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  • Writer's pictureSamurai Incubate Israel

Big in Japan — How Israeli companies can succeed in the Japanese market.

Big in Japan — How Israeli companies can succeed in the Japanese market.

It’s no secret that the Asian economy (and Japan in particular) is a huge economy with great business opportunities. The Japanese market is big and stable, with lots of corporate giants looking for startups to collaborate with and invest in, so it’s only natural that in recent years there is a significant increase in cooperation between Israel, the “Startup Nation”, and Japan.

But before you rush to buy a plane ticket to Tokyo and open a branch of your business there, you should think about the uniqueness of the Japanese culture and the fact that if you are not familiar with the Japanese ways, you might not be seen as a reliable and serious partner.

Fear not — we have some beginner’s tips for you on how to make a good impression on your first Japanese business meeting.


In the Japanese business culture, business cards play a very important role. At your first meeting remember to accept and hand out a business card with both hands, with the writing directed towards the reader, with a slight bow at times. You should first give your card to senior executives, though of course everyone who is present at the meetings should be treated politely and get a respectful receiving of their cards. Treat the business cards with respect and store them where they will not wrinkle and tear — if you decide to put a business card in your pocket, make sure it’s always above the belt line.

When you’ve exchanged business cards with everybody and the introduction part is over, the next challenge might be small talk. There are some topics you should avoid, like family and children, politics or religion. You can find common ground by looking for shared business experience and contacts. Learning beforehand about the Japanese culture, history and food is highly appreciated and might be a good idea.

Prepare relevant presentations and documents. The presentation of the topics in speech alone will usually be seen as unprofessional, and your Japanese colleagues expect you to provide printed handouts. It is also recommended to list the important points on the presentation. The tendency is to think that if a certain point appears in a presentation, it is important. If not — then it probably does not matter.


Some common mistakes to try and avoid

  • Thinking that if your Japanese colleagues go out with you to drink in a pub or a karaoke bar — they are your friends. This could be true, but not always the case — drinking alcohol together is a part of the bonding and trust building. Even if you are not much of a drinker, you should join and maybe drink a little bit to collaborate and be part of the fun.

  • Expecting contact with a handshake and such. Some Japanese people may avoid physical contact, especially when it comes to business meetings with strangers. You should be ready for a bow instead of a handshake in some cases. Israeli businessmen are known to be quite physical and even might go for a hug or a pat on the back of their business partners, so a good advice will be to pay attention to the cultural difference and avoid embarrassment by keeping it formal.

  • Joking and a sense of humor that do not suit the Japanese culture can make your Japanese potential partners uncomfortable. Perhaps you should save the hilarious joke you always use as an ice-breaker for another time, when you are more familiar with the Japanese humor and feel more comfortable about it. The Japanese people have a great sense of humor though sometimes it can be different than the western humor.

  • The Japanese people are very loyal to their companies and expect you to also be proud and loyal to yours, so try to keep your stories about the office and co-workers or boss clean and positive.


Keep in mind that any contact with people from different countries might be challenging and different from what you’re used to, but it is always an interesting experience that will help you see other ways of living and communicating. The Japanese are kind, polite and thoughtful, so being sensitive and doing some research can help you a lot in your meeting.

Samurai Incubate specialized in connecting the Japanese market to the Israeli ecosystem, and have hosted and arranged many business meetings and events with Japanese corporates and companies over recent years. Our team is dedicated to empower bold entrepreneurs and help them connect to the corporate world; Follow us on social media to find out more about our activities and see where you can fit it. Should you require further information, you can also contact us through our website.


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