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Always dress appropriately for meetings. In Japanese business, this means a suit and tie.

As you are most probably aware, the standard greeting in Japan is the bow, not the handshake. The bow, or ojigi in Japanese, is a very important Japanese custom. Knowing its importance and performing the bow correctly may provide an advantage when communicating with Japanese colleagues.

There are three ways of bowing depending on to whom the bow is directed:

Greeting bow (eshaku, 会釈), 15 degrees.
Usually performed between people of the same status. They may know each other well, but not well enough to permit a simple nod.

Respectful bow (keirei, 敬礼), 30 degrees.
This bow is deeper than the eshaku. It is performed when bowing to a person of higher status, such as a boss or teacher.

Deep Respectful Bow (Saikeirei, 最敬礼), 45 degrees.
A bow for apologies or asking for favors. It shows a high degree of respect or regret and is not used often.

Usually, when greeting an associate for the first time, you will be asked to introduce yourself. In such circumstances, you will usually start with your company and after that add some information about yourself. In our case, this will look as follows:

マイケル: はじめまして。フランシールのマイケルです。 どうぞうよろしくお願いします。
(Michael: Hajimemashite. Franchir no Michael desu. Douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu.)
Michael: Nice to meet you, I'm Michael from Franchir. I look forward to working with you.

As you can see, Michael introduced himself first, stating his company, Franchir, before his own name.

When meeting with Japanese associates, a business card is a must-have. Double-sided Japanese business cards are standard for helping your associates read your title and company in Japanese

  Exemple Double-sided Business Card    

Rules for exchanging business cards

Present your business card by holding it with both hands. The Japanese side should be directed towards your Japanese associate.

When presenting your business card, start with the most senior person on the Japanese side first.

When receiving a business card, accept it, holding with both hands and adding a "hajimemashite."

If you have a business card case, place your associate's business card over it and keep it on the table. If you don't have a card case, place the business card in front of you . It's worth noting that Japanese will normally arrange business cards in front of them in the same position as the other parties in the meeting. This helps remember names during the meeting if you forget someone.

After the meeting, don't forget to pick up the business cards carefully.

Things to avoid when exchanging business cards

Do not write any notes on business cards in front of others. If you want to note anything on a card, do so after your meeting when you are alone.Putting business cards directly into your pocket or bag as soon as you receive it also considered disrespectful. Never put a business card in your rear pocket.
Flipping and playing with another's business card is unacceptable.

Meeting seating arrangements

Japanese people will generally arrive at the office at least 10 minutes before work is scheduled to begin. The same rule applies to meetings, especially if senior level executives will also be in attendance.
Make sure all participants get an agenda prior to the meeting, and stick to the agenda.
If you are the visitor, wait to be seated according to the arrangement. An example seating arrangement is shown below.

The meeting might start with some small talk for 10 minutes or so before getting down to business. This is meant to establish a friendly rapport and trust.
Your Japanese associates will usually have notebooks and pens to take notes. Make sure you do the same as it shows interest in the topic.
During the presentation, take note of non-verbal signs from your Japanese associates. Japanese people rarely express their disagreement or disappointment openly in order to avoid confrontation and maintain harmony between all parties. Japanese people will usually not directly say "no," but rather they might respond saying something along the lines of "we'll think about it." You should also keep this in mind for yourself—showing anger or letting something get to you is impolite, as is openly displaying or voicing your disagreement. Avoid placing any pressure on your associates or rushing them. Remember that the decision making process in Japan will normally involve much discussion and deliberation, and can thus be comparatively slow.
After the meeting, a follow-up visit, e-mail, letter or fax is standard business etiquette. It is adviseable that you make some form of follow-up contact.

Business receptions

If you are invited to a restaurant or café by your Japanese associates, then the inviting party will usually pay per standard Japanese business etiquette. To return the favor, you might also invite your host to a separate dinner or give your Japanese associate a present from your country.
As with work meetings, you should wait to be seated here as well.
It is customary for the highest ranking person in attendance to sit at the center of the table. The most important guest will be seated farthest from the door, and the least important will be the closest to the door.

