The Art of Doing Business in Japan

As part of our #CorporateCountdown series, we'll be using #TravelThursday to talk about business etiquette in countries all over the world! As industries continue to globalize, learning the business practices of a diverse array of cultures is imperative. Understanding the basic do's and don'ts of conducting business overseas will elevate you and your company's position in a global workplace. 

Inspired by Lily Winston CEO Wendy Bryant Gow's recent trip to her birthplace, the first country we will evaluate is Japan. 

Trust is Key

Relationships are the foundation of conducting business in Japan. Make every effort to connect with counterparts in Japan, as future agreements will rest heavily on personal history. Expect social outings initiated by the Japanese, and be willing to attend at every opportunity. 

First Impressions

An introduction will shape a person's perception of who you are. When meeting counterparts, wait for the Japanese person to extend their hand. At that time, give a slight bow prior to shaking the hand. While keeping the handshake firm, do not pump too strongly or touch the other person in any way. Maintain a respectful distance. 

In introducing yourself, your business card will play a key role. We highly recommend printing business cards with alternate sides in English and Japanese as a gesture of respect. When exchanging cards, place each thumb on the respective side, and bow your head. As you accept a card from your counterpart, do not put it into your pocket. Rather, have a case, folder, or briefcase readily available. 

Attire is Worth a Thousand Words

When dressing, be on the formal side. Wear dark colors and be well-groomed. Quality of attire will most likely be observed by the Japanese as a sign of status, so bring the best of your wardrobe. Conservative dress is the norm, and often Japanese women do not wear jewelry or high-heeled shoes.

Want to represent yourself in the best light possible? Our wardrobe stylists and image consultants are here to serve you. 

The Business Meeting

The formal nature of the Japanese is also applied to meetings in general. Be sure that you arrive early, and agree on a precise schedule to follow. Recognize that the meeting will most likely follow the itinerary closely and will not run late. Once you arrive, wait to be seated, as the seating pattern speaks volumes in Japanese culture. During the meeting, it is common to take thorough notes as a display of interest and attention to detail. As a general rule of thumb, avoid talking loudly or using excessive hand gestures. 


In Japan, building relationships of trust and honoring your counterparts will lead you to the best possible outcomes in the promising Japanese market. 

Before you conduct business in any part of the world, let Lily Winston guide you to make the impact of your trip a long-term success!