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Starting a Business in Japan: 7 Tips

Starting a business in Japan can be a very exciting prospect! Japan is a great place for new businesses and its economy is thriving currently, making it an appealing place for budding entrepreneurs.

However, before jumping right into an international expansion strategy, here are 7 crucial tips for starting your business in Japan.

1. Get A Translator

Unless you are fluent in Japanese, then this should be one of the first things on your agenda.

Getting a translator is important for several reasons, firstly, you will need to be able to effectively communicate with a range of people, including supplies, investors, customers, and so on.

Secondly, having a translator can ensure that you are not getting taken advantage of, which can be easily done when you are unfamiliar with the business territory.

Finally, having an experienced translator may benefit you as this person will have the market expertise and connections for you to make use of. So not only can a translator help you overcome language barriers, but they can also act as a way into the business realm.

2. Finding The Right Talent

Finding the right talent can be difficult and it will depend on the nature of your business. Global mobility will be key in these efforts when expanding.

It is important to note that LinkedIn is not a popular tool in Japan, instead, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Wantedly are much more active and useful for recruitment purposes.

3. Familiarise Yourself With Japanese Customs and Culture

For your business to succeed, you have to familiarise yourself with Japanese customs and immerse yourself in its culture.

Many little gestures can make a huge difference, for example, if you are ever handing out business cards, you must do this with two hands as it is a sign of respect.

Another essential tip for Japanese workplace etiquette is to call your colleagues by the surname followed by ‘San’. Calling somebody by their name is considered to be rude in the Japanese workplace.

Additionally, if a colleague invites you for a post-work drink or any form of socialization, do not decline their invitation! Japanese people are known for working very hard, and so if you have been invited out, you should consider this a privilege!

Typically the host will pay for the bill, but you should always attempt to pay it to show respect. So, as you can imagine there is a lot to learn and it is vital that you take the time to learn the culture and customs so that you do not inadvertently offend someone or do something to harm the image of your business.

workers sitting at bar

4. Create A Strong Marketing Strategy

Business cards are important in Japan, and it may seem like a trivial idea, but in order to be taken seriously, you will have to have business cards. In Japan, business cards are known as ‘Meishi’, and as we briefly touched upon earlier, they have to be handed out with precise etiquette.

Your card should be in English on one side, and Japanese on the other side. When you hand your card out, use both hands and make sure that the Japanese print is side up.

Aside from the use of business cards, you should consider making adverts that use Japanese voice actors to help your business feel more authentic and approachable for the masses.

This is an important tool for helping your business stand out from your competition. So ensure that you take the time to study the Japanese market, society, and culture in order to formulate a well-rounded, and effective marketing strategy.

Iron out your marketing strategy and make sure to brush up on your knowledge so you can avoid making mistakes.

5. Do Your Research On Visas

Researching visas is going to have to be one of the first things you do. There are several options to consider, for instance, you can receive a visa by gaining a Japanese investor.

Another option is to apply for the Business Manager Visa, which is quite a smooth application process and will allow you to work in Japan for one year.

Make sure that gaining your visa is high on your priority list, as without this, you can’t proceed with any of your planning.

6. Know Your Competition

Getting to know your competition will be very useful to you and your business. Take the time to learn about their best practices and their mistakes too!

This way you can make sure that you are learning from their mistakes and hopefully not making many of your own. Furthermore, understanding how your competition works will give you insight into how much they are supplying to the Japanese demand.

The only way to make sure you can stand out among the competition is to know them inside out. As a foreign entrepreneur try to become ‘the bridge’ between international waters and Japanese society as this will help gain yourself a unique selling point.

Something that every successful business needs, regardless of where it is in the world.

7. Consider Teaming Up With A Local Partner

You might want to consider teaming up with a local partner, as they will have access to a multitude of connections and they will have a pre-existing understanding of Japanese markets.

As much as you can do your research and try to learn customs, having a local partner will get you up to speed much quicker.

Japanese culture is all about respect and nurturing relationships, so ideally you will want someone who can guide you and someone who you can rely upon.

Aside from societal customers, you should get a partner who is up to speed on marketing strategies that are relevant to your business idea. Additionally, they can act as another source of income as they will be an investor in the company.

Embarking on a new start-up business project in Japan will come with lots of exciting opportunities, and to make sure you are taking full advantage of the prospects out there, you have to do your research.

Follow these seven tips and you will have a great head start!

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