Japan Business Culture: Five Things You Should Know

When doing business in other countries, it is necessary to follow the etiquettes and practices that are prevalent there. Doing so has a profound impact on the success of a business, especially in a country like Japan, where the cultural norms are vastly different from those of Western countries. Hence, understanding the Japan business culture is essential if you are planning to expand your business into this country. Being well-informed about the nuances of the Japan business culture will not only help you bond better with your Japanese counterparts, but will give you a competitive advantage over other foreign companies.

In this post, we outline the top 5 things that you should know about the Japan business culture if you want to venture into this country for trade. Read on to learn more.

What is unique about Japan business culture?

Japan business culture is unique for several reasons. The most distinctive factor is the affinity for following the relevant etiquettes and protocols that are in place. Some of these protocols are working silently, being group-oriented, valuing privacy, being gentle with business approaches, and respecting seniority.

Top 5 things to know about Japanese business culture

Knowing the applicable cultural etiquette is always a good place to start when working in international business. Moreover, when the people from the native culture see that you are making the effort to learn and apply their norms in their country, it automatically creates a feeling of respect. Here are the top 5 things that you should know about the business culture of Japan.

1. Silence is paramount

Contrary to many Western cultures, the Japanese believe that ‘silence is golden’. Talking a lot in the workplace is not the norm there. Hence, as a new entrant into the market in Japan, it will serve you better to take an introverted and reserved approach. That way it is more likely that you will be able to create a good first impression and build long-lasting business relationships.

It is interesting to note that when faced with conflicts during meetings, Japanese people tend to remain silent. This helps them to release the tension and gives people a chance to move away from the dissent. Silence is seen as a mark of wisdom and considered appropriately formal for business settings in this country.

2. Group-oriented nature

The Japanese believe in teams. Theirs is a highly group-oriented culture, as opposed to the individualism of many places in the West. As such, business successes and failures are attributed to the team, rather than to a single person. Even when conferring accolades, it is the usual practice to recognize the whole group of workers rather than one individual.

Hence, you should always try to give public credit to the entire team, rather than just a single person. By doing otherwise you might cause embarrassment to the individual, even though they might have been of huge help to you.

3. Privacy is highly valued

This is another example of how things vary from country to country. In the West, it is common to ask certain personal questions to build rapport. In fact, that is the way it works best. However, in Japan, it is quite the opposite. Privacy is considered valuable by the Japanese. As with some Western countries, the Japanese can have their details removed from directories like the phone directory if they choose to.

Hence, when doing business in Japan, it will serve you well if you follow this particular practice. Refrain from asking personal questions and opinions right at the beginning of a business relationship, and only share when you sense there is reciprocity in the conversation.

4. Gentle approaches are important

Overall, the Japan business culture is one which believes in taking a gentler approach towards doing business. The hard-sell attitude of the West is not going to be effective there. Instead of being confrontational, try to be calm and gentle when pitching for a new business model or idea. The Japanese do things by consensus and pushing them for deadlines can be detrimental to business. Instead, laying out a well-defined plan of action is a better way to negotiate in their country.

5. Seniority as per age

Equating seniority with age is common to most oriental cultures and Japan is no different. Age is highly respected in this country and it is considered synonymous with the hierarchy of business rankings. Hence, it is prudent to show your senior executives added reverence compared to younger ones in the group. A classic example of achieving this is to greet the senior-most person in the room before the others.

Thinking of doing business in Japan?

Japan is a country with considerable business opportunities and is a great choice if you are considering international expansion of your business. Knowing the Japan business culture can give you an edge over your competitors in the markets. However, if you are unsure about how to go about with the various norms and rules in the country, then it is wise to seek assistance in that regard.

As a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) in Japan, New Horizons Global Partners can assist your business growth in Japan by taking care of processes like recruiting, onboarding, payroll, and management of employees. In addition to recruiting the right people for your business plan and making them comfortable with Japanese working culture, we ensure that these processes are compliant with the local labor and employment laws, thus sparing you from any unnecessary administrative and legal hassles. We also handle company incorporations in Japan. Contact us to find out more.


Request a Proposal