Working in Japan: How to Brush Up on your Business Manners

  • Working in a Japanese company, especially in Japan, can be a challenge not only to foreigners but also to nationals given that in the Japanese Corporate Culture exist certain “business etiquettes” must be taken into consideration at all times. Because of this, it is advisable to get knowledgeable in the corporate culture and mannerisms of Japanese companies before entering to the first few months of work.

    Out there in the market might be hundreds of online articles, printed books, or videos that address this matter, but I found myself learning and enjoying Japanese business manners from one particular book: Business Manners (ビジネスマナー) by Aibe Hiroko (相部 愽子).


    Author’s photo

    This article is mainly focused on providing some guidance to those (Japanese nationals or foreigners) that will be freshly entering a Japanese company, to those who are interested in joining one, and to those who wish to understand more about Japanese corporate culture in general.

    Kaishain, Working in a Japanese Company

    “Congratulations! You cleared the final interviews, here is your “Naitei” (unofficial offer) from us. ‘What now until your entrance date?’ , you ask. Well, it’s time to start learning Japanese business manners before your entrance date. Here have this book and get ready for an exciting adventure with us.”

    Those were basically the words I received from a H.R. manager after receiving my Naitei from a Japanese company I will be joining soon, along with the book that I will be reviewing in this article.

    Here in Japan, companies have high standards for etiquette and protocol regarding any type of business matter; from how to address co-workers inside the office, dealing with customers in meetings or phone calls, dress code, business lingo, and even etiquette during social gatherings, and others. Generally speaking, Japanese companies are forgiving with their foreigner employees regarding these “complex protocols” that can be mistaken as “culture clashes” or lack of understanding of the Japanese culture.

    However, if you aim to work there (in a Japanese company) for the long-run, I highly advise you to put all your might and start learning (or at least understanding) the intricacies of Japanese business manners. In this way, you will be showing interest in your company’s etiquette and demonstrating that you are integrating into the working society; and hopefully enjoy the benefits of been categorized as someone “capable and knowledgeable” instead of a “cave-man”.

    Learning Business Manners

    The content from this book covers a wide range of topics from proper personal appearance tips, to inside company interactions and roles, to outside company gatherings and proper manners to specific situations among others.

    So far, after 2 weeks of reading the book, I find myself enjoying every little detail in which the information is presented: simple tables, diagrams, concise paragraphs, and with tons of insights and recommendations from the author.

    The following are the 7 sections in which the book is divided:

    1. “Editing” Personal Appearance (身だしなみ編)
    2. Basics of a Salary Man (社会のきほんの”き”)
    3. Correct Words for Correct Correspondence (正しい言葉で正しい対応を)
    4. Course for Interactions that Convey a Good Impression (好印象を与える対応のコツ)
    5. Business Tools to Master (ビジベスツールを使いこなす)
    6. Nomikai is also an Important Job (飲み会も大事な仕事!)
    7. Behave like a Salary Man (社会人らしいふるまいを)

    Each section is highly informational and covers a wide range of subtopics related to the main topic. For instance, section 2 addresses from good manners office manners, the general structure of a company and position-ranks, useful tips to make internal reports and assemble meetings, to proper interaction with clients and business partners.

    Personal Thoughts


    Author’s photo

    Although, this is a book with fairly simple Japanese for people with N3~N2 levels it might become a challenge for those without such skills.

    This book is meant for Japanese that will start or are starting their professional careers, that’s why it’s content is good for foreigners that wish to adapt or understand the unique Japanese working culture.

    I need to say that even after living in Japan for 5.5 years and having salary man friends, I am learning and applying useful concepts from this book to my current Job. And to be honest, some days ago one of my Japanese coworkers even (also new entrant like me) asked me for the book after I finished reading it.


    If I had to rate the book from 0 being “stay away from it” to 5 being “superb, excellent”; I would rate this book with a 4.2.

    The reasons are simple:

    • Content is concise and enjoyable
    • Diagrams are illustrative
    • Wide range coverage of topics
    • Insights of what to do and what not to do
    • Cost is cheap (less than 1,300 yen)
    • Contents can be applied right away

    The reason that I don’t give this book a complete 5 is because it is not meant for foreigners and doesn’t expand more on Japanese honorifics and grammar for business.

    I hope that after reading this review you consider this book as a solid option to buy.

    Related Articles:

    Understanding Japanese Working Culture and Environment
    Are you ready to work in Japan? All about Job Hunting
    What It Takes to be a Japanese Salary Man