How to Work With Japanese Clients: Five Tips for Doing Business in Japan

Here are five tips you should take note of for doing business in Japan.


If you plan on working with Japanese clients – and even doing business in Japan itself – you should first take time to familiarise yourself with the local ways of doing things. You will also want to ensure you can speak at least a little Japanese and have a translator with you to ensure you fully understand meetings with Japanese clients – and that they understand you.

 So, here are five tips you should take note of.

1. Understand the Importance of Translating Contracts, Invoices, and Other Important Documents into Japanese 

All right, so if you are diving into business with Japanese clients, one thing you have got to nail is translating your documents to Japanese.

It is not good enough to use a tool like Google Translate – that is a surefire way to end up in a pickle. Instead, get yourself a pro translator who can handle the nuances of legalese and financial jargon like they were born to do it. 

For contracts, invoices, and any other paperwork, you need to ensure all documents are translated precisely. The teeniest mistranslation could blow up into big-time misunderstanding or (gulp) legal issues.

 Plus, this move will earn you respect from your Japanese clients, as they will see you as meticulous and considerate. 

2. Nail the Art of Punctuality 

Oh, punctuality. In Japan, this is not just about being on time – it is practically sacred. Rolling up to a meeting fashionably late? Nope. That is going to stick out like a sore thumb, and not in a good way. Japanese business culture treats timeliness as a cornerstone of professionalism and respect.

Aim to arrive at least ten minutes before your scheduled appointment or meeting. This buffer shows forethought and honours the value Japanese clients place on efficiency and planning. Plus, it gives you a hot minute to collect your thoughts, which is always nifty before diving into discussions.

If forces beyond control (like Godzilla-sized traffic jams) threaten to derail your timely arrival, communicate immediately with an apology at the ready. This will illustrate your commitment to their time-sensitive standards and can help smooth over what could otherwise become an irksome hiccup in the relationship-building process.

3. Master the Exchange of Meishi

Step aside, casual business card flings – when you are working with Japanese clients, exchanging meishi (business cards) is practically a ritual. Treat these little rectangles like gold. When you receive one, use both hands and give it the same attention as you would a precious artefact.

But wait! Do not just pocket that bad boy and bound into your pitch. Take a moment to admire it: scan over their title and company name – this sign of respect can really set a positive tone for the conversation ahead.

And make sure your own meishi is up to snuff – top-notch quality, clean, and current.

4. Embrace the Ritual of Gift-Giving

Remember birthdays as a kid, when gifts were pretty much the best part? In Japan’s business circles, swapping presents is kind of like that but with more etiquette and less wrapping paper.

Giving gifts to business clients is not just generosity – it is tradition. It is expected, so do not overlook it.

Your gifts should not be extravagant, though. Thoughtful, modest items that represent your region or company culture will hit the mark perfectly.

And if you find yourself on the receiving end of such a gift, show ample gratitude and do not open the present then and there – wait until later unless urged otherwise.

Getting this ritual right is all about demonstrating honour and goodwill. It can deftly pave the way for smoother negotiations and foster a friendly environment where relationships burgeon over balance sheets.

5. Be Polite by Pulling Back 

Lastly, when you are hashing out deals with Japanese clients, throttle back the hard sell. Aggressive sales tactics? That is a big no-no. Think subtle persuasion, less Wolf of Wall Street. Japanese business conduct leans towards humility and restraint – so your pitch should too.

Instead of cornering clients into decisions, create an atmosphere where they can reach conclusions at their own pace. It is all about being informative without going full infomercial on them.

This approach not only aligns with local etiquette but also fosters trust – which is a crucial currency in a market that values long-term relationships over quick wins.

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Travel Begins at 40

Travel Begins at 40 Editor

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