doing business in Japan

 

Japanese office space just 10 minutes from Tokyo station

9.  Japanese office space just 10 minutes from Tokyo station.

In the previous section on deciding your Japanese office location, I noted that one way to control office lease costs is to rent an office that is not too close to a rail station. Japan is a land of numerous, reliable and cheap railways and subways and, when you first investigate rents for an office or apartment, you will understand within minutes that rental values are directly proportional to the walking distance from the closest rail 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, Ebisu and Shibuya 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 contains much of Japan's most expensive real estate (including Roppongi Hills). Several subway lines, including the Marunouchi Line, the Hibiya Line, the Ginza Line, the Hanzomon Line, the Chiyoda Line and the new Uedo Line, crisscross under this belt of land making business travel in the area very efficient.

Locating your Japanese subsidiary company's office so that it is convenient for your major Japanese customers is the second key to making a successful decision. For doing business in Japan, that means locating your office in the vicinity of a rail station that has good connections to the rail system.

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 you will realize excellent business travel efficiency and with good planning, will be able to arrange multiple off-site 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 will be key to their future business strategy.

"..encourage your remote customers to spend time with you - put your office within 10 minutes of Tokyo Station."

If your business will mainly be limited to central Tokyo (which may be the case if you are supporting a distributor) and you only need to occasionally travel outside of Tokyo, then any area within (or close to) the Yamanote Line will be ideal. You can then benefit from some of the much 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 you are doing direct sales in Japan and expect to be traveling frequently throughout the country, you will be using the shinkansen (bullet train) and that runs from Tokyo Station and the recently (October 2003) opened Shinagawa terminal. Your 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 you - put your office within 10 minutes of Tokyo Station.

In my experience, Hamamatsucho is a perfect location for an efficient and profitable Japanese subsidiary company. 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 2001 the Uedo Line subway opened and in addition to the Yamanote Line and Keihin-Tohoku Line, which will take you north and south, the Uedo Line runs directly from Hamamatsucho west across to Roppongi (the popular entertainment and dining area) and on to Shinjuku. The new Shiodome prestige skyscraper complex with its forthcoming luxury hotels is just north of Hamamatsucho and there are many reasonable hotels, including the upscale Intercontinental Tokyo Bay hotel, in the area. Hamamatsucho is also the terminus for the Tokyo Monorail running down to Tokyo's second airport, Haneda Airport, from which flights go to almost all Japanese cities.

The great beauty of Hamamatsucho is that you can get to your office early in the morning, print off some last minute alterations to a proposal or contract (maybe incorporating overnight review comments from the head-office), be on the 8:00am train for Osaka, meet with Panasonic (headquartered in Osaka) at 11:00am, be back at your Hamamatsucho office at 5:00pm, meet with Sony (headquartered at Shinagawa) at 5:30pm, go back to the office to scan and e-mail (or fax) signed contracts to your head-office and then meet with Honda for dinner in Roppongi at 7:30pm! All-in-all then, Hamatsucho 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!

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