture and Etiquette – How to Behave in Japan

CultureHow-to

Japanese Business Culture and Etiquette - How to Behave in Japan

When traveling to any foreign country, it is essential to research and understand the culture and etiquette that locals abide by in their homeland. Having this information is vital to appropriately respect the country you are in and those that live there, especially when visiting the beautiful country of Japan.

 

Having this knowledge is even more critical when pursuing a business relationship or agreement. Conducting business in another country comes with different mannerisms and decorum that vary from what you may be used to in your area of the world.

 

To help individuals appropriately conduct themselves during their time in the country and to have the best level of success in Japanese business endeavors, we have compiled a list of cultural norms and etiquette to abide by when doing business in Japan.

quote icon
Japan has many beautiful customs and traditions, and the business culture and etiquette are deeply rooted in historical contexts.

Punctuality

Timeliness is crucial in Japan corporate culture. It is seen as a sign of disrespect to those you are meeting with if you show up even a few minutes late. For context, those in Japan view start times for any event with the intent that you are in place and ready to do whatever activity is about to take place at the exact time. 

 

Therefore, if you are set to have a business meeting at 9:00 AM, the expectation is that you are not only in the building but sitting at the meeting table with a notepad in hand at 9:00.

japanese cultural parade

No Hand Shakes

Something common in Japanese business culture, as well as Japanese norms in general, is that they do not shake hands. Instead, when you greet one another at the start of a meeting or in everyday office interactions, you bow at the waist instead of shaking hands.

 

Even though it isn’t customary, some Japanese business norms have adapted to fit western standards. Therefore, it is best to follow the lead of the local business person leading the meeting.

Business Cards

When learning how to do business with the Japanese, something to consider is their use of business cards. Japanese business people place a significant emphasis on business cards and view them as an extension of themselves. 

 

Therefore, if you receive a business card, it is vital to abide by Japanese business etiquette and accept the card. Additionally, you want to handle the card with both hands and place it in a protected area of your wallet or bag. When conducting business in Japan, it is also customary to distribute your own card amongst those in your company. 

 

Lastly, it is essential in Japan business etiquette to refrain from writing on the cards given to you or bending them. Great care needs to be taken to show appreciation for the exchange. 

Dress Code

When participating in proper Japanese business practices, it is necessary to be mindful of the dress code. For many organizations, business casual is appropriate. However, it is required to pose the question to your business contact as to what attire should be worn. 

 

Japanese business etiquettes typically require individuals to follow the example of those higher in authority. Therefore, when inquiring about wardrobe requirements, it is likely that your contact will base their answer on what their superiors practice.

asian market


Be Succinct

An action that is quite typical of business culture in Japan is the conciseness of presentations and speeches. Therefore, when you are preparing your information for your Japanese colleagues, be sure to pay attention to the length of your data and try to be inclusive of only the most pertinent information.

 

The Japanese attitude tends to err on the side of brevity. Because of this, your presentation may be seen as ill-prepared if it goes on for too long.

The Meeting Isn’t Limited to the Conference Room

While Western culture often dictates that the conversation that takes place in the conference room is the extent of the meeting, this is not the case when it comes to Japanese business practice. It is common in the culture to extend the session over to dinner and drinks, or even karaoke! 

 

Therefore, don’t be surprised if you get an invite to activities later in the day. Expect that there will be a mix of entertainment, dining, and business conversation.

Don’t Expect Quick Results

Many in the western culture are used to having immediate responses and are attuned to instant gratification. However, when learning how to do business in Japan, it is essential to be aware that citizens in the Asian country do not adhere to those standards.

 

Japanese business ethics speak to careful thought and deliberation before making moves, especially in the corporate world. Those looking for a business partnership are planning for a long-term arrangement, which warrants a thorough analysis of all the different aspects that come with a binding agreement. 

Bring Paper Copies!

When taking the time to prepare your presentation for your prospective business partners and colleagues, be sure to bring hard copies of the information. Japanese culture generally emphasizes physical materials (much like the meaning behind the business card). Therefore, providing paper copies of the materials gives them a part of you and the product you developed.

people working at a cafe


Final Thoughts

Entering a country that is different from your own can come with its own set of challenges. Not only do you need legal documentation in the form of passports, visas, and identification, but you also need to be aware of cultural practices and norms. 

 

Taking the time to get in tune with the traditions and mannerisms associated with Japan will provide the appropriate level of respect to those you will be interacting with during your visit. If there is something that you aren’t sure of, it is entirely acceptable to ask your point of contact for clarification. Asking is better than the alternative of doing something inappropriate and offensive.

 

Japan has many beautiful customs and traditions, and the business culture and etiquette are deeply rooted in historical contexts. This list of cultural norms and expectations will help you to prepare for your next business venture in the beautiful land of Japan. 



Share this article
Back to top