Before anything is served, you will usually be given a white wet cotton cloth (Oshibori) to clean your hands only. After using it, the small towel should be folded and placed over the original container.
If you are drinking, try not to let your glass get completely empty or fill your glass yourself. Your Japanese associates should fill your glass, and you can reciprocate by filling theirs. When the drink is being poured into your glass, hold the glass with both hands and tilt slightly. An almost empty glass is usually the sign that it needs to be filled again. If you would like more to drink, pouring for someone else will normally result in them returning the favor. On the other hand, if you are not a strong drinker or have certain restrictions in terms of food or drinks due to your religion or elsewise, it is best to inform your hosts prior to the reception.
When the meal comes, usually the hosts are first to begin eating, followed by the guests. During the meal, you might be asked some personal questions about your family, country, culture, kids, or other topics. Don't be surprised by this as it is standard Japanese practice. It shows that your associates are willing to get to know you better as both an associate and person.
There are some points of etiquette to remember when eating with chopsticks. First, never spear food with your chopsticks when eating. Also, never hand over something chopstick to chopstick; if you must pass something, use your chopsticks to place it on the other person's plate. Pointing to something or somebody with your chopstick is also extremely impolite. Finally, sticking your chopsticks horizontally into the food is taboo. This is only done at funerals with rice that is put onto the altar.
If food on the table is shared, there will be a separate pair of serving chopsticks. Never use your own chopsticks to transfer food from a shared dish to your plate.
Lastly, don't leave the table before the senior person leaves.

Gift Giving

There are two uniquely Japanese gift giving occasions: Ochugen (given between the 1st and 13th of July) and Oseibo (given at the end of the year).

As you may already know, gift giving is an important part of Japanese culture. The gifts that are offered do not need to be expensive—the art is in the giving, not the gift itself.
Let your Japanese associates initiate the gift giving. When receiving and giving gifts, do so with both hands and bow slightly.
Avoid giving a gift to someone unless you have one for everyone present. If you have only one gift that cannot be shared , then you might want to present it in private. Also, it is important to remember that expensive gifts require an equally or slightly more expensive gift in return.
It is also a general custom for guests to give gifts brought from back home.
Expect the receiver of your gift to reject it the first, but continue to offer it until accepted. In Japan, it is polite to refuse a gift once or twice prior to accepting.
Your Japanese associates will likely not open your gift immediately, but later in private. This is done in case the gift turns out to be a poor choice, as this may cause embarrassment.
Avoid offering gifts in numbers of four or nine as these are considered unlucky. The word for four is very similar to the word for death in Japanese, and the word for nine resembles that for pain or suffering.
Try also not to give the same gift to people of unequal status. As stated previously, Japanese people pay significant attention to social ranking.
Finally, be prepared to exchange gifts at your first business meeting with Japanese associates. Gifts are usually given at the end of the first meeting.

In conclusion, below we have provided some simple, useful Japanese greetings that will help break the ice with your Japanese associates.

Japanese   English
Ohayo gozaimasu 
Good morning (used before 10am)
Konnichi wa
Good afternoon (used from 10am-6pm)
Konban wa
Good evening (used after 6pm)
Nice to meet you. (only used first time meeting someone)
Watashi no namae wa ____desu
My name is ______.
Yoroshiku onegai shimasu
I look forward to working with you in the future.
Onegai shimasu
Domo arigato gozaimasu
Thank you. (formal)
(used when an event is occuring or ongoing)
Domo arigato gozaimashita
Thank you. (formal)
(used when an event just occurred)
Do itashimashite
It's my pleasure / You're welcome
Cheers! (used during toast)
Thank you for the food. (used before eating)
Gochioso sama deshita
Thank you for the food. (used after eating)
Kekko desu
No thank you / I’m full (polite refusal)

For any business interpreting needs, please contact us at info@franchir-japan.co.jp .

Franchir Co., Ltd
4-19-27, Mejiro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
171-0031 Japan
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