Sales Representative in Japan

Overview by

Commercial Intermediaries

Trading Companies
  • Type of Organization
There are two types of trading companies:
1. The Senmon shosha, specialized in a limited range of products.
2. The Sogo shosha, general trading companies. These are large groups which act as importers-exporters of the whole range of products from bean sprouts to airplanes.
  • Main Actors
Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsui Co LTD, Itochu Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation, Marubeni Corporation, Sojitz Holdings Corporation, Toyota Tsusho Corporation, Tomen Corporation
  • Type of Organization
There are two types of wholesalers:
1. Import-export wholesalers. They are particularly useful for their logistic organization, information processing, product promotion and selection.
2. Wwholesalers who mainly offer a logistic service, stocking goods so as to supply retailers as they need them.
Nevertheless, the shrinking of the Japanese distribution market, making a more direct connection between producers and retailers necessary, has led to an evolution in wholesaling. Indeed, many wholesalers have opted for a more vertical integration of their activity by even developing their own brand names and retailing goods themselves.
  • Main Actors
Clothing: Onward Kashiyama, World, Wacoal,
Fashion accessories: Etoile Kaito, Morit, Kiyohara
Food and alcohol: Kokubu, Ryoshoku, Nippon Acces
Lingerie and furnishings: Sangetsu, Lic, Nishikawa Sangyo
Furniture: Francebed, Karimoku Kagu, Oliver
Watch and clock making and precious metals: Doshisha, Seiko Watch, Nagahori
Fruit and vegetables : Tsukiji Central Wholesale Market

Using a Commercial Agent

The Advantages
More realistic marketing strategy for a small or medium-sized firm.
Import agents are often appointed as sole agents for the entire country
Where to Be Vigilant
This approach requires great care in the selection of the representative.
Don’t try to use a list of importers as a basis for “cold calls” on prospective agents. It is important to build a personal relationship.
Elements of Motivation
Exclusivity, a limited term of representation, minimum sales, or qualitative indicators of sales efforts
Frequent communication per fax, mail, phone, plus regular visits to Japan
The Average Amount of Commission
- From 5 to 10% for regular business transactions, and from 10 to 20% for occasional transactions
- 1 to 3% in the case of bulk materials (iron ore or coal)
- 20% or even higher in the case of medical, laboratory and scientific analytical instruments
Breach of Contract
It does not call for any particular comment. According to the case, the foreign company may have to pay some compensation.
Finding a Commercial Agent
JETRO, Matching business database (TTPP)
Find Sales and Distribution Service Providers in Japan on

Setting Up a Commercial Unit

The Advantages
Although still costly, establishing a presence and an office in Japan has become less expensive given recent decreases in the costs of labor, office rent, and other expenses.
Where to Be Vigilant
It should be considered in the case of long term sales development.
Different Possible Forms of Settlement
  • A Representative Office
Such an office can obtain market data and other information and provide necessary promotional and service support. A representative office is not subject to Japanese taxes and establishing an office does not require special approval. However, a representative office must not involve itself in commercial transactions or generate income, and therefore cannot directly handle commercial orders.
  • A Branch Office
A branch office may take and fill orders and carry out a full marketing program, including advertising, recruiting a sales force, and performing promotional activities. A branch office is liable for payment of Japanese taxes. Furthermore, the establishment of a branch office is considered a direct investment and requires reporting to the Ministry of Finance.
  • A Company
Setting up a wholly-owned corporation will involve more time and expense, but it can offer an effective means of guaranteeing better protection for proprietary information, obtaining credit, and penetrating markets which have subtle but substantial barriers to imports.


Evolution of the Sector
Franchising represent a 19 billion Yen market. Particularly important for food stores (38% of all the franchising sector).
Some Big Franchises
Family Mart , convenience stores
Seven-Eleven , convenience stores
Edo Japan , Japanese fast food
Members of Japan Franchise Association
For Further Information
Japan Franchise Association
Japan Franchise Opportunities

Finding Assistance

Export Trading Companies
Marubeni Corporation
Mitsui&Co Ltd
Mitsubishi Corporation
Find more on about Selling to Japan.

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