A business trip to Tokyo

Our well-informed advice will help you to respect Japanese customs and practice during your trip.

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Tokyo is one of the world's most modern cities, and its residents are among the most cosmopolitan. However, doing business requires you to respect certain age-old principles. Each stage of your negotiations must follow precise rules of etiquette. 

Preparing for negotiations

Here are some reliable ways to make sure your business meetings come off without a hitch.

Be on time
Punctuality is essential in Japan. But getting to your meeting isn't always straightforward.
Taxi drivers often don't speak English, so it's better to ask a member of the hotel staff to write down your destination for the taxi driver, or to show it to them on a map. The metro is another travel option as it's simple to use. If punctuality is essential, precision will be your best friend.

The importance of business cards

It is absolutely essential to look after your business cards, or meishi. Printed in both English and Japanese, they're vital for the first meeting with your Japanese partners.
Offer your business card with the Japanese side facing upwards, and accept the one from your counterpart using both hands. Don't forget to study it carefully, and then place it on the table in front of you. Whatever you do, don't put it in your pocket! 

The ritual of gift-giving

During your first meeting, gifts must be offered on behalf of your company.
Packaging is more important than the contents, which can be very modest. Don't open yours on the spot unless you are asked to. Avoid certain flowers (camellias, lotuses, lilies, potted plants) and gift sets with four items, as this number symbolises death. 

During meetings

Now you're properly equipped and punctual, it's time to familiarise yourself with other cultural peculiarities.

The importance of the group
Your Japanese counterparts identify themselves with their company, and introduce themselves by their company name. For this reason, excessively praising an individual causes embarrassment.
All decisions are made in consultation with the group and with great respect for hierarchy. As a result, decision-making is often pretty slow. In addition, no negotiation takes place during the first meeting, allowing all individuals the opportunity to get to know each other first. 

Silence is golden
To negotiate effectively, you must remember that you're entering a world of humility, respect and patience. Your pitches must be unassertive and flexible.
Great emphasis should be placed on moments of silence, which allow for reflection and the control of emotions. Crucially, they help to maintain harmony if difficulties arise. Let these moments happen and never attempt to disrupt them. 

After the meeting

Your initial business meeting with the Japanese may seem a touch cold. This is why the second meeting is so crucial. It'll usually take place outside the office and will be much more relaxed, offering the perfect environment for successful negotiations.

The importance of social events
It's a real honour to be invited to join your counterparts after a business meeting.
Generally speaking, social events take place in entertainment districts, at karaoke bars or in hostess clubs (unless you're female). The true character of your future partners will be revealed during these moments.  

Long-term relationships
The Japanese like to develop long-term professional relationships. They want to know if your collaboration will be long lasting. Be honest and trustworthy throughout the negotiation process, even after formal meetings.

Tokyo, Japan’s decision-making hub, protects and respects this highly codified etiquette. Becoming familiar with it will help you avoid offending or shocking your future business partners. For successful business negotiations, don't leave anything to chance. 

published_by Julie on 08/12/2017 photo_creditIstock, xavierarnau

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