This is a guest post sponsored by Palace Hotel Tokyo.
Though Japan is a modern country with a thriving economy, in many ways it is still deeply traditional. And in a country so steeped in tradition, etiquette is incredibly important, especially when it comes to business. Western companies and entrepreneurs attending business events in Tokyo may well find that saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time can cause deep offence and even put an end to a prospective business deal. Ensuring you learn a little bit about Japanese business etiquette before you come to Japan, will help to ensure you don’t fall victim to any common mistakes and that your business deals go as smoothly as possible.
Business cards in Japan
From the moment you arrive at your luxury hotel in Tokyo business etiquette will be on display, with few rituals more important than the offering and accepting of a business card. In Japan, business cards are seen as an extension of an individual’s identity. As such, they need to be treated with great care and respect at all times.
If you’re offered a business card while attending an event at one of the many meeting rooms in Tokyo, accept the card with both hands before placing it in your cardholder. It is considered very rude to put the card into your back pocket or wallet, so make sure you avoid this easy-to-make faux pas. When giving someone your business card, present it with both hands with the Japanese side facing up. Never slide your card across a table or desk, always hand it over directly.
Give age the respect it deserves
In Japan age effectively equals seniority. If you’re attending business events in Tokyo, be sure to show the most respect to older executives, greeting them first and offering them your business card before anyone else. Failing to give preference to older colleagues will be seen as rude and disrespectful.
Gift giving in Japan
The Japanese have a deeply ingrained culture of gift giving and it’s not unusual to give and receive gifts at business events in Tokyo. If you are planning to give a gift to a Japanese business associate, make sure you read up on the specific etiquette involved beforehand to avoid making a cultural faux pas. For example, it’s better to avoid giving white flowers of any kind as they are associated with funerals. If you are presenting multiple items, give them in odd numbers, however avoid the number 9 as this is seen as unlucky.
The wrapping of a gift is taken very seriously in Japan, so make sure you get your gift professionally wrapped to ensure it’s done properly. If you don’t have access to the necessary resources, most good Marunouchi Hotels will be able to point you in the direction of a stationery shop or a department store that offers the service.