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Last updated : Nov 2009
Tokyo Business Profile
Tokyo Business Overview - TravelPuppy.com
Presiding over the 2nd largest economy in the world, Tokyo is the financial, governmental and administrative centre of Japan. Quick to adopt modern developments and fashions, after the 1868 Meiji Restoration, Tokyo has continued to lead trends and technology and continues to be Japan ’s most cosmopolitan city.

Japan’s current drive for economic reform and deregulation was initiated in Tokyo and it is here that these measures are showing their most immediate effect. Unemployment in the city, at 4.8%, is far below the country’s 5.3% average, while per capita income is more than 40% higher than in other areas of the country. The service industry is the main employer in the city, followed by construction.

Most major Japanese firms have their main office in Tokyo and for foreign companies a presence in Japan usually means a presence in Tokyo. Companies in the city include Bloomberg, Barclays Bank, British Aerospace, Citibank, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, Reuters and Unilever.

The main business districts are dotted around the National Diet and Ministry buildings situated to the south and east of the Imperial Palace. The Metropolitan Government is situated in West Shinjuku, Tokyo’s skyscraper office district.

Besides the emphasis on the service industries and administration, Tokyo is Japan’s publishing and printing centre. Meanwhile, the bustling Tokyo Bay port processes a large proportion of the country’s imports and exports. Recent deregulation has relaxed market entry for foreign companies and more are now entering the Japanese market. The Nippon Convention Centre, Makuhari Messe, located halfway between the city centre and Narita Airport, and the new Tokyo Big Sight complex, in Tokyo Bay, make Tokyo Japan’s main trade fair venue.

Following a slow start, the Internet is becoming increasingly important to Japanese businesses. Hotel rooms are normally equipped with a telephone line supporting Internet use and international public telephones are fitted with modem jacks.

Business Etiquette

While Tokyoites are usually the most cosmopolitan of Japanese, many are reserved in the company of foreigners, especially when called upon to speak English. Almost everyone under 50 has some basic knowledge of English, however few are able to speak fluently. Misunderstandings commonly occur and the use of professional interpreters is recommended. Foreigners are not expected to grasp the complexities of Japanese etiquette and allowances will be afforded cheerfully. However, it is worth keeping in mind that shoes must be removed before entering homes, as well as some offices and restaurants. Also, tips are not expected and are considered vulgar, as is eating while walking. Blowing one’s nose in public is best avoided (it is, however, perfectly acceptable to sniff). Business attire should be smart but conservative, and suits are a must for both men and women. For men, navy and grey are the favoured colours – brown is looked upon suspiciously. It is practically impossible to over dress in Japan and business visitors can expect to be judged by their appearance. Exchanging business cards is an essential part of introductions – no one is taken seriously without them.

Corporate entertaining is usually done in restaurants and ‘izakaya’ beer halls. Invitations to business associates' homes are unusual. Drinking (beer, sake and whisky) is very much part of the culture, as is smoking. Corporate entertaining is largely male dominated and business travellers’ partners are not usually invited to such events. Foreign businesswomen tend to be treated as ‘honorary men’ and it is not unknown for them to be included in a trip to a strip club. There are amazingly few Japanese businesswomen. Gifts are very important – they need not be large or lavish – and are exchanged with great ceremony.

It is normal to refer to colleagues by their surnames and hierarchies should be respected. Business negotiations require patience as directness is disliked and mistrusted, thus straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers are usually avoided. Impatience is frowned upon and confrontation should be avoided at all costs, as it is considered a sign of gross weakness. Apologies and thanks are extremely important and should not be rushed.

General business hours are 09:00–17:00 Monday to Friday.