Doing Business Offshore

Last Updated on: 4 July 2013

Any product targeting the Japanese market should take into account the unique needs of Japanese travellers, including language assistance and, in some cases, dietary preferences.

Market Key Facts

Sources: CIA World Factbook (Currency, Population, Language)
www.tourism.jp/english/statistics/ Japan Tourism Marketing Co (Total Outbound Travel)

Key Source Regions/Cities Greater Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya & Fukuoka
Direct Routes into New Zealand Air New Zealand with code share partner All Nippon Airlines: from Narita, Tokyo
Airlines Direct: Air New Zealand, ANA. Non-direct: Jetstar, Singapore Airlines, Korean Airlines, Cathay, Qantas, China Southern Airlines
Leave Entitlement 15-20 days per annum
Population 127.25 million (July 2013 est.)
Languages Japanese
Currency Japanese Yen (JPY)
Total Outbound Travellers 18.5 million in 2012 (+8.8%)
Peak Booking Periods August - January (typical advance purchase is 2 months)
Peak Travel Periods November - March

Doing Business in Japan

  • The language barrier is still significant when dealing with Japanese travel sellers and consumers, and operators should ensure they have written information available in Japanese. English is taught in schools, but competence varies considerably. It is strongly recommended that you hire Japanese-speaking staff if you are serious about getting into this market.
  • The Japanese are perfectionists and demand very high standards of quality. Once they lose confidence in something it is unlikely to be regained. Japanese follow strict rules of etiquette.
  • The exchange of business cards ("meishi") is mandatory. You should carry your meishi with you at all times as they are not just handed out in meetings, but in social settings as well. The giving and receiving of cards is regarded as an important and solemn gesture, therefore cards should be presented formally, received with due respect and examined carefully. Tips: use two hands, Japanese side up (if applicable), and never put a card away that you have just received. Examine each card carefully and keep it on the table until the meeting is over.
  • Patience is a virtue in Japan as most decisions are reached by consensus. Japan is all about building relationships and information is often more freely exchanged in informal social environments. Punctuality is also very important in Japan.
  • "Face" is still a big issue in Japan and one should avoid criticising or contradicting one's superior or colleagues in front of others, especially in front of outsiders.
  • While it is a social custom to give small gifts to business and social acquaintances, the importance of this is diminishing.
  • With titles, the suffix "san" can be used instead of Mr, Mrs or Ms (i.e. Suzuki - san, rather than Mr Suzuki). As a general rule, first names should not be used when addressing business contacts.
  • Formal business attire is recommended for meetings. Visitors to this market should also take into account seasonal weather changes, including the very hot and humid summer months and cold winters. In recent years, acceptance of "Cool Biz" has meant some relaxation on the use of suit coats and ties during the summer.
  • Temperatures vary widely by region - from sub tropical in the south to a cooler, more temperate climate in the north. Winters are cold and dry and, with the exception of Hokkaido, the summers are hot and humid. In Tokyo, summer temperatures reach highs of close to 40 degrees Celsius, falling to 5 degrees Celsius or lower in January/February. The rainy season in Japan, during June/July, is particularly humid.

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