Being aware of cross-cultural communication barriers in Japan is important in business because this country has a large economy and plays an important role in the international community.

Japan is considered one of the leading economies across the world today, as well as a major player in politics, finance, and business, so it is important to understand their culture to take advantage of opportunities to do business with them.

About Japan

A country famous for its advanced technology, Japan is located on the coast of Asia. The population is about 125 million and the official language is Japanese there are several thousand other dialects that are spoken by people from all over Japan. The capital of Japan is Tokyo.

Japan is the world's third-largest economy by nominal GDP and fourth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. Japan is also the world's fourth-largest exporter and importer(2022). The country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, at 81 years for men and 87  years for women, while it was ranked as the 19th most developed nation in the world according to the Human Development Index in 2022.

Japan's culture-based communication style

  1. Japanese people are very indirect, meaning that they avoid direct confrontations and prefer to communicate in roundabout ways. This means that they do not ask questions directly, but instead use hints and clues to communicate their true intentions.
  2. Japanese businesspeople do not like to say "no" directly; instead, they will often say something like "I'll try my best."
  3. You should be aware of the importance of social status in Japan. In Japan, there are many different levels of formality depending on who is involved in a conversation. For example, it is proper to use honorifics when speaking to someone older than yourself or at a higher social level than yourself (e.g., -san)
  4. It is also important to understand that in Japan there is a strong emphasis on saving face. When speaking about another person or situation, try not to be too direct or critical—this could cause embarrassment for both parties involved!
  5. Japanese business communication often characterized by a high regard for hierarchy can make the exchange of information a slow process.
  6. Japan is a collectivist culture, which means that people are more likely to give up their individual needs and desires for the good of the group. This means that they are less likely to get into arguments or disagreements with others in the workplace, as they would rather avoid conflict than resolve it.
  7. Japanese people tend to speak in a soft voice and avoid talking too loudly or making too much noise.
  8. A barrier is that Japanese businesspeople often expect others to read between the lines when communicating. This is because they are used to having long meetings where little information is actually shared and much is implied or assumed by all parties.
  9. Although English is taught in schools, it is often taught as a second language and not as a native tongue. As a result, many Japanese people lack the ability to speak English confidently and fluently, which can make business meetings more difficult than they need to be. So you may consider hiring an interpreter when doing business with them.
  10. As a general rule, Japanese people are very punctual. They will show up at least 5 minutes early for any appointment and expect you to do so as well. If you arrive late (or even close to late) for an appointment, you may find yourself having to apologize profusely or feeling embarrassed about being late.

Non-verbal communication in Japan

Japan is known for being a very hierarchical society. This means that the way you communicate with people will depend on your relationship with them.

  1. Eye contact, bowing: If you do not know someone well, you should avoid direct eye contact and speak softly. If you are meeting someone in person, bow and wait for them to bow back before you proceed with your conversation.
  2. Expressing emotions: The Japanese tend to be very reserved when it comes to expressing emotion, and they can appear cold or unemotional because they don't show their feelings as openly as people in other cultures do.
  3. When they're laughing, they tend to cover their mouth with their hand or elbow. This is done because in Japan it's considered rude to laugh at them directly.
  4. Japan is a very polite, respectful society. The culture is based on harmony and avoiding conflict. In many ways, this leads to a very reserved and polite communication style. For example, it's considered rude to speak with your hands in your pockets or on the table.
  5. Personal space: You should stand at least one step away from someone else if you are talking to them face-to-face and keep your hands at your side instead of touching someone’s arm or hand when speaking with them.