Sales in Japan

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing Opportunities

Consumer Behavior
Traditionally, Japanese have always been more aware of the quality and the renown of the brand name, and the features of a product and its quality. But with economic conditions becoming harder, the price is a more and more important factor in a consumer’s choice.
Customer service is an important element in a sale: extra technical explanations, keeping to delivery dates, etc.
The quality of the service rendered will depend on the way linguistic barriers have been raised and the way in which sales techniques have been adapted to the local population.
Consumer Profile and Purchasing Power
Japanese consumers were traditionally rather reluctant to buy foreign products, but they have become progressively more open to them.
Japan’s consumers are rich, sophisticated and highly diverse in their interests and tastes, going from traditional needs to westernized desires. They value home comfort. They like goods to be meticulously presented, and to have exquisite packaging and very detailed instructions for use.
Consumers Associations
JCCU , The Japanese Consumer Organization
Japan Consumer’s Association
Portal to Japanese consumers associations
Main Advertising Agencies
ADK international
Tokyu Agency
NTT Advertising

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
The Japanese distribution system is going through a crisis linked to three types of factor:
1. Protection standards and recourse to a system of licenses and permits impose heavy restrictions on the free development of stores. In particular, the setting up of hypermarkets is controlled by the Large-Scale Retail Store Location Law of 2000 and regulated by local authorities on the basis of environmental considerations.
2. The deflationist trend of the macroeconomic situation has eroded the margins of middle-men.
3. Information technology allows producers to be informed rapidly of fashion effects and the evolution of consumer tastes. To react quickly to changes in consumer trends, producers tend to develop internet sales platforms.
To learn about current trends in the Japanese retail trade, consult the website.
Market Shares
Specialized stores represent almost all types of the outlets (88%), the majority of the sales (57%) and the employees in the sector (65%).
Supermarkets are in second position with a market share of sales of 30% although they only represent 9% of stores. Nevertheless, sales made by supermarkets have shown a negative rate of growth over the last few years.
The well-known foreign names are present on the Japanese market: Tesco, Metro, Toys’R’us, etc. But the Japanese do not easily accept foreign sales techniques. Carrefour paid for this and decided to withdraw from the Japanese market after having set up 8 stores.
Unlike supermarkets, small stores are doing well. The number of convenience stores, especially, is increasing, with a constantly growing volume of sales.
For further statistical information about the sector, consult the METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) website.
Organizations in the Retail Sector
Japan Retailers Association
Japan Department store Association
Japan Council of Shopping Centers
Japan Federation of Service and Distributive workers unions

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Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Wassenaar arrangement on export controls for conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2001
Main International Economic Cooperation
Japan is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). It is a signatory to multilateral and bilateral agreements with many countries. Japon also signed last february, 2009 a Free-Trade Agreement with Switzerland allowing the exemption of customs duties for 99 % of trade transactions between these two countries, within 10 years. The legislation includes provisions on trade in goods, services and movement of natural persons for commercial purposes.
Japan signed in March 2011 a Tariff-Cutting Trade Treaty with India that will eliminate or reduce about 94% of tariffs on the countries’ bilateral trade over a ten-year period.
Non Tariff Barriers
Some factors limit access to the Japanese market for foreign companies: recourse to exclusively Japanese standards, the importance of personal relations in doing business, a regulation policy oriented towards preference for national products, etc.
Quotas exist for certain marine products, certain organic chemical products, explosives, certain pharmaceutical and medical products, certain animals and plants in respect of the Washington Convention.
An import license is necessary for products subject to quotas, dangerous products and perishable goods.
Some goods are prohibited from importation.
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Japan applies a Customs tariff which is among the lowest in the world. It is 3% on average.
The WTO gives a sheet summarizing the Customs tariffs of the country.

Customs Classification
Japan uses the harmonized system.
As a reminder :
The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, generally referred to as "Harmonized System" or simply "HS", developed by the World Customs Organization ( WCO), comprises nearly 5,000 commodity groups, each identified by a six digit code. The system is used by more than 200 countries and economies as a basis for their Customs tariffs and for the collection of international trade statistics. Over 98% of the merchandise in international trade is classified in terms of the HS.
Import Procedures
Import procedure is subjected to a computerized declaration. All the steps and documents to be produced are listed on the Japanese Customs website.
The Customs Counselor System assists companies with import procedures.
Importing Samples
Goods that are used as and which qualify as samples are eligible for duty-free entry. In order to qualify, the total customs value should be 5,000 yen or less and the words "sample, not for resale" should be written on the commercial invoice. The goods should be marked or mutilated so that they can only be used as samples and not be sold.
For Further Information
Japanese Customs Office
Japanese Ministry of foreign affairs
Japanese Ministry of Economic, Trade and Industry
Find Sales and Distribution Service Providers in Japan on

