Region/Countries: Asia, Japan Industry: Multiple Sectors Date: June 2019

With a growing and diversified economy, Japan offers excellent opportunities for companies looking to grow globally. Learn more about exporting to Japan from WEDC’s international business development team.

Q: What does a business need to know when looking to start exporting to Japan?

A: Japan is a sophisticated market with advanced technologies and well-informed customers. Japan’s business culture and etiquette are unique. Hierarchy plays an important role in their corporate structure. The Japanese are known for their strong work ethic and long work hours. It is recommended for companies to visit the country and understand how their product can fit in the Japanese market. Often, products need to be adapted. For example, a consumer product may need to be downsized to fit into the Japanese home. Product packaging is almost as important as the product itself and may have to be redesigned to appeal to Japanese tastes.

Q: What should businesses consider when planning an export strategy for Japan?

A: Businesses should consider completing a market assessment to gain a complete understanding of demand for their product, the competition, marketing channels and launch strategy.

Q: What is the biggest myth about doing business with Japan, and what is the reality?

A: A major myth is that the Japanese market is saturated. Actually, the Japanese market is very receptive to innovations and trends, be it futuristic electronic products or cutting-edge medical devices. Japanese consumers appreciate high-quality or unique products, so international products that meet these specifications will do well.

Q: What is the economic outlook for Japan in the coming years?

A: After a period of stagnation in the 1990s and the global slowdown of the 2000s, Japan’s economy has returned to strong annual growth rates over the last decade. Today, Japan has a robust manufacturing sector that is strong across the board, with specialized strength in shipbuilding, food processing, chemicals and motor vehicles, among other types of products.

Q: How does WEDC help businesses sell in Japan?

A: WEDC has an in-country trade representative in Japan that can perform market assessments and partner searches for Wisconsin companies. In September 2019, WEDC will lead a Global Trade Venture to Japan to coincide with the Midwest U.S.–Japan Conference. This is essentially a market assessment and partner search trip. For a subsidized fee of $2,200, WEDC will arrange high-potential one-on-one meetings for each participating business and take care of the logistics and hotel accommodations.

Q: What is your biggest piece of advice for businesses looking to begin exporting to Japan?

A: Successful collaborations with Japanese partners require a strong foundation in friendship built over a period of time. Patience is often required for the business to grow. Face-to-face communication is especially important in the early stages. It is important to visit partners in Japan, and businesses should also invite their Japanese partners to visit Wisconsin.