Do Japanese Distributors Speak English?

Clients also often ask whether they’ll have trouble communicating with potential Japanese distributors and agents and wonder if they’ll need an interpreter or translator to do business in Japan.

In our experience, this isn’t necessary because distributors that are already importing and distributing foreign products almost always have employees who can speak English.


For smaller companies, this is usually the president or sales manager. In larger firms, there will be one or more employees assigned the task of working with the foreign companies that the distributor represents. These employees are typically fluent in English and act as the liaison between these foreign companies and the distributor.

Clients also wonder if they should create add Japanese language pages to their website for potential Japanese visitors.

I suggest that you coordinate this with your Japanese distributor. The best translations are done by someone who both fluent in Japanese and familiar with the terminology of your industry. Your distributor will usually either do the necessary translations themselves or use an external translator that they trust.

They will often also create a Japanese-language website to promote your products.

Here’s an example of a site that a Japanese importer of leather goods created for one of the imported brands that it carries.


Here’s another example. This is a site that their Japanese distributor created for one of our French clients.

Don’t use Google Translate to translate your site into Japanese or to communicate with potential Japanese sales partners. Google Translate works well for getting a rough understanding of foreign language websites but the translations it produces will leave any Japanese visitor to your site scratching their head in confusion.

Next article: How to evaluate potential distributors

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