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
Japan has 128 ports, including 23 main ports. They are situated all along the Japanese coastline.
Ports are the mainstay for 99% of Japan's foreign trade and 42% of its domestic distribution. Tokyo Bay (six harbors, including Yokohama and Tokyo), Osaka Bay (five harbors including Kobe and Osaka) and Ise Bay (five harbors including Nagoya) are known as the Three Major Bays. These bays handle approximately 35% of all port cargo in Japan.Japanese ports handle more than 3,090 thousand tons per year.

The total amount of international freight handled at airports in Japan is more than 3,100 thousand tons per year. Japanese Airlines carried approximately one third of the total amount of international freight.
Click here to visualize their location.
Narita International Airport
Kansai International Airport
Chubu Centrair international airport.
Sea Transport Organizations
Ports and Harbours Bureau
Maritime Bureau
Air Transport Organizations
Civil Aviation Bureau
Road Transport Organizations
Road Bureau
Rail Transport Organizations
Railway Bureau

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
The industrial sector contributes approximately 28% of GDP. Manufacturing employs nearly 18% of the workforce. Japan has traditionally been a leading the world for automated production processes. The industry on is whole has benefited from innovative technology also in some less competitive sectors such as chemicals, aircraft and software.
Japan ranks among the world's largest and technologically advanced producers of electronic equipment, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemicals, textiles, processed foods.
The production value of the food industry ranked third among manufacturing industries after electric and transport machinery.
Business Directories
Japan Yellow Pages Japan
Corporate Information - Japan
Manufacturers Associations of the Main Industries
Japan Manufacturers Automotives Associations
Japan Electronics and Information Technology industries Association
Japan Electrical %anufacturers Association
Japan Analytical Instruments Manufacturers Association
Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations
Japan Construction Equipment Manufacturers Association
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Japanese Chambers of Commerce in Japan
Enterprises Federation
Japan Small and Medium Enterprise Management Consultants Association (J-SMECA)
Small and Medium Enterprise Information of Japan
Tokyo Metropolitan Small Business Promotion Agency
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Experts Views (17)
  • Japan Wine Report 2012

    In 2012, the United States held a 7.7% value share of Japan's $1,037 million imported bottled wine market. This was an increase from the 7.5% share in 2011.

    Foreign Agricultural Service on 20 Mar 2013 related to Sales in Japan

  • Japan - Exporter Guide 2012

    Despite of years of stagnation in the economy, there exist tremendous opportunities for U.S. exporters who are willing to follow the strict Japanese regulations and keep up with the fast-moving trends

    Foreign Agricultural Service on 11 Jan 2013 related to Sales in Japan

  • Industrial Fabrics Market

    Industrial fabrics are categorized into ten segments: 1) transportation textiles; 2) construction and building textiles; 3) geotextiles; 4) safety and protective products; 5) medical textiles; 6) industrial applications; 7) energy and environmental products; 8) agriculture and fishing products; 9) packaging; and 10)...

    U.S. Commercial Service on 23 Mar 2011 related to Sales in Japan

  • Building Products Industry

    Total imports of building products to Japan for the twelve-month period from January to December 2010 increased 4.8% to 1,006.3 billion yen (about US$11.46 billion at 87.78 yen/US$), compared to 959.8 billion yen (about US$10.25 billion at 93.68 yen/US$) for the same period in 2009.

    U.S. Commercial Service on 23 Mar 2011 related to Sales in Japan

  • Grain and Feed Annual

    Despite a series of animal disease outbreaks (foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza) that have impacted Japan’s livestock population, Japan continues to be a stable and consistent market for U.S. grains.

    Foreign Agricultural Service on 18 Mar 2011 related to Sales in Japan

Hot Tips (1) Go Top
  • Japanese Costume Jewelry Industry

    Japan is the world’s third largest jewelry market after the United States and China, with an estimated $9.1 billion retail market for costume/fashion jewelry in 2008, a 7.3 percent decrease from the previous year.

    U.S. Commercial Service Japan on 13 Jan 2010 related to Sales in Japan

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  • Foreign Agricultural Service

    Part of USDA, the United States

  • Teikoku Databank America, Inc.

    Credit, Market Research,Japan, Japan

  • U.S. Commercial Service

    US GovTrade Promotion, the United States

  • U.S. Commercial Service Japan

    U.S. Department of Commerce, Japan