5 things to know on a business trip to Japan



So, you’re going on a business trip to Japan. Great! You’re going to have a fantastic time. But you’ve heard that things work a little differently in Japan when it comes to business. You’re not wrong, business etiquette can be confusing at the best of times, let alone on the other side of the world. So, with the help of these 5 useful tips, this article is here to ensure that your business trip in Japan is a flying success.


They say “the early bird catches the worm,” and, as a foreigner in Japan, this statement couldn’t be truer: punctuality is highly valued. Being on time is considered a sign of respect and professionalism in Japan. So, if you have a meeting or an appointment, arrive at least 5 minutes early. I was once told by my Japanese teacher that, in Japan, “if you’re on time you’re late, if you’re five minutes early, you’re on time” and I live by the advice to this day. But, of course, life doesn’t always go to plan. We oversleep, miss the bus, and trains get delayed (albeit quite rarely in Japan!). So, in case of any delay, make sure to inform the concerned parties in advance.

Business cards

Exchanging business cards, or 名刺 (meishi), is an important part of Japanese business culture. Make sure to carry a good supply of your business cards with you. When it comes to presenting them, use both hands, and make sure the card is facing the recipient.


Bowing is a typical greeting and way of showing respect in Japan. When meeting someone for the first time, it is customary to bow slightly. The depth of the bow correlates with the formality of the situation, so as a rule of thumb try and bow to about 20 degrees. This is polite but not overly formal.


It is customary to bring a small gift when meeting a business associate. And, as a foreigner, Japanese people may appreciate a small gift from your home country. It doesn’t have to be any big and expensive, as giving gifts that are too expensive can come off as rude. But something small like some regional snacks or an ornament. For example, if you’re from England (like me), you might choose to bring some classic breakfast tea!


In Japanese companies, it’s common to be invited out for drinks after work by your boss. So, when asked, take it as a compliment! Depending on where you’re from the thought of getting drunk with your boss might come across as a sign that they like you, or make your toes curl with embarrassment. But in Japan, going out for drinks with coworkers is a sign of respect and a way to congratulate each other for completing another day in the office.
I hope this article has shown that business etiquette in Japan isn’t so scary! Even if you don’t speak Japanese, there are things you can do to show respect to the people you are working with and Japanese culture. Following these simple tips, enjoy your trip to Japan. Just remember to get plenty of sleep on the plane!