Venture support ーSupport for entering the Japanese marketー

I spent the first 10 years of my career involved in the export of Japanese products, and the last 20 years involved in the import of foreign products to Japan. You might think that those involved with exports have more overseas transfers and business trips, and need a higher language ability, but in fact import work requires more of an intercultural communication ability. This is because those involved with imports must be able to explain the unique concepts and values of the Japanese market to foreign companies. To be honest, importing is more stressful than exporting, and requires more patience. There is often an expectation that business models that are successful overseas should also be successful in Japan, and those with new inventions are often very confident that their item will sell in Japan.

However, Japanese companies do not really focus on what country in which a new product was developed or invented. What is more important is whether people in Japan are buying and using the product. No matter how well the product has done overseas, Japanese companies will largely disregard this, and focus on how it will do in Japan.


It is my impression that Japanese are very quick to understand the reasoning behind and convenience of new products and services. However, they require a long time before they can implement them. The bigger the company, the longer it takes to share information and lay the foundations for a new product or service to be implemented. If the product or service is to be used in a factory, those working in the factory itself must also give the OK before it can be implemented. All sorts of risks must be checked in advance. Foreigners who are used to quick top-down decision making often find Japan’s consensus based bottom up style quite perplexing. It is common for two or even three years to pass as part of this process. But you can’t give up.

In order to clear this hurdle, you must have strong passion and persistence. Once the decision making is finished, Japanese companies are good at carefully and precisely making a new product or service part of their operational process. If it is something that can solve their problems and lead to improvements, then you can be sure that it will be even more firmly implemented over a long period. Your long term relationship with Japanese companies will start from there, and your perseverance and understanding will be rewarded with lasting returns. The Japanese market is worth the challenge.

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