Japan identifies itself as a driver of change and innovation in luxury goods and services, particularly those that employ sustainable practices. The Japanese are incredibly loyal in their business relationships and look to build connections for the long haul.
Japanese businesses thrive under pressure and are much more amenable to change during tough times than other countries. This can open up a lot of opportunities for Australian businesses in Japan as the local economy continues to grow and change.
Business etiquette is of extreme importance in the Japanese business environment. They place a lot of value on politeness and respect, not just in business settings, but in personal contexts as well. It is in your best interest to stay modest and to praise your Japanese hosts, rather than talking up your own achievements. The Japanese follow seating arrangements at meetings according to the level of importance of the meeting attendees. Wait to be seated or ask which seat is yours.
Meetings are typically conducted in Japanese, not English, so you will need an interpreter. On the rare chance that the meeting is in English, be sure to speak slowly and clearly. Avoid using idiomatic expressions or Australian humour, as this can be seen as disrespectful.
The Japanese tend to be a bit indirect when it comes to discussing business matters. Most daytime meetings begin with small talk and can sometimes seem to avoid the key issues at hand. It is important to be patient, as much of the true negotiations in Japanese business takes place after hours over drinks and dinner.
The Japanese value punctuality, so be sure to arrive for meetings at least five minutes early. If you are going to be late, always call to notify your business partners and offer an estimated arrival time. Do not simply show up late and apologise afterwards.
Business hours in Japan run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday, with lunch from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Lunch is strictly observed, so you should not expect to conduct any business during this time. Retail businesses are typically open until 7:00 p.m. and are open all day at the weekend. Japan's time zone is one hour behind Australia's eastern time zone, two hours during Daylight Saving Time.
Japan's currency is the yen. ATMs are available in most public areas, operating 24 hours a day. However, they are selective about which foreign credit cards they accept, so be sure to check with your banks before travelling to Japan. You may wish to obtain cash before you depart.
The climate in Japan goes through four distinct seasons, with summer June to August and winter December to March. Summers are hot and humid with temperatures hovering in the high 30s and humidity in the 90s. Rain is common in summer. In winter, temperatures drop below 10 degrees, but the weather is much drier. Cities at higher elevation see lots of snow in winter, while cities like Tokyo and Osaka typically only receive a few days of snow.
Japanese electricity is 100 volts, typically requiring a two flat-pin plug.
Japan has two major airports typically used by business travellers: Narita International Airport near Tokyo and Kansai International Airport near Osaka. From Narita, travellers usually take a limousine bus or the train system. Limousine buses depart every 15 minutes, and the trip into the city takes about 90 minutes, depending on traffic. The Narita Express Train leaves the airport every 30 minutes, and the trip takes less than an hour into Tokyo. Taxis are available as well, although travellers should be warned that they are very expensive.
From Kansai airport, travellers have similar options for getting into Osaka. Limousine buses take just over an hour to get into the city, and they stop at many major hotels. The Japan Rail system is another option, also taking about an hour. The Nankai Train is more direct, only taking half an hour to get to Osaka. As with Narita airport, taxis are available but are very expensive. Upon departing the country from Kansai, travellers will need to pay the Passengers Services Facilities Charge in cash. Credit cards are not accepted.
Japan has one of the most efficient public transport systems in the world, and they pride themselves on the punctuality of the system. Train stations in Japan typically have a lot of stairs and the trains have minimal storage space, so visitors are advised to carry small, compact luggage, if any at all.
Tipping in Japan is uncommon and is not expected.
Japan has a wide range of hotel options for travellers to choose from, and many travel agents in Australia can gain access to discounted rates. In Tokyo, serviced apartments are also available for a more home-like accommodation. This can be particularly useful for longer visits.
In most cases, travellers are advised to avoid eating in hotel restaurants, as the prices are typically high. Japan offers a vast selection of other restaurants serving both Japanese and western-style foods. Lunch is usually far less expensive than dinner. In major cities and tourist areas, you will be more likely to find menus in English.
Ueno Park is a Tokyo destination not to be missed. Aside from the lush beauty of the park itself, you'll also find a zoo and several art galleries and museums. The park is open year round, offering changing views with the changing seasons.
No trip to Osaka would be complete without a walk through Hozenji Yokocho , a lively district filled with restaurants and bars. Although the street burned down during air raids in World War II, it has since been restored to the thriving nightlife spot it is today.