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About Japan


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 official religion.

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.

Fun Fact

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 house?


Geert Hofstede Analysis

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. 

Religion in Japan




  • 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 be minimal.
  •   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 host.
  •   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 late."
  •   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 the meal.
  •   "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 important.
  •   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 effort.
  •   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.