The "Dos and Don'ts" and "Need to Knows" for a German visiting Japan on Business

Seminar Paper, 2004

21 Pages, Grade: 1,8 (A-)


Table of contents

List of abbreviations & acronyms

1 Introduction

2 The postwar-history of Japan

3 Need to knows
3.1 Facts & Figures
3.2 Tokyo
3.3 Working conditions

4 Differences between Japanese and Germans

5 Dos and Don'ts
5.1 Business customs
5.2 Private habits

6 Conclusion



List of abbreviations & acronyms

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1 Introduction

Japan is the biggest Asian trade partner of Germany. It is also the second largest importer of American goods and services after Canada.1 “As an expensive, highly competitive, highly complex and not yet fully open market, Japan remains an extremely challenging place to do business.”2 “One of the major weaknesses of [foreign] executives dealing with Japan, particularly in joint ventures, is their failure to recognize and react positively to the constant need to nurture and adjust their relationships with their Japanese partners.”3

Etiquette is a minefield and a mistake can cost a businessman a contract. So it is important to know about the business customs of a country you are doing business with. No one who travels East with the intention to do business should do so without informing himself about the business structure, practices, customs and habits. It is very common that business people are sent from their company to exotic regions like Japan without being taught in cross-cultural business or the country-specific customs and manners. The more exotic one country, the more preparation is necessary.

In most Asian business cultures, harmony is valued above everything else.4 Problems can arise out of the international cooperation and misunderstandings due to language and gestures.5 When it comes to a faux pas, it can have serious consequences: the image of the company can be destroyed, the contract will probably not be settled and the cooperation can be deranged. Not the different manners, but the different mindsets make international cooperation difficult: far-eastern distance hits the western backslapping mentality.6 “Building relationships … should emphasize mutual trust, confidence, loyalty and commitment for the long term, both among individuals and companies.”7

In this paper I will point out interesting facts and figures about Japan, its history, its capital as well as its working conditions. Furthermore, I highlight strange Japanese customs and habits and present special differences between Germany and Japan. For a German visiting Japan on business, this information is essential to have. Although Europeans will never understand the culture and tradition of the Japanese, they need to arrange with it in order to do business. I will not mention facts about Japan’s economy and the consumers’ behaviour, which are also important for doing business, because of the limited size of this paper.

2 The postwar-history of Japan

1945-1952: Occupation of Allied Powers. Japan’s media was subject to a rigid censorship especially of any anti-American statements and controversial topics such as the race issue.8

1947: A new constitution went into effect: The emperor lost all political power and was solely the symbol of the state. Universal suffrage was introduced and the human rights were guaranteed. Japan was forbidden to ever lead a war again and to maintain an army. Religion9 and the state were clearly separated.

1947-1950: After WW II, Japan was devastated and everything was damaged (industry, transportation network etc.). A shortage of food continued for several years.

1950: National police was established as a replacement for the American troops. 1952: A peace treaty went into effect and the occupation ended.

1953: After the Korean War, Japan’s economy flourished and resulted in a quick rise of the living standards and changes in society, but also in severe pollution, caused by the booming industrialization.

1954: The Japanese government transformed the National police into a Self Defence Force (SDF)10, accompanied by large public demonstrations and despite the anti-war article in the constitution. It was argued, that maintaining a force only for self defence would not contradict the constitution.

1956: Entry into the United Nations was approved and Japan’s relations to the Soviet Union were normalized.

1973: The oil-crisis shocked the Japanese economy, which was (and still is) heavily dependent on oil. The reaction was the shift to high technology industries, for which Japan is known for today.

1987: The stock-market crash had a deep impact on the Japanese economy. Lots of people got unemployed.

1989: Emperor Akihito became (and still is) Japan's 125th emperor. He is married to Empress Michiko, the first empress who did not come from the nobility. Their eldest son is Crown Prince Naruhito. The imperial family resides in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

1998: Japan and Korea agreed on the “Japan - Republic of Korea Joint Declaration”, which is a symbol for a cooperative relationship between them and should be the basis for a better understanding of their history and tradition.11

2003: Japan is willing to strengthen the cooperation with the ASEAN-countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Therefore, Japan is about to open its market much more than before. Koizumi, the prime minister of Japan, was reelected.12

3 Need to knows

3.1 Facts & Figures

Japan, twice the size of California with half the U.S. population, has 126.9 million inhabitants, from which 30 million live in the Kanto-region around the conurbation of Tokyo- Kawasaki-Yokohama. It is made up of four main islands (cf. appendix) and surrounded by the Japan Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea. The second largest conurbation is the region around Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, where 5.5 million people live. The population density is approximately 337 people per sqkm but as Japan has a very mountainous landscape (75 % of the country are mountainous), there is only a small part provided for living. This causes a high density in the living areas, which, in fact, has lots of advantages for trade.13

Japan belongs to the most developed economies in the world with a very high per capita income. The life expectancy is 84 years for women and 77 years for men. There is a change in the industrial and economic structures. Acquisitions gain in importance, and the willingness to cooperate with foreign companies rises. At the moment there are good opportunities for German companies in Japan. The most important thing is, to beat the Japanese in product quality.

Japan offers a very wide range of attractions, from historical and cultural treasures to modern and futuristic sights, beautiful forests, mountains and sea coasts.14 The national currency in Japan is yen. It is very much a cash society. People generally carry lots of money with them, because the use of cheques is infrequent and not particularly convenient.15

For business men in Japan, it is important to obey the following rules:16

1. Always carry your ID card or your passport. If you are caught by the police without it, you can be taken to a police station and held until someone brings your ID card.

2. If you are driving, carry your license with you at all time. You need an international license as well as your foreign license.

3. Traffic laws are not heavily enforced, but when they are, they are enforced very strictly. So park legally and obey the speed limits.

4. Drugs are very taboo in Japan and the penalties are very strict. Don’t risk it.

3.2 Tokyo

The main cities in Japan are the capital Tokyo, which is the largest city in Japan with over 12 million inhabitants and an area of 2,102 km2 ; Yokohama, Japans second largest city with a population of over 3 million; Osaka, the third largest and second most important city with a population of 2.5 million; Kobe, with a population of 1.5 million and an area of 550 km2, Kyoto, the country’s seventh largest city with a population of 1.4 million and Hiroshima, with about 1 million inhabitants.17

Prior to 1868, Tokyo was known as Edo. A small castle town in the 16th century, Edo became Japan's political centre in 1603 when Tokugawa Ieyasu established his feudal government. A few decades later, Edo had grown into the world's most populous city. With the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the emperor and capital where moved from Kyoto to Edo, which was renamed Tokyo ("Eastern Capital"). Large parts of Tokyo were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and in the air raids of World War II.18

Tokyo is the country's largest and most important city. It is the home of the government and the emperor as well as the political, cultural, industrial and commercial centre of Japan. The city is flown through by the rivers Sumida, Arakawa and Tama, which meet in the Tokyo bay and run into the Pacific Ocean. Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama make up the biggest industrial conurbation in Japan.19


1 Ministry of Finance, 1997, call date: 15.01.2004.

2 ACCJ, 1996, p. 2.

3 De Mente, 1994, p. 101.

4 Cf. Scheunemann, C., 4/2003, p. 18.

5 Cf. Obmann, C., 10/2003, p. 78.

6 Cf. Obmann, C., 10/2003, p. 78.

7 ACCJ, 1996, p. 19.

8 Cf. Japan-Guide: History - Postwar, call date: 29.12.2003.

9 Shinto - “the way of the gods” - is Japan’s major religion besides Buddhism. Christianity is observed by app. one percent of the population.

10 Military service is not mandatory in Japan.

11 Cf. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, call date: 10.01.2004.

12 Cf. Embjapan, call date: 10.01.2004.

13 Cf. AHK: Japan/Land & Leute, call date: 29.12.2003.

14 Cf. Japan-Guide: Travel - Tokyo, call date: 24.12.2003.

15 ACCJ, 1996, p. 15.

16 Cf. SoftGuide Tokyo, call date: 29.12.2003.

17 Cf. Japan-Guide: Home - Japan Travel Guide, call date: 24.12.2003.

18 Cf. Japan-Guide: Travel - Tokyo, call date: 24.12.2003.

19 Cf. Japan-Guide: Travel - Tokyo, call date: 24.12.2003.

Excerpt out of 21 pages


The "Dos and Don'ts" and "Need to Knows" for a German visiting Japan on Business
University of Cooperative Education Mannheim  (Education: Economics)
Business English
1,8 (A-)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
448 KB
Need, Knows, German, Japan, Business, English
Quote paper
Jana Carstens (Author), 2004, The "Dos and Don'ts" and "Need to Knows" for a German visiting Japan on Business, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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