Doing business in Japan

Doing business in Japan

A note from our founder…

When I moved to Tokyo in January 1993 to manage one of the EDS (Electronic Data Systems Corporation) software businesses, I knew nothing about Japanese business and did not speak or read Japanese. That was before the rise of the internet and what limited amount of Japanese sales, market entry and business management information that existed in English was mostly in booklets published by various embassies, chambers of commerce, and of course JETRO (the Japanese government’s Japan External Trade Organization).

I visited the American Chamber of Commerce’s library, met with JETRO, met with the Commercial Section of the British Embassy in Tokyo, and met with the British Chamber of Commerce, but I still felt clueless about how to start doing business in Japan. The Japanese language, especially written kanji, and the impenetrable stares I received from Japanese business people during my first sales presentations, felt like barriers the size of Mount Fuji; I admit I doubted I could ever succeed.

Gradually I learned how to sense what Japanese customers were really thinking; mostly through sales meetings with Toyota, Hitachi, Sony, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Takenaka, Yamaha, and many others. I learned how to present products with value propositions that Japanese customers could relate to. I learned how to differentiate between good Japanese employees, managers and executives with excellent work attitudes and ethics, and those who might speak excellent English but were more interested in their next career move than in creating value for their current employer. So after 10 years managing Japanese companies, including a major turnaround of an US software developer’s Japanese subsidiary such that it could successfully IPO in the US, I decided to pass on the Japanese business secrets I had learned. I registered in August 2003 and started to write a website to offer free Japanese business “insider secrets” and “how-to” tips for other foreigners starting business in Japan. I published the original website in early 2004 and within months it became one of the most visited non-government sources of practical information about Japanese market-entry and starting business in Japan.

Soon after’s launch, something unexpected happened: companies started to contact me asking for support to improve or start their Japanese business. That led to launching Venture Japan’s bilingual Japanese business support services on March 1, 2006, hiring the first bilingual consultants later that year, and to the incorporation of Venture Japan K.K. with JPY10,000,000 paid-in capital on December 1, 2009. Venture Japan K.K. quickly became a leading provider of bilingual Japanese business services and established a government licensed recruitment and executive search division on November 1, 2010.

Since its original launch in 2004, this website’s free business in Japan insider information has ranked continuously in the top five results for Google searches related to starting a Japanese company, Japanese market entry, starting business in Japan, Japanese business culture, Japanese business etiquette, and many similar searches relating to Japanese business and market entry. When we decided to completely redesign this website to better suit Venture Japan’s corporate mission of “Incorporate > Manage > Recruit”, a key design goal was to continue to offer free Japanese business information. This “Doing business in Japan” section of Venture Japan’s bilingual Japanese business services website is the original content extensively revised to show the many changes in Japanese market attitudes and Japanese laws that have occurred since 2004.

These pages offer a readable insider perspective on starting and managing a tax efficient and cost-effective Japanese business, managing Japanese employees, managers and executives, deciding whether to set up a sales office in Japan or sell through distributors, and understanding Japanese business culture and attitudes. If you are starting business in Japan or preparing to take a hard look at your company’s existing Japanese business, then this volume of free information is for you.

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