Doing Business In Japan

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Business Etiquette, Languages & Culture

Japanese Man Pic


Japanese is the only official language. Since WWII, all Japanese have studied English at school and English is spoken by growing numbers. But few people other than officials, academics and businessmen who are in frequent contact with foreigners can speak it well.

Bear in mind many Japanese are sometimes too polite to let you know when they do not fully understand.

Keep what you say simple and straightforward. The same is true if an interpreter is used. Speak in short bursts, which can be easily translated. Don't ask rhetorical questions and try to avoid idioms.

A list of local translators and interpreters is available on request form the UKTI team at the British Embassy in Tokyo and the Consulate General in Osaka.

A few words of Japanese can go a long way. Here are a few commonly-used phrases:


Good morning (used up to about 10am) Ohayou gozaimasu
Hello / Good day (used from about 10am) Konnichiwa
Good evening Konbanwa
Good night Oyasumi nasai
Goodbye Sayounara
Excuse me Sumimasen
I am sorry Gomen nasai
Thank you Arigatou
Yes (I've heard you) Hai
No Iie


The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Co-operation ( offers language training programmes and study tours.

Meetings and Presentations

Despite what some say about the uniqueness of Japan, business is business here as elsewhere, and increasingly cosmopolitan. So you need not worry unduly about the niceties of Japanese etiquette.

However, here are UKTI's top ten tips:

1.  Punctuality - try to arrive early for meetings or functions and expect Japanese guests to do the same.

2.  Please make sure you have bi-lingual business cards - UKTI Tokyo can proofread them for you.

3.  Please send hard copies of your literature to Japanese companies.  Internet links and pdfs are not always opened.

4.  If you are bringing a gift, have it professionally wrapped.

5.  If you are planning to visit a number of destinations within Japan it may be more economical to purchase a Japan Rail (JR) Pass in the UK ( before departure to Japan.

Osaka Castle Pic

6.  It is good manners to send a thank you note soon after your visit to Japan.  Please therefore draft your thank you letters in advance of your visit.

7.  When planning company meetings, you should aim for a realistic number of calls per day.  Two is normal, three is difficult within working hours.

8.  When exchanging business cards, try to accept and offer cards with both hands. Your business card will be studied carefully as your interlocutor seeks to understand your position and role.  Please do not write notes on your contact's business card but place it on the table of the meeting where you can see it.

9.  Please beware of asking pointed questions as you may make your interlocutor feel uncomfortable.    Please listen to everything that is said, even small talk as it can be significant.

10. If your Japanese host invites you for dinner, please accept.  These occasions are fun, informative and an important part of doing business in Japan.

Source - UKTI


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