Doing Business In Japan: Lessons From The Pandemic

When the pandemic begin and Japan began to restrict entry to the country for non-Japanese citizens, I thought our business was dead in the water for the foreseeable future.

This is because the “traditional” way to find distributors in Japan has always been to visit the country to meet potential partners.

How were our clients going to do this if they couldn’t even get into Japan?

I’m happy to say that I was completely wrong…

In fact, we’ve been busier over the last two years than ever before and we’ve helped numerous clients find distribution partners in Japan… even clients selling highly technical products that need a lot of training and support.

No long plane rides… no face-to-face meetings… and no jet lag. 

Distribution agreement negotiated via Zoom calls and email.

Fortunately, I completely underestimated the ability of Japanese companies to adapt themselves to changing circumstances.

Japan has always been a face-to-face culture with a high value placed on in-person meetings.

Covid forced this to change.

Japanese companies sent their staff home and everyone started using Zoom and other video conferencing platforms for both internal meetings and meetings with external partners such as suppliers and customers.

The result is that most Japanese are now very comfortable with the technology and see video calls as a viable alternative to face-to-face meetings. In fact, many see it as a more efficient way to get things done.

This is great news for non-Japanese companies that want to business in Japan.

Potential sales partners in Japan are now very open to doing a “first date” video call to see whether there is a fit between their business and your products.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the end of business travel to Japan…

But it does mean that you can now focus on face-to-face meetings with companies that you have already built a relationship with remotely… rather than have your schedule packed with initial “get to know each other” meetings with potential partners.