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Preparing for Business Travel to Japan : A Comprehensive Guide

Preparing for business travel to Japan

Traveling to Japan for business can be an enriching experience, offering insights into a unique culture and providing exciting opportunities in a highly advanced economy. However, doing business in Japan can be challenging for overseas visitors. To make the most of your trip, thorough preparation is essential. This guide will cover a few travel tips and lists you need to know to ensure that you benefit from a smooth and successful business trip to Japan.

Business Travel to Japan : Pre-trip Preparations

1. Visa and Documentation

Check if you need a visa to enter Japan. Citizens of many countries do not require a visa for business trips that are up to 90 days in duration.

A business visa enables you to engage in a range of business activities such as meetings, conferences, negotiations, and more. You will require an invitation letter from a Japanese company to support your application. You will also need to provide a range of supporting travel documents. These will include a valid passport, photographs, flight details, proof of funds to support your visit and a letter from your employer, if you are an employee.

Depending on where you live, you may be required to attend a meeting in person at the consulate to obtain your visa.

The application process should take 5 – 7 days but it is advisable to allow as much time as possible in case your application is delayed.

Pre-trip Preparations

2. Itinerary and Meetings

Schedule meetings well in advance and reconfirm closer to the date. Prepare a detailed itinerary, including addresses and contact numbers.

3. Accommodation

Choose a hotel that is conveniently located near your business meetings or in a business district, and one that offers the facilities you may need during your stay, including Wi-Fi, a desk, and access to a meeting room. If you are a lone business traveler and traveling across the country, consider capsule hotels for short, affordable stays.

4. Language

While many Japanese business executives speak English, learning a few basic Japanese phrases can be beneficial. Download a translation app in preparation for any issues or learning the basics through E-learning language apps. Consider hiring a translator if the language barrier is a concern.

5. Health and Safety

Check for any required vaccinations or health advisories, and purchase travel insurance that covers health, accidents, and cancellations. Although the Japanese government considers the COVID-19 pandemic to be over, social distancing is still practiced by many Japanese people. It is recommended to bring a surgical mask in case some Japanese people prefer to remain cautious. During business dealings, it wouldn't hurt to ask if they also prefer wearing masks at certain times.

6. Currency

Familiarize yourself with the current exchange rate. Obtain sufficient yen for small transactions during your stay. Carry credit cards for larger expenses.

Travel tips : Packing essentials

Don’t leave home without everything you need. The Japanese value efficiency and needing to shop during your trip could be a serious inconvenience that takes up valuable time.

  • Business Attire: Japanese business attire is typically conservative and formal. Men should pack dark-coloured suits and ties, white shirts and polished shoes. Women should pack subdued suits and blouses together with formal, polished shoes.

  • Electronics: take suitable adaptors and voltage converters, if necessary. There are two types of sockets in Japan, types A and B. Plug type A is the plug which has two flat parallel pins and plug type B is the plug which has two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin. Japan operates on a 100V supply voltage and 50/60Hz.

Packing essentials
  • Portable Wi-Fi: Consider renting a portable Wi-Fi device to stay connected on the go. Without a portable Wi-Fi device, the cost of texting and browsing the web on your own phone can be surprisingly high compared to using a domestic phone.

  • Travel Essentials: Pack your medications and a power bank. Ensure you have printed copies of important travel documents such as your itinerary, hotel reservation, and contact details.

Understanding Japanese Business Culture

It is vital to understand and respect Japanese business culture. You will find that this culture is very different to that in the West. 

  • Respect and Formality: Japanese business culture is deeply rooted in respect and formality. Understanding hierarchical structures and showing proper respect to senior executives is crucial.

  • Politeness and Punctuality: Always be on time for meetings. Punctuality is a sign of respect and professionalism.

  • Business Cards (Meishi): Exchanging business cards is a formal |ritual. Carry plenty of cards in a business card holder, present a card with both hands, and take a moment to examine the card you receive. For detailed information regarding the importance of business cards, consult our article dedicated to this subject.

Understanding Japanese Business Culture
  • Greetings: Bowing is the usual greeting in Japan. A slight bow when meeting and parting shows respect. Our Japanese business etiquette article provides the advice you need to greet Japanese executives appropriately.

  • Gifts: It is customary to bring a small gift, often something representative of your home country. Ensure it is both appropriate and suitably wrapped.

  • Decision Making: Japanese businesses often undertake a collective decision-making process. Be patient and prepared for multiple meetings.

  • Business Language: Be clear and concise in your communication. Avoid slang and overly casual language.

  • Follow-Up: Send a thank-you email after meetings, reiterating key points and expressing gratitude for the opportunity.

Leisure and Networking

Beyond business meetings, there is much you can do to reinforce relationships and to enhance your understanding of Japanese culture.

Leisure and Networking
  • Dining Etiquette: Business dinners are fundamental to Japanese business culture. If invited to a business meal, observe Japanese dining etiquette. Wait to be seated, do not pour your own drink, and say "Itadakimasu" before eating. Use the damp towel provided to wash your hands, but never your face, prior to the meal. When serving yourself from shared dishes, use the utensils provided or the opposite end of your chopsticks.

  • Cultural Activities: Engaging in local cultural activities can enhance your experience and provide valuable networking opportunities. Consider visiting landmarks, attending local events, or participating in tea ceremonies. Some companies in Japan like to take their guests out themselves as travel guides to show you the country through their perspective.

Travelling within Japan

Public Transport: 

  • Japan’s public transport: system is efficient and reliable. Familiarize yourself with the routes and schedules of trains, subways, and buses.

  • Taxis: Taxis are available but can be an expensive option. Ensure you have the destination written in Japanese, as many drivers do not speak English.

Travelling within Japan
  • Japan Rail Pass: If you plan to travel extensively within Japan, consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass for cost-effective and convenient travel. Depending on the pass you acquire, you can travel quickly between major cities via bullet train (Shinkansen). If you are in Tokyo, it is worth organizing a trip to Mount Fuji using the Japan Rail Pass. The journey between Tokyo and Mount Fuji is long but includes culturally significant stops along the way, offering various hiking activities and attractions.

In summary

Business Travel to Japan can be incredibly fruitful but your success could depend on how well you prepare for your visit. It certainly pays to acquaint yourself with Japanese business etiquette and culture, if you are to appear professional and if you are to be trusted. Organise your travel and itinerary efficiently and ensure you travel with all the documentation you will need including a generous supply of business cards. Remember that perfect planning prevents poor performance, especially in Japan.

Business Travel to Japan

Noel Myatt

5 min read

Jun 18



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