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Doing business in Japan

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Patience is a key factor when making business in Japan, as results are obtained in middle/long term. Japanese companies look for a trustful long term provider, not a spot business provider. Negotiations and deals take a long time, but so are the commercial relations once they come up with an agreement where trust has been settled as a key factor for mutual confidence. Decision making in Japan is a round process, not a lineal process as in western companies. In Japan, they have an unanimous decision process named “Ringi Process” which will be translated into long conversations on main issues and a round process until unanimous team decision is obtained prior negotiation goes ahead to the new stage.


Personal treatment during negotiations is also important. Western companies should try to socialise with Japanese companies prior they start the negotiation process. Business and human relations are closely linked when making business in Japan. Japanese companies expect a win-win relation.


Business cards are also very important when dealing with Japanese companies. Whenever a meeting takes place, it is mandatory to have business cards showing  the name of the company, the name of the person and title. Business cards must be handed over with both hands verbally introducing ourselves and must be kept on hand during all the conversation or placed right in front over the desk/table in the same form and way  as our interlocutors are seated in front of us.


Punctuality is a main important thing in Japanese business behaviour. Not being punctual is strictly considered as a severe rude fault in Japan, not only in personal relations but in product delivery as well. There is a non written rule named “5 minutes rule” which states to be at the appointed place 5 minutes prior the appointment starts. Japanese people expect to start the meeting at the exact time that has been scheduled which means to be ready and seated at the table to start on time, not to arrive at that time.


Japanese companies are always very well informed about the products they are interested in. Many questions about the product or service are something common and even repetitive.


Japanese companies have social responsibility as a main pillar in their goals. They work to support their society. Corporate Social Responsibility is a must that should be strictly taken into  account at the time a western company wants to start making business in Japan.


Japanese companies like to know the reputation and international profile of their intended providers. It is very helpful to be able to provide written support of the company’s economical strength and reliability.


Small gifts are welcomed in business meetings, normally promotional material or small typical gifts. It is important to avoid expensive gifts since this will probably embarrass our interlocutor.


In Japanese culture there are no limited words for affirmations or negative sentences;  YES does not have to mean yes and NO does not have to mean no, it can be understood as “yes, I understand” or “no, I do not understand”. Never expect an immediate answer in a meeting, this will happen once our proposal has been studied since decision making process in Japan is performed inside a group, not from an individual.


The fact of being able to introduce ourselves in a simple Japanese stile and Japanese language is welcomed in Japanese culture. Japanese people avoid physical contact during introductions. For example, shaking hands is only welcomed if our interlocutor offers so in advance.

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