In the previous section on deciding your company’s Japanese office location, we noted that one way to control office lease costs is to rent an office that is not too close to a railway station. Japan is a land of numerous, reliable, and cheap railways and subways and, when your company first investigates rents for an office or apartment, you will understand within minutes that rental values are directly proportional to the walking distance from the closest railway station; the closer the more expensive and by a substantial amount.
In central Tokyo, the Yamanote Line, a loop line that encircles the centermost area, tends to dominate rental values; especially the southern section which runs from Tokyo Station on the east side down through Shinagawa, Otsuka, Ebisu, Shibuya, Harajuku and up to Shinjuku on the west side. The Chuo Line runs east-west across Tokyo from Tokyo Station on the east, to Shinjuku on the west and the area bounded by the Chuo Line to the north and the Yamanote Line to the south includes much of Japan’s most expensive real estate such as Roppongi Hills, Tokyo MidTown, Ginza and Omotesando. Several subway lines, including the Marunouchi Line, the Hibiya Line, the Ginza Line, the Hanzomon Line, the Chiyoda Line and the Uedo Line, crisscross under this belt of land making business travel in the area very efficient.
Locating your company’s Japanese subsidiary office so that it is convenient for its major Japanese customers is the second key to making a successful decision. For doing business in Japan, that means locating your company’s office close to a railway station that has good connections to several railway lines and to the subway network.
95% or more of your meetings with Japanese customers will be at their office, not at your Japanese company’s office. Choose the right location and your company’s Japanese subsidiary team will benefit from excellent business travel efficiency and, with good planning, can arrange multiple offsite meetings each day. The other advantage of the right location, is that it makes it easier for your Japanese customers to visit you. Although most meetings will be at their offices, in my experience. many Japanese customers, especially prospective corporate customers, will at some point suggest a meeting at your subsidiary’s office; usually because they have reached internal consensus to do business with you and want to confirm that you are in fact a ‘real company’ prior to making a contract. This is especially so if the product or service you offer is essential key to their future business strategy.
If your company’s Japanese business will mainly be limited to central Tokyo, such as if it is supporting a distributor, and the Japanese subsidiary team only needs to travel occasionally outside of Tokyo, then any area within, or close to, the Yamanote Line is ideal. Your company will then benefit from some of the lower rents available in the less prestigious north section of the line running from Tokyo Station up through Ueno, across to Ikebukuro then down to Shinjuku. If your company’s Japanese subsidiary team will do direct sales to Japanese corporations and expect to travel often throughout the country, they will be using the shinkansen (bullet train) which runs from Tokyo Station and Shinagawa Station. Your company’s remote customers, when coming to Tokyo on business, will also tend to use the shinkansen, so make your Japanese business efficient and encourage your remote customers to spend time with your Japanese team by putting the office within 10 minutes of Tokyo Station.
In my experience, Hamamatsucho is an excellent location for an efficient and profitable Japanese subsidiary company office. Rents in the area are not the cheapest in Tokyo, but are far from the most expensive. A reasonably sized office for 8 – 10 people with space for one or two decent sized (by Japanese standards) meeting rooms, just a 3 – 4 minute walk from Hamamatsucho Station will cost less than $6,000 per month.
In addition to the Yamanote Line and Keihin-Tohoku Line, which will take you north to Tokyo Station and south to Shinagawa Station, the Uedo Line subway runs direct from Hamamatsucho west across to Roppongi (the popular entertainment and dining area) and on to Shinjuku. The prestige Shiodome commercial complex and the Conrad Tokyo are just north of Hamamatsucho and there are many reasonable hotels, including the Intercontinental Tokyo Bay hotel, in the area. Hamamatsucho is also the terminus for the Tokyo Monorail running down to Haneda International Airport, from which flights go to almost all Japanese cities and to many international destinations.
The great beauty of Hamamatsucho is that you can get to the office early in the morning, print off some last minute alterations to a proposal or contract (maybe incorporating amendments the US head-office requested overnight), be on the 8:00am train for Osaka, meet with Panasonic at its Osaka headquarters at 11:00am, be back at your Hamamatsucho office at 5:00pm, meet with Sony at its Shinagawa headquarters at 5:30pm, go back to the office to scan and e-mail signed contracts to your head-office, and then meet with Honda for dinner in Roppongi at 7:30pm! All-in-all, Hamamatsucho is a great place from which to be doing business in Japan and I, having done millions of dollars of business from that area, can happily recommend it!