A Guide for Doing Business in Japan

What to Know About Japan, Its People, and Its Customs

Street in Japan. OiMax

Japan has absorbed Western products and ideas and become a melding of imported values and goods with native culture. Here are some pearls of wisdom about the country, its people, and their customs.  

  • Japan takes itself seriously – you should too.
  • The Japanese remain a very pragmatic people who weigh the pros and cons of a situation very carefully before making a move. Keep that in mind when you start communicating with them.
  • The Japanese still refrain from saying things that might offend others or invite a negative reaction.
  • Japan does share many values with the West (with the exclusion of the Western concept of religion, which stresses a more absolute value system).
  • The Japanese believe the basic guide to behavior has been the maintenance of harmony and sense of one’s place in society.
  • Compared to the West, Japan is at heart a non-argumentative society because they still place a premium on drawing consensus to maintain harmony.
  • Japanese resolve differences not through argument, but through a lengthy process of careful listening and indirectly suggesting alternatives.  
  • Younger Japanese are much more direct than their elders.
  • Many Japanese live in homes with Western-style furnishing.
  • Young Japanese have longer legs nowadays (due to diet and far fewer hours of kneeling on the floor).
  • Japanese still seek great convenience in their lifestyles.
  • Japanese are not all workaholics (don’t be misled!); they love cultural occasions and festivities revering nature.
  • One last thought is that about women: They are a force to be reckoned with in Japan due to the changing attitudes toward mothers at work in Japan 

If you’d like to learn what it’s like to travel to Japan, you might enjoy this wonderfully rich piece written by Bonnie Tsui for The New York Times; it even includes when to go, where to stay and what to see during your visit to Tokyo: “Traveling to Tokyo With Three Generations”