Business Practices in Japan

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The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
To conduct business well in Japan, it is important to respect:
- the sense of belonging to a group, team work, and the pursuit of a consensus;
- the harmony of relations within the group and the culture of compromise;
- the hierarchy, defined by age, position, company and social status. It determines especially placing (at table, in a meeting), the order of speaking, respect due to a person, etc.;
- punctuality. Call your correspondent back at precisely the agreed time. Arrive 5 minutes early for an appointment.
First Contact
Being introduced by a third person makes the first contact much easier. The intermediary must be chosen with care as your business contact will feel obliged to remain loyal to him. Preferably choose a person of the same rank and outside the company.
If you don’t have a connection, a personal call will be more effective. A letter requesting an appointment might go unanswered.
The Japanese greet one another with a bow which is held for a longer or shorter time according to social rank and respect due. The website how to bow, explains who to bow.
Nevertheless, this is not expected from Westerners who are most often greeted with a handshake.
How to Present Yourself
Use the last name followed by "san." The first name is used only for friendship relations.
Business Relations
Business relations are above all personal relations which are maintained with the help of greetings cards, gifts and shared meals.
Gifts are not considered as attempts to bribe. You should seize any opportunity to give one. Nevertheless, do not do so at the very first contact; at least wait till the end of the meeting.
If the gift is given in public, you must respect ranks and hierarchies. Give the gift with both hands. It is the Japanese custom to refuse a gift several times before accepting it and to state that it is of less importance than the relation itself. The gift will only be opened in private, in order to avoid comparison with those of other people.
Business Communication
Business discussions generally only begin after the first quarter of an hour of the meeting.
In Japan, silences are part of the discussion and reflection. It is not rare for the Japanese to close their eyes to concentrate better on what is being said.
Do not use expressions, or a tone, which are too direct; avoid any direct confrontation.
The Japanese are attentive to non-verbal communication: gestures and facial expressions.
Dress Code
Traditionally, Japanese dress code is formal: dark suit, white shirt, dark tie. But foreign businessmen may dress as they usually do in their home country.
It is often the custom to take off one’s shoes (at home, at a restaurant, etc.). Therefore it is necessary to have clean (without holes), conservative style socks.
Visiting Cards
In Japan, the visiting card represents the person.
Your own card must be neat, printed on good quality paper, ideally with one side translated into Japanese at least in Englishh both hands.
Your business contact’s card must be received with respect. Take some time to read it and handle it with attention and care.
For Further Information
Japanese business culture on the Communicaid website
Japanese culture and customs as seen by the Kwintessential website
Japanese business culture as seen by the Kwintessential website
Japanese business culture on the Executiveplanet website

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