News | 29.07.2021

Going for gold in Japan with Japanese Translation

Japanese translation is frequently requested at the best of times, but with athletes from all over the world competing at the Tokyo Olympics, this service is even more popular at present. Aside from being host to the world’s largest sporting event, Japan is also the world’s 3rd largest economy and represents a huge commercial opportunity for many businesses looking to export.

With that in mind, from meeting etiquette through to the importance of Japanese translation, we’ve put together 10 points which should be taken into consideration when visiting or doing business in Japan.

  1. Have business cards at the ready

Business cards have a much greater significance in Japan than in Western culture. You should obtain a Japanese translation of your card and when presenting it, offer your business card by holding in it both hands and with your information facing the person you’re giving the card to.

When receiving a card, you should place them into a card holder and never put them in your trouser pocket.

  1. Practice your formal greetings

Politeness and respect are highly valued in Japan, especially in business. When greeting someone, you should bow at a 30 degree angle, as you state your name.

When meeting someone for the first time, you should try to introduce yourself in Japanese. The simplest phrase to remember when introducing yourself is: “Hajimemashite. [Name] desu.” This means: “I’m [Name]. Nice to meet you.” However, there are also other simple Japanese translations you can learn in advance.

  1. Translate your meeting slides

Never use an English-language presentation. Foreign company executives should always use a translation into Japanese of marketing materials. All our Japanese translators are native speakers with years of practise and are on hand to ensure your presentations are accurate and appropriate.

Working with a translation agency to perform a translation into Japanese of other materials, such as brochures, websites, videos and manuals is also key in order to show your commitment to the target market.

  1. Timeliness is key

Schedules are very tight in Japan, and meetings will start and end promptly without extra padding either side and it can be advisory to confirm your meeting one to two days in advance, especially if senior members are attending. You should also plan to arrive at the meeting venue in comfortable time, some 10 to 20 minutes beforehand, ensuring you are present and ready to attend the meeting 5 minutes ahead of the scheduled time.

  1. Getting your point across

Having a Japanese interpreter shows respect and consideration to the Japanese people you are doing business with. When you are speaking, ensure you speak in short bursts and try to avoid rhetorical questions and idioms. If possible, it is advisable to give the interpreter as much reference information and background as possible. Likewise, if you have had Japanese translations undertaken previously, it is a good idea to share these with the interpreter.

  1. Gift giving

If you intend on bringing a gift for those you are doing business with, ensure they are professionally wrapped. Symbolism can be derived from the colour and style of the gift wrapping, so it’s best to leave it to the professionals! Like business cards, gifts should be presented and accepted with both hands.

  1. Working in order

Rank is very important in Japan, so it’s important to wait to be seated when in a meeting. Generally, the highest-ranking people and guests sit near the head or centre of the table but to be safe and avoid embarrassment, wait until you are shown which chair to sit in.

  1. Dress code etiquette

For both men and women, it’s ideal to dress conservatively in neutral colours. Wearing a black suit, white shirt, and black tie is often considered as funeral attire, so it’s best to choose colours like navy and grey.

If wearing a coat over your blazer or suit, remove the overcoat and drape it over your arm before entering the building.

  1. Dinner invites

Business meals in Japan often give the opportunity to have more fun and informal interactions with those you are doing business with. Therefore, if you are invited out for lunch or dinner, it is important to accept.

If using chopsticks, never point them at anybody and do not leave them sticking into your rice. When not in use, rest your chopsticks on the holder which will be provided on the table.

  1. Time for tea

Etiquette around drinking tea and coffee can carry a lot of importance in Japan and, as a general rule, you should refrain from drinking the tea/coffee as soon as it is placed in front of you. Often, your host will invite you to begin drinking by saying “Dozo” (which means, “please enjoy the tea/coffee”). If you are not invited to begin drinking after a while however, you can say “Itadakimasu” (which means “I appreciate the tea/coffee and I will enjoy it”), and then start sipping.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are invited to a traditional tea ceremony, you most definitely have to wait until the tea ceremony host says “Dozo” (which they will).

Another useful phrase around tea/coffee etiquette is: “Sekkakunanode” which is suitable for smaller meetings whereby the conversation has distracted you from your drink. This means “thanks for the tea/coffee, I don’t want to leave it untouched so I will enjoy it now”, at which time can have some final sips before you stand up to leave.

You should never leave more than 10%-20% of your tea/coffee in your cup as only having one sip or leaving too much can be considered rude.

It is also important that you say “Arigato gozaimasu” (thank you) to the person who brings the tea/coffee (usually a colleague, who doesn’t attend the meeting). You should also say “Gochisosamadeshita” or “Oishikattadesu” before you leave the meeting (which means “thanks for the good tea/coffee” in this situation), you don’t have to find the person who brought the tea/coffee, it’s just a general “thanks” to the meeting host.


Whether you are already on export journey and looking for Japanese translations, or just exploring your options and wondering where to start – we’re here to help. To find out how The Translation People and our range of translation services and interpreting services can help you take your business to Japan, or indeed any export market throughout the world, get in touch today!



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