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Japanese business customs you need to be aware of

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Entering into a new market can be like navigating uncharted waters.

Any unfamiliar business landscape comes with its fair share of uncertainties, leaving room for cultural missteps and potential misunderstandings.

This rings especially true in a country like Japan, with its own unique customs and business etiquette. Succeeding in Japan requires an awareness of cultural subtleties to avoid offense, and to build relationships and trust.

Japanese business people are aware that the Western approach is different. This means you probably won’t miss out on a deal for handing over a business card incorrectly, but there are some deeper understandings of Japanese culture that will help you to make a favorable impression and to better navigate the market you are entering.

#1: Respect

In Japan, respect is not just a formality – it’s the cornerstone of business interactions. From the way you greet someone to the manner in which you present your ideas, showcasing respect is paramount. 

Japanese business culture places immense value on thoughtful consideration and attentiveness during discussions. When expressing your viewpoints, allow space for others to contribute, showcasing a respect for diverse perspectives.

#2: Long-Term Relationships

Relationships are not transactions but long-term commitments in Japan. Unlike some Western business practices that may prioritize swift transactions, Japanese business culture emphasizes the significance of enduring relationships.

Building a network takes time, and patience is key. Invest in personal connections, whether through after-work socializing or casual conversations during business meetings. Demonstrate a genuine interest in the person behind the business title. The success of your venture in Japan is often directly tied to the strength of the relationships you cultivate.

#3: Trust

The bedrock of Japanese business relationships is trust. It is earned through consistency, reliability, integrity and a genuine commitment to your promises. Avoiding abrupt changes in plans and meeting deadlines are essential. 

Social interactions are highly valued by Japanese business people as a way to build trust, only seeking to do business is less favorable. In a culture where indirect communication is common, paying attention to non-verbal cues and reading between the lines is vital.

Understanding business culture in Japan requires an appreciation for respectful and mutually beneficial relationships. Building trust not only involves delivering on promises but also embracing social interactions as integral components of successful business interactions.

Morunda helps outsiders become insiders. Relying on our combined 75 years of experience in JPAC, we have handled numerous market entries into Japan since 2011. Book a discovery session now.

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