Japan Culture in Business: 5 Critical Aspects You Should Know

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Written by: Hoàng Nhi & Triều My

A GLIMPSE OF CULTURE | JAPAN

Japan Business Culture is perceived as one of the critical elements in defining each firm’s development and high level of productivity. 

Japan also contributes to reinforcing social norms through cultivating particular methods of performing qualifying behaviors within social situations and business dealings. 

In reality, Japanese cooperation is known for a very strict hierarchical structure, detail-obsessed, and a focus on achieving consensus. It calls for more patience from those who might be used to doing the process hastily.

Other cultural elements include their working attitudes, problem-solving, and dealing with them at a quick level in order to compete with powerful global opponents.

Here is a list of remarkable aspects that can help you understand some of the fundamental Japanese cultural practices which will help them in conducting and functioning effectively in Japan.

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1. The Appropriate Sorts of Dress Code for The Workplace.

Appearance and dress code are considered critical roles in business etiquette. In business culture, the Japanese generally tend to dress more formally than Australians. 

Although Japan is known for its conservative attitude toward clothing, they will have to wear clothing that generates an impression in a formal business atmosphere. 

Besides, when doing business, you need to thoroughly consider and notice your business attires:

  • Color:

You should avoid certain colors that make your partners or your director uncomfortable and hard to create an impression strongly, namely flashy, bright and dazzling. Such colored clothes carry a negative connotation in Japanese society as it’s related to organized crime groups in Japan and only they wear these ones.

You should avoid wearing black suits, a white shirt, and a near-black tie because it’s for funeral attire.

  •       For men:

Most Japanese businessmen are all senior managers, executives, and officials. They need to be paid more attention to selecting suitable clothes, such as dark navy, charcoal grey, or black suits, with a white shirt and subdued tie. It’s convenient for any events, or meeting days.

In the winter months, you should wear formal jackets, a sweater, long-sleeve T-shirts, warm socks, and hoodies that will help you stay warm enough for your body. Additionally, it makes you look more professional when conducting business.

In the summer months, it’s quite hot and humid, so half-sleeve shirts are a decent choice. Some Japanese salaried males (apart from salespeople) wear ties. In order to avoid embarrassment, wearing a tie to such meetings and then asking whether it is acceptable to remove it.

Some organizations could require their male staff to wear ties to summer meetings and they have well-groomed short hairstyles. 

  •       For women:

Women typically have a wide variety of clothing and beautification options for their appearance. However, in business, you should modify your image to suit the company’s demands and goals. Whether you like it or not, in business, you must adhere to the rules:

  1. Wear longer skirt suits or trouser suits in colors that are appropriate for the season, as suggested in the section above for males. 
  2. Although there is no dress rule for female employees at Venture Japan, it has been seen that they consistently wear trouser suits to professional meetings outside the company.
  3. For both men and women, fascinatingly dark or black blue clothing is the greatest option when sticking to the professional business dress code.
  4.  Wearing these clothes resembles that you’re willing to do work as a part of their company. 
  5. Besides, you should combine with shoes that it’s easy to move, or choose the shoes restricted from slipping on and off, because you often walk in and out of the office. And you’re required to take it off, before stepping inside the room. 
Japan business culture

2. Greetings and bowings

In Japan, politeness is always prioritized over other positive characteristics, particularly in the corporate world. 

When implementing such an action regularly, you will be highly appreciated and even received a valuable reward because you consistently express a greeting and bow to your partners. 

This is a very important etiquette in Japan, and it is applied throughout the world. If you don’t bow and constantly make eye contact with another one, you’ll come across as impolite and look rather rude. 

The Japanese bow and show respect to those senior to them by bowing to them. If they are a junior, you will bow from the vast, and slant your body between 30 and 45 degrees away from the vertical. 

When you meet a group of Japanese, introduce yourself to the person with the highest status first, then to the oldest.

Japan business culture

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3. Business Card

Meishi Koukan (the exchange of business cards) is one of the most paramount parts of Japanese business culture. Since a business card provides important information for communicating and working such as name, office, status, contact info,…, exchanging it is a form of introducing yourself to your new colleagues. 

 

Business card exchange is a key part of Japanese business manners; therefore, practicing it in the wrong way leads to losing business opportunities, money, and relationships without knowing it. So these are several things that businessmen need to pay attention to if they have plans to invest in Japan: 

  • The business card exchange should not be performed over the table, instead move to the other side and practice while standing.
  • Bow lightly when you start exchanging cards.
  • Business cards should be handed and received with two hands politely, be sure to say “Thank you” after performing.
  • After taking other cards, do not drop the cards into the pocket right away, instead of spending time reviewing names and titles, and placing them on the business card holder.
  • In a meeting, the highest ranking people exchange cards first.

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4. Respect Age And Status

Japanese culture is believed as a hierarchical society based on respect. People are taught from a young age to respect older people in the family, it moves on to respect people with higher status at school like teachers, professors,… Therefore, respect is not an exception in Japanese business culture. The Japanese prefer to interact with someone who is equal to them in their opinion. 

In modern Japanese society, older people are considered as having more experience and higher ranking in business than the younger ones. Remember to salute the elderly first before greeting other people. 

Japan business culture

5. Building relationships

Building relationships is an essentially Japanese business rule. The Japanese expect long-term cooperation, they not only tend to build relationships but also seek trust and loyalty from their business partners. 

They tend to socialize outside office hours, especially holding drinking and eating cozy parties. Spending time together after the business meeting, especially in the evening, is a perfect chance to know more about each other. Moreover, building relationships is helpful for making decisions together in future business projects. 

Gift giving is also important in building and maintaining relationships in Japanese business etiquette. The gift should be wrapped and should not be given too early as it could be seen as insincerely. Avoid some kinds of flowers such as Lilies, Lotus blossoms, Camellias, and white flowers because they are usually used for funeral ceremonies. A group of 4 or 9 of anything should not be a gift because the Japanese believe 4 and 9 are unlucky numbers. Notice: gifts from your hometown are highly recommended.

Japan business culture

Conclusion

Understanding Japanese cultural values in business settings will probably support you so much in investing in Japan in the future. In the end, making an effort to learn and adapt business style in Japan can not only create a good impression for both sides, avoid the gaps, prevent you from confusion and misunderstanding situations but also make a paramount change in your work. 

Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section under this blog to share some more attentive aspects of Japanese business etiquette rules. All opinions and recommendations are welcomed!

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