Marketing to Japan (2/2)

Following on from part one, part two in our Japanese series looks at how to plan ahead for doing business in Japan and explores a little more about the culture. If you’re looking to expand into the Japanese market you may find some of these points useful, especially around food and drink, as Japanese tastes are different to those in the west.


Whilst some Western influenced products, such as certain brands of chocolate and shampoo, are available in Japan, others have a Japanese twist, such as very sweet white bread.

Although you’ll find plenty of recognisable fast food, such as McDonald’s and Burger King, you may find the burger buns will be black if the altered menu has squid ink burgers on it!

If you take a trip to Starbucks you’ll find Green Tea Frappuccinos are the popular drink of choice and the Japanese will drink cherry blossom tea when in season.

Linguistically and from a business point of view, the Japanese palate is challenging. Expressions like “hard cheese” and “pie in the sky” might not translate so easily, and marketing new food and drink products could be equally challenging.

Business meetings

When doing business in Japan, it’s good to keep in mind that, as is the case when doing business in Germany, it’s best to remain formal. Japanese people expect to be addressed formally, by their surnames, unless speaking to a friend outside the business environment.

When meeting Japanese colleagues or prospects, it’s customary to bow to greet each other. They may also initiate a handshake but it’s best to take your cue from them. Take care to be on time for meetings as lateness is considered rude.

Public holidays

If you’ve ever been to Japan around Christmas time, you may have seen Christmas decorations displayed but the Japanese don’t actually celebrate Christmas as it’s a Christian celebration so Christmas day is not a public holiday there.

That’s not to say they don’t celebrate plenty of other holidays, such as Autumn Equinox and Constitution Memorial Day. Hanami is also a long-standing tradition, otherwise known as the cherry blossom Festival, when people take time to welcome spring by sitting under cherry blossom trees in parks and having food and drink there or lighting up the blossom trees at night.

Whether attending business meetings or undertaking market research, it’s advisable to plan ahead to have the best chance of success. Check out our handy ‘when not to conduct market research’ infographic for a list of public holidays in numerous countries which can help you plan the best time to launch a product or a survey.

Whether you’re looking to enter the Japanese market for the first time or re-visiting it, we can help you with all your translation requirements. Check out our Japanese language page for more information on our Japanese translation services. Email with your project details or fill out our contact form below.


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