One word for one world
One word for one world

Doing business in Japan

Rows of trees with cherry blossom
Japan is one of the largest markets in the world and British companies have been doing business there for years. The country offers many opportunities in the area of product development and service provision. The Japanese business world is very different to the British one, however, so we have set out a few tips for success there.

Getting to know each other

Japanese entrepreneurs are more inclined to do business with people they already know or who have been introduced by someone they know. It is therefore a good idea to take someone who is known there along with you for an appointment with a company. Once you have established contact with a business partner, invest some time in developing the relationship. Communication will become more relaxed and things will go faster.
You are expected to be early for business meetings. Five or ten minutes beforehand is the rule rather than the exception.
The exchange of business cards is extremely important in Japan. Bilingual business cards (English and Japanese) will be much appreciated. When you receive a card, you should be seen to study it and to put it away carefully.
Furthermore, the presentation of a gift by a first meeting is a valued tradition. These gifts do not have to be expensive, however.


Japan is very hierarchical. You can usually see this as soon as you arrive at a company. The CEO has his own office with smaller offices surrounding it where the managers are. It is entirely normal to greet the most important person first with a bow. If you are invited by a Japanese person to their house, you always first greet the oldest person present.


There are more layers of etiquette in Japan than there are in the UK. People don’t expect you to know everything but it will be appreciated if you do your best to conform to local practices.
Shoes are considered dirty in Japan, for example. They are removed at home and even in restaurants and bars so it is important to make sure that your socks are clean and don’t have any holes in them!
It is also the custom to refill each other’s glass. If you see that your Japanese business partner’s glass is empty, make sure that you refill it, but do not refill your own. That is done by someone else.

The language

Man in suit holding a sign that reads ‘Do you speak English?’

English alone won’t always be enough for your Japanese enterprise. We will be happy to help you with your Japanese translations.

You are not expected to be able to speak Japanese. Knowing a few words to break the ice is recommended, however. It is an indication that you have a respect for, and interest in, the language. Bilingual business cards and business documents in Japanese can also provide you with a huge advantage.
We will be happy to help you with all your translations into, or out of, Japanese. Our translators are native speakers of Japanese and they understand the nuances of the language. Whether you want to translate a legal or technical document, we will be happy to help you. For more information, feel free to get in touch with us.

Mariana Mellor
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