Japan has a population
of approximately 125 million people packed tightly into a rather small
geographic area. The official language in Japan is Japanese. Japanese is spoken
only in Japan. The literacy rate in Japan is very close to 100 percent and 95
percent of the Japanese population has a high school education.
Japan’s form of
government is parliamentarian democracy under the rule of a constitutional
monarch. The Prime Minister is the chief government officer. The dominant
religion is Shinto, which is exclusive to Japan. However, the Japanese have no
Culturally, the Japanese
tend to be somewhat introverted in their ways. They generally are not receptive
to outsiders. When conducting business in Japan relationships and loyalty to the
group is critical for success.
The Japanese tend to
be rather direct in their questioning of foreigners. You may be asked
personal questions such as how much money do you earn or how large is your
The Geert Hofstede
analysis for Japan is dramatically different from other Asian Countries such as
Hong Kong, Korea or China. In Japan Masculinity is the highest characteristic.
The lowest ranking factor is Individualism, which coincides with their high
ranking in Uncertainty Avoidance. Japan is a more collectivist culture that
avoids risks and shows little value for personal freedom.
* WORLD FACTBOOK
- Those who dress according to
their status or position impress the Japanese. Dress to impress.
- Men should wear dark
conservative attire. Business suits are most suitable.
- Casual dress is never
appropriate in a business setting.
- Shoes should be easy to
remove, as you will do so often. Slip-ons are the best choice.
- Women’s dress should be
conservative. Little emphasis should be placed on accessories. They should
- Women should not wear pants in
a business situation. Japanese men tend to find it offensive.
- Women should only wear
low-heeled shoes to avoid towering over men.
- A kimono should be wrapped
left over right to do otherwise symbolizes death.
- Remember the Japanese phrase
"The nail that sticks up gets hit with the hammer" when considering your
choices for attire in Japan.
- Avoid using large hand
gestures, unusual facial expressions and any dramatic movements. The
Japanese do not talk with their hands and to do so could distract your
- Avoid the "OK" sign; in Japan
it means money.
- Pointing in not acceptable.
- Do no blow your nose in public
- Personal space is valued.
Because the Japanese live in such a densely populated area, they value
their personal space.
- A smile can have double
meaning. It can express either joy or displeasure. Use caution with your
facial expressions. They can be easily misunderstood.
- The Japanese are not
uncomfortable with silence. They use it to their advantage in many
situations. Allow your host to sit in silence.
- The word for toasting is
kampai, pronounced 'kahm-pie'. When toasting the glass is never left
unfilled. Drinking is an important part of Japanese culture. It is a way
to relieve business stress.
- Never pour a drink yourself;
always allow someone else to do it for you.
- Most business entertaining is
done in restaurants or bars after business hours. Often in karaoke
or "hostess bars." Businesswomen should not attend "hostess bars."
- Let the host order the meal
and pay. Business may be discussed at dinner during these events.
- Japanese rarely entertain in
the home. If you are invited to the home of your Japanese host, consider
it a great honor and display a tremendous amount of appreciation.
- If you are invited to a social
event, punctuality is not expected. It is the custom to be "fashionably
- If you do take your host out
insist upon paying. The Japanese will refuse but insist. They will prefer
that you choose a Western-style restaurant when entertain them.
- Key phrases to learn are "itadakimasu"
at the beginning of dinner, and "gochisou-sama-deshita" at the end. It is
polite use these phrase and it will show you host that you have enjoyed
- "Sumimasen" (excuse-me) is a
very useful term to add to your vocabulary along with the phrase "kekko
desu" (I've had enough).
- It is perfectly acceptable to
slurp your noodles. Doing so will exhibit your enjoyment of your food. To
do otherwise, indicates that your meal was not a pleasant one.
- Do not openly display money.
It is rare to see it given from person to person in Japan. It is important
to use an envelope to pass money.
- In Asia the number 14 is bad
luck, because in Japanese it sounds like the word ‘shuh-shuh’, which
sounds like the word for death.
- Tipping is not expected.
- Gift giving is very important
both business and personal gifts - See
international business gift giving section.
- Style is tantamount. The gift
itself is of little importance, the ceremony surrounding it is very
- Always wrap gifts.
The selection of the wrapping paper is critical. Do not give anything
wrapped in white as it symbolizes death. Do not use bright colors or bows
to wrap the gift. It is better to have the hotel or the store warp the
gift to ensure that it is appropriate.
- Do not surprise the recipient
with the gift. Give your host some warning during the evening that you
intend to give them a present.
- Give the gift with both hands
and accept gifts with hands.
- Generally, gifts will not be
opened in your presence. If your host insist that you open the gift do so
gingerly. They take pride in gift wrapping, show that you appreciation the
- Do not give gifts in odd
number or the number four, as odd numbers are bad luck and four sounds
like the word for death in Japanese.
- Gifts should be given at the
end of a visit.
- Do not admire anything
belonging to your host too closely. The Japanese strive to please; you may
be rewarded for your admiration.
- The most popular gift giving
occasions in Japan are oseibo, which falls at the end of the year
and O-chugen which falls during the middle of the year.
- Good gift ideas include top
choice beef, fruit and alcohol such as brandy, quality whiskey and Bourbon
along with excellent wines. They also appreciate gifts from high-end
department stores like Saks and Neiman Marcus.
- The Japanese frown on open
displays of affection. They do not touch in public. It is highly
inappropriate to touch someone of the opposite sex in public.