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21 - 23 MAY 2025

Business Culture & Etiquette in Japan

Business Culture & Etiquette in Japan


Japan is a country with a unique culture and business etiquette that can differ significantly from other countries. For international business teams visiting Japan, it is important to understand the Japanese business culture and etiquette to ensure successful business relations. This is particularly relevant for those working in the military and defence sector, where cultural sensitivity is paramount.




1. Business Card Etiquette

Business Card EtiquetteExchanging business cards, or meishi, is another significant aspect of Japanese business culture. Business cards are a representation of your professional identity, and it is important to handle them with respect. When receiving a business card, make sure to examine it carefully, as if it were a valuable object, and to make a comment or ask questions about the person's title or company. Avoid writing on the business card or putting it in your back pocket, as it is considered disrespectful.

2. Greetings

GreetingsJapanese business culture places a strong emphasis on greetings. It is essential to greet your business counterparts with a bow and use honorific language such as "san" to show respect. If you are unsure of the correct level of formality, it is always better to err on the side of caution and use a more formal greeting.

3. Dress Code

Dress CodeIn Japan, the dress code for business meetings is typically conservative and formal, with dark suits and ties being the norm. It is essential to present a professional image and to avoid wearing loud colors or patterns that could be seen as distracting or unprofessional. It is also important to pay attention to personal grooming, such as having a neat haircut, clean shoes, and minimal jewelry.

4. Punctuality

PunctualityJapanese business culture values punctuality and timeliness, and it is expected that all parties arrive on time for meetings or events. Being late or keeping others waiting without a valid reason is considered impolite and disrespectful. It is advisable to arrive a few minutes early to allow time for unexpected delays or to get familiar with the meeting venue.

5. Bowing

BowingIn Japan, bowing is an essential part of the greeting culture, and it is customary to bow when meeting someone for the first time, showing gratitude, or apologising. The depth and duration of the bow may vary depending on the context and relationship between the parties involved. As a foreign CEO or director, it is advisable to return the bow with a slight bow of your own, especially to show respect to senior officials or business partners.

6. Gift Giving

Gift GivingGift-giving is a common practice in Japanese business culture and is seen as a way to show appreciation, build relationships, and express gratitude. When giving gifts, it is important to choose an appropriate item that reflects the recipient's interests and tastes, and to present it in a tasteful and respectful manner. It is also customary to give gifts in pairs, as odd numbers are considered unlucky. However, be aware of the gift-giving policies and regulations of your own company or organization, as some organizations may prohibit accepting gifts or have restrictions on the value or frequency of gifts.

7. Communication Style

Communication StyleJapanese communication style tends to be indirect and subtle, and it may take time to build trust and establish rapport with business partners. It is essential to pay attention to nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language, and to listen actively to what others are saying. Avoid interrupting or contradicting others, and express opinions or feedback in a respectful and tactful manner.

8. Meetings

MeetingsJapanese business culture places a strong emphasis on face-to-face meetings. It is essential to prepare thoroughly for meetings and to present information in a clear and concise manner. It is also important to listen carefully to your business counterparts and to ask questions to show your interest and engagement.

9. Business Meals

Business MealsBusiness meals and entertaining clients are common in Japanese business culture, and it is essential to understand the basic dining etiquette. For example, it is customary to wait for the host to start eating before beginning to eat, to use chopsticks correctly, and to avoid making noise while eating or slurping. It is also polite to compliment the food and to express gratitude to the host.

10. Group Harmony and Consensus Building

Group Harmony and Consensus BuildingIn Japanese business culture, group harmony and consensus building are valued over individual assertiveness or competition. It is common to work collaboratively and to seek input and feedback from all members of the team. It is also important to avoid confrontational or aggressive behavior and to strive for a win-win outcome that benefits