|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
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.
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.