• Shiori W

How to start a business conversation in Japan?



As you learned here (are business cards important in Japan?), exchanging business cards is really important with Japanese clients. And only then the first conversation will start.


How to start a business conversation in Japan?

When you receive a business card from a client, please check the design and the information on there. The design shows their brand image, concept, and you will also find the role of the person on it.

After confirming his/her name and role, Let’s start asking questions one by one to understand each other.

If you are unsure which questions you should start asking from, I hope the following tips will give you some ideas on where to start a business conversation.

For instance, if I was confused about what to ask, I would ask like..

1. How to read their name.

Since Kanji in Japanese has multiple pronunciations, Please confirm how to say their name.

Similar to English, in business dealings we refer to someone by their family name with "San" after. For example, Mr. / Ms. / Mrs. Smith would be referred to as Smith san.

( Sometimes, for people from overseas, if your family name is bit too long or difficult to say in Japanese, people might call you by your first name with ”san” like “Daniel san”. )

Please call a person by his/her family name with “san” in Japanese when you call your client, however their name's kanji might be a littel tricky.


I often confirm how to read their name in Kanji, that’s not unusual. Especially with “names”. I experienced many times where I had to figure how to call someone when I hadn’t seen their name's kanji combination before, such as “七五三さん ( Shime san )“ , “甫天さん (Hoten san )”. In general, 七五三 ( Shime ) is normally called “Shichi - go - san” which is usually a cerebration for kinds who turn to be 7 years old, 5 years old and 3 years old and the family takes the kids to a shrine to celebrate their coming of age. It’s totally different from how it's read as a family name. Also 甫天 ( Hoten ) there are less than 50 people in Japan with that reading for their name, That’s a premium 3 stars ranked name for some people, you may not ever meet someone in your life with a name like that.

A difference between in language and culture may bring about some embarrassment in everyday life or business dealings.So remember that it's a good policy and it's perfectly polite to confirm how to read someone's name on their business card.

Please not hesitate to ask how to read their family name because It’s natural even for Japanese to check.

Then after confirming how to say your client’s name,

Let’s start asking what your client is in charge of at their office.

2. Confirm the department and what they handle.

Business cards are not only just an informational card.

In addition to the #1 tip above, it’s a ticket for opening the path towards greeting, and making a bridge between you and the client beyond any nervousness.

It’s also a part of yourself to show your client in business dealing.

Even your nervousness has decreased, you are still only at the starting point of your business conversation. Let’s confirm what your contact person is charge of at the company. So, which department is the person working in? Which tasks belong to the person? What are they concerned with and what do they want to solve in how big of a budget?

3. Make a to-do list with your client

To get a good understanding what you can help for your client with and what the client would like to fix, let’s write down what you and your client discuss.

Then let’s get involved to the roadmap what your client is drawing, please ask them what the person would like you to do.

For business manners in Japan,

You will must start with exchanging your business cards at the first meeting.


  • Business cards will introduce yourself and your client will also also introduce themselves.

  • Business conversations will start after exchanging business cards.

  • After the meeting, you will have a to-dos list, to establish your business relationship.


As all of us know, doing business with someone is not simple, there are tons of unclear minor rules including manners as a part of business culture. Learning fundamental manners will support you to not pass up any opportunities, instead of the same way as you chat with your friends at daytime cafe.

Thus your business card will help you to open the door and it will be the first item which you give to your client. Showing yourself, exchanging your business card leads to a good business conversation in Japan.



Bring business cards always to start a business conversation in Japan.

I'd recommend that always bringing your business cards when going anywhere you intend to do business at in case you meet someone new.


And please treat the business cards which you receive the same as if you were treating a guest, not put client’s business card in your pants.


Do you have any questions?

Please leave a comment if there is anything you would like to know more!

Hope you could learn a new tip today.

#Japan#businessculture

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