Making an entrance

The help you need to succeed in the Japanese market


OCTOBER 2021 Industry Perspectives / Text by Toby Waters 

It’s not easy to introduce a new product to the Japanese market, and it’s even harder for those launching a new business. Thankfully, many have been through the process before. There are expert guides who can help others down the path to a successful launch in Japan.

Getting the right advice

There are many business development firms operating in Japan. The best will offer you a diverse range of services, as Boyden Japan does.

“We assist multinational companies entering the Japanese market by showing them how to navigate Japan’s business and cultural nuances at the individual, organisational, and governmental level,” says Stephen Irish, PhD, managing partner. “The success of every market entrant relies on its leaders, and we help identify bilingual, bicultural, and diverse leaders capable of operating in an international environment.”

PMC Japan’s broad offering can help to maximise opportunity while minimising risk.

“Our services are aimed at helping non-Japanese companies to avoid common missteps when entering the Japan market,” says Martial Meyssignac, representative director. “We can assist in many areas, including local representation offices, communication services, set-up and management of integrated subsidiaries, market research, local partner searches, contract negotiations, and client follow-ups. We help companies to mitigate risks while expanding their footprint here.”

Rising above the difficulties

Japan presents a number of distinctive hurdles for companies entering the market. It takes real expertise to overcome these obstacles.

“Most of our clients understand the challenges of finding talent in Asia, but they are often surprised at just how much more difficult it is in Japan,” Boyden Japan’s Irish explains. “Our advice is to understand that the employment market in Japan is unique, and to leverage appropriate strategies and engage trusted partners to achieve success.”

Stephane Beaulieu, CEO of First Step Japan, agrees that getting used to Japan’s business environment can be tough. However, it is ultimately worth it.

“There are tremendous opportunities in the Japanese market, but it is challenging to navigate,” he says. “Understanding regulations is only the tip of the iceberg. It can take years to figure out logistics, distribution, relationship-based business dealings, and consumer psyche. A local consultant gives you access to the knowledge, infrastructure, and networks that make it easier to succeed.”

Get connected

One of the best ways to navigate the complex Japanese market when first starting out is to work closely with local partners.

“Our clients can enter the Japanese market easily using the infrastructure and network that we have developed over many years,” says First Step Japan’s Beaulieu. “Our standing agreements with service providers allow our clients to launch their products and services either through B2B arrangements or directly to consumers through e-commerce platforms, which we can set up and/or manage.”

Meyssignac agrees that this approach is a reliable way to get started in Japan.

“For most European exporters, the Japanese market offers very interesting — and highly profitable — opportunities. However, Japan is a very demanding market where local partnerships require a strong, long-term commitment,” he says. “Therefore, we always insist on having local partners so that exporters can have the support that will make their projects a success.”

With the right help, getting your business