A free office in Tokyo
Free Japanese office space is available for up to 3 months use from JETRO. JETRO, the Japan External Trade Organization, is a government-funded agency intended to help foreign companies setting up Japan businesses (there is a page devoted to JETRO’s Japan market entry and business services).
The free office space is actually a booth with a desk in JETRO’s Invest Japan Business Support Center on the 2nd Floor of the Akasaka Twin Tower building and other than telephone and copier fees it is free to use for up to 3 months. JETRO has Japanese bilingual staff on hand to assist you, although some of those services will be at extra charge. If you are a US company the location is very convenient to the US Embassy which is just a 2 minute walk away. In addition to the Tokyo Business Support Center, JETRO has similar facilities in Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe and Fukuoka.
For any US or European company thinking of starting to do business in Japan on a limited budget, the JETRO free office space is probably the best way to get into the Japanese market and establish an initial bridgehead. The alternative of renting a central Tokyo serviced office from Servcorp or one of their competitors will cost at least $4,000 – $9,000 per month and they may require a minimum 6 – 12 month rental period.
Despite the JETRO free office space, an initial Japanese market entry stint will cost in accommodation, meals and domestic Japan travel. Tokyo hotel rooms range from $90 per night for a very small but clean room in a low-end business hotel up to a minimum of $275 per night at an international class business hotel. Meals vary from $5 for a quick lunch at one of the hundreds of McDonald’s across Japan up to $75 (at minimum) per person for dinner and wine at a mid-range French or Italian restaurant.
Tokyo has the world’s most reliable, frequent and extensive railway and subway system by which you can get to most places in Tokyo for under $3. Taxis are numerous and will stop literally anywhere you request and cost $6 for the first 2 kilometers. Tokyo’s roads are often grid-locked and an expected 10 minute $10 taxi-ride often turns into a 30 minute $30 nightmare making you late for a major meeting. Throughout Japan railways and subways have platform information displays in both English and Japanese and most system maps show station names in both languages.
Whether you ultimately decide to use a Japanese market entry service, a Japanese distributor or to go it alone and setup your own Japanese office or Japanese company, the value of having an executive in Tokyo at a JETRO free office for 3 months before making that decision cannot be over-emphasized. The companies that do fall foul of the vagaries of the Japanese market and provide the fuel for those Japanese market myths are those that very likely did not take the time to properly understand the market before making the key long-term decision of how best to enter and compete here. The Japanese market knowledge you will gain in 3 months at JETRO’s free office will pay back millions of dollars of increased future revenue and profits.