What do you know about trading with Japan?

I must confess that when I arranged my appointment with the Head of the Chamber of Hispanic -Japanese trade, I was not disappointed, but sad. I am not really interested in trade, but as long as the interview unfolded, the Head of the Chamber managed to raise my interest about the issue. I can say that those two hours of listening an expert were amazing and I hope that all of you really enjoy as much as I did.

First of all mention that the interview was divided into two different but related parts. The first one was about how to work with Japanese; meanwhile the second was related to several tips or curious Japanese issues.

As I said above this line, my interview turned around a course that will take place throughout the Chamber of Hispanic – Japanese trade next month in Madrid. The course will be called “work with Japanese”. And thus, it could not be otherwise, my first question was related to how do Spanish enterprises work with Japanese.

Mr Miguel A. Martínez Massa, whom I have forgotten to introduce his self, is the Head of the Chamber. He began the interview by presenting the Chamber and by telling me how did it work. –I must tell you I had not idea about its existence!

Mr. Miguel Martínez Massa.  Head of the Spanish-Japanese Chamber

Mr. Miguel Martínez Massa.
Head of the Spanish-Japanese Chamber

Thus, in order to let you know a bit about the institution just mention that it was created 61 years ago in Barcelona and that its main aims were to bring knowledge of codes and protocols to Japanese trade relations, shortening distances and recommending which steps must be followed in relation to each situation. The Chamber does not have any physical office, but it is enough for them to work through Internet.

Then, our next point –and probably the most important- was related to cultural differences between both countries. He suggested that culture is the main fact that is provoking that Spanish companies do not obtain desired results in Japan.

As happens in each culture, Japanese people have their own cultural code. Thus, without a slightest notion of it, our business objectives within the Japanese market will be delayed. Therefore, highlight the importance of seeking advice as well as the figure of the intermediary in order to avoid backfire provoked by direct contact without having a good preparation.

So, what should we know in order to trade with Japanese? Easy.

Mr Martínez said that exporters must not only know about the consumers to whom the product is addressed, profiles, requirements but also they should take into account what we can call “obsessions”. What did he means by obsessions? Perfect, here is where we can include the second part of the interview.

First tip! Be patient! Japanese do business with a long-term view. They first have to trust on you. They do not touch each other, even less in public. Also, do not forget “Ringis system”. This concept defines a collective, holistic and harmonious decision-making process that starts with a written proposal that circulates to all people within the company –tateshakai. In conclusion, every negotiation is not only hard but also long because they try to avoid any margin of error.

Second tip! They do not think they are so clever. Do the same. They all like to go unnoticed. Do not boast. Show yourself transparent. In case of errors in our relations with them, it is extremely important to recognize the mistake quickly without blaming others. Just apologize and offer good solutions. They will not judge you.

Regarding this issue and as an anecdote mention that he told me, just say that Japanese are not conflictive. They solve problems by talking. Even traffic accidents end in bars –they love beer! Because of that, there are lesser lawyers in Japan that in Manhattan Island!

            What else? Forget about Japanese myths! Japanese strike? They do not even know about it. However, they do give importance to forms. They wear dark suits, always distinguishing between sport and business. Take care of the visiting card. They define them as their selves. Attach it properly; translate it into Chinese in order to facilitate communication.

Take also care of documents and catalogues. Try to submit them in Japanese. Also, it is important to prepare a Japanese version of the website of the company.

Do you all know about the inclination as a greeting? It is called “ojiki”. The more that you lean your body, the more respect you show. Do not forget to do it!

After all and not related with the above I asked him about what was Spanish doing different from Japan to tackle the economic crisis. His answer was clear and concise. I easily understood him and I hope you also do it.

Obviously corruption is everywhere, even in Japan –overcoat in multinationals. The main difference is that when someone is accused for corruption in Japan, resign, and even commit suicide. Here in Spain is… still there”.

Finally, Mr Martínez ended interview by saying that trading with Japan could be a success by taking into account the following words: preparation and prior negotiation; commitment; quality control; personal relationships; and last but not least originality.

Japan is a difficult market to enter at an early stage because of the severe competition. However, it is a misconception to believe that doing business with Japan is completely different from other countries.

Interesting documents related to Japan that Mr. Martínez gave to me!

Interesting documents related to Japan that Mr. Martínez gave to me!

Just say thank you to Mr. Martínez! It was a pleasure for me to meet you!

Do not hesitate to take a look at the Chambers’ web!


María Martínez Gutiérrez










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