• Shiori W

Is starting a business difficult in Japan?


Hi, everyone.

I've experienced of working as project manager, salesperson and as an office manager in an IT startup, where the team had a diverse background in Japan. In my experiences, I've had a lot of native English speakers tell me “That’s why Japan is way more behind of Western common sense!” and I listened to them to understand their frustrations.

I have seen how much they were doing their best to get over the annoyance they had. It's super stressful when you get.

I heard and saw a lot, how seriously difficult and annoying it is starting a business in another country. I also struggled with difficulties in establishing a reliable business relationship between Japanese companies and our team.

Our team was trying to understand the cultural and language differences together. We could manage some. While others we couldn't and lost some opportunities.


Is starting a business difficult in Japan?

It’s not the same as process as one might have experienced before in your own country. It's totally different from what you experienced and loved when you came to Japan as a traveler. Your role has changed.


In a different country, it’s not really easy to develop a business relationship. It's much harder than in your country.

Especially for IT-skilled people, please keep in your mind that it’s really frustrating to work in the Japanese IT field and digital industry. Especially regarding their security environment.

I struggled a lot too. I was on the edge where I could see the huge chasm of a border which between cultures that did not always mesh. My team and I gad a really difficult time understanding and dealing with differences in Japanese business culture. I worked both in a project management position and in a sales position who was mainly supposed to contact clients. I was in the middle. Between Japanese traditional companies and our team who was from other countries such as the UK, the US, South Korea and NZ. I was trying to build a bridge between our team and our clients. I spent a lot of my time trying to understand the differences in culture between the IT business environment in other countries and Japan. After a long arduous process, we would finally be able to establish relations with a client but the end result didn't feel like a moment of triumph or resolution that you might see in a movie. In Japan, it would be great if one could find a Japanese team with members who can understand the difference between cultures.


How to solve the difficulties? Find own team.

1. find a good team and do not rush to get a “Yes”

When you start your business, you might feel more excited than ever before. You will probably think that your idea will definitely succeed if you can catch the next big wave. Please find a good team who will support your idea and together you can succeed.


2. Teams can drive business growth.

It will be a big support to you if you have a team that you can freely share ideas, schedules and objectives with.

That would be a big support and strong connection If you can share your business idea with schedule and objective numbers.

They need to know the details of your idea including your vision, business plan, and financial status realistically, or you can ask team members to discuss together.

Please do not give up on your business and also do not try to do everything yourself.h

Is the language barrier responsible for troubles you face with your business?

Yes, that could be a one of the reasons. If you start your business in Japan, it's better to learn the Japanese language little by little if you can handle it. Ideally it's good to learn the native language where you live, however, I think the language difference is not a main problem. I think the main problem one might have is how much patience they have and if they are able to maintain relations with others.


Dealing with your emotions will help you.

In some cases, what you feel emotionally will be right and at other times it may be a rash line of thought.

If you start blaming the business culture as being at fault for your business failing, it is just an unproductive use of time.

If you still want to make your idea happen in another country, please take several hours to cooldown and vent your frustrations then come back with a more calm mindset.

Make sure you eat a lot and sleep well, so that you can change your mindset and start a new journey to understand the newly unveiled bit of culture. It's a healthier and better mindset that will help you to break into the market and understand the target audience.


For instance, you might experience that ...

during a meeting, you might find that a client is having difficulty understanding you. Please ask them about it straightforwardly saying something like "Is there any part you'd like more clarification on? Anything that you didn't understand?". Sometimes, since you might have really new ideas, people give them some time for conversation, to let them process what they heard and talk about it.

It is better to wait until they speak. More professional means less chatty in Japan.


3. Don’t worry too much and please do not give up.

When you think of starting your business in another country,

please ask yourself “Why not start in your own country?” over a hundred times before booking your flight.

There are, of course, many differences between cultures as well as many sources for frustration. You may have many emotions because of these problems.

However, please do not get too down by these temporary feelings.

Also as long as you are keep trying to understand the differences of culture and customs beyond the language barriers, you will be able to catch the opportunities in front of you. And you will also find your own way to understand and theorize about what your business can solve in Japan.

- wish you find any tips!

#startup #japan #realvoice