Understanding Japanese Culture in Business and the Business Vocabular

Understanding Japanese Culture in Business and the Business Vocabular

Japanese is not an easy language to learn, thus it is said to be “deep.” Even Japanese people cannot completely master their mother tongue perfectly. It is natural for international students to have difficulty in acquiring the language.

Even after foreigners are able to handle daily conversation, they have difficulties in business situations, such as during job hunting. What should you be aware of in order to master Japanese language in business scenes, so-called “business Japanese”?

Requirements for the acquisition of Business Japanese

In addition to having basic Japanese knowledge, the following three points are key to acquiring business Japanese.

1. Being Flexible: Changing Your Language Depending on WHO and WHEN

In business, it is top priority to figure out the relationships with your boss, colleagues, business partners and customers. After the relationship is defined, it is necessary to distinguish the distinct Japanese honorific, polite language, humble language, and command language.

In addition to the person who are speaking to, you have to change your language according to the business scene; meetings, negotiations or a brief chat. There are situations where you should speak differently even when speaking to the same person, when you are in a different occasion. In the “humble” Japanese business culture, people tend to be modest about themselves, sometimes too modest, and this also influences their speech.

2. Common Usage of Indirect Communications

Telephone and e-mail are used quite often. In those cases, it is more difficult to use proper language than face to face communication.

3. Making Documents and Reading Comprehension is Necessary

Reading and creating documents will be a common task once you work in a company. From daily reports to formal documents to show within and outside of the company, one must acquire correct Japanese business language.

Start Studying Early

Business Japanese cannot be acquired immediately, therefore, it is essential to start studying early.

In addition to basic honorific, learning Japanese business culture will help you use the correct language and attitude. These are few ideas of business cultures and notions that are distinct to Japan.

  • Structured organization within each company
  • Emphasis on details, customer service, and understanding of culture within and outside of companies
  • Basic business manners
  • Details on how to communicate with colleagues or your boss
  • Emphasis on cooperation and teamwork


There are certain customs in Japanese business culture. Knowing the culture and how the company functions will enable you to be better prepared for job hunting. You can start by reading related books and by asking your friends who are already working.

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