Tips from Business Passport to Japan by Sue Shinomiya and Brain Szepkouski

Information below is an excerpt from one of the useful books on Japan, Business Passport to Japan:

Hosting and Being Hosted
(copyrighted © Business Passport to Japan)

Hosting is almost an art form in Japan.  Here are some assumption regarding hosts and guests:

>The host should make things look as smooth as possible
>There should be no surprises
>Taking care of someone should be all inclusive - no time should go unplanned
>Anticipating needs - always be one step ahead of any eventuality
>At dinner, guests should be seated in order to rank, with the senior person in the middle on the side farthest from the door.
>At dinner or a nightclub, the host should pay for dinner or drinks out of sight - no discussion of bills or checks should take place (in front of the guests).
>When bidding farewell, the host should accompany guests until they have departed and are out of sight.

>Avoid awkwardness at all cost
>Communicate in advance to your Japanese hosts details on the gender, ranks and roles of all in your party, who is in charge, and whether anyone is allergic to or unable to eat any food item.
>Graciously accept what is served.
>Show appreciation, thinking your hosts for their fine hospitality and apologizing for all the trouble you are causing them
>Bring gifts - as a way to balance the inevitable effort that will be shown to the guest.

Note: Westerners tend to want to make their own choices at restaurants; to have everything already decided can make some feel shackled, as though personal preferences don't matter.  This is why the guest-host scenario in Japan can sometimes bring on distress rather than the intended feeling of comfort.  Remember that for the Japanese letting the uninitiated guests experience the discomfort of making tough decisions about unfamiliar food would be considered upsetting and rude.  For the guest, the part of least resistance is to go with the flow.

Getting to Know People and Doing Business in Japan
The Japanese are methodical and meticulous in their approach to most situations in both social and business situations.  They tend to enjoy following procedures and are not known for their flexibility in bending rules.

As in may other Asian countries, "saving face" and maintaining dignity is absolutely critical in every situation.

When referring to another person, the Japanese add the suffix "san" to the end of a person's family name.  It is the English equivalent of Mr. or Mrs.

The Japanese will be impressed if you have taken the time to learn a couple of Japanese phrases.

The Japanese view bowing as an art form.  Care and attention to given to the correct angle and style of bow.  The more junior person always bows first and with a greater depth and angle. 

>Business Meeting and Negotiation
The Japanese place a very high importance on personal interactions and spend a great deal of their time building relationships and developing trust.

Avoid scheduling meetings during the three main holiday periods and adjacent weekends, such as year's end and the New Year, Golden Week (end of April and early May) and the Obon Festival (mid-August).

Punctuality is important in Japan; therefore, be sure to take heavy traffic into account when scheduling appointments.

Business cards are very important  The presentation of business card (meishi) is an acknowledgment of a person's identity.   It is wise to have cards printed in Japanese on one side and English on the other.  The business cards are presented and received using both hands. 

Avoid appearing rash and hard in your attitude, speech, or mannerisms.   The Japanese do not respond well to aggressive manners.

The Japanese are generally non confrontational and prefer to establish unanimous consensus when making decisions.

The Japanese do not bargain over price and other terms as much as many of their Asian neighbors.  They will usually make one issue at a time, rather than presenting all for debate at one time.

The Japanese often avoid sustained eye contact.  Junior people are less likely to make eye contact and will keep their visual focus low and their heads slightly bowed down out of respect for the speaker.

Most Japanese are not accustomed to dealing with women in business situations.  If you are a foreign woman, the Japanese may find it difficult to socialize with you on a business level.  Do not take it personally.
>Business Hours

Banks 09:00-15:00 hours

Post Offices 09:00-17:00 hours

Most businesses and government offices are open from 9:00-17:00 hours on weekdays.  Some companies still operate for a half day on Saturdays. 

Copyright, 2005 Runckel & Associates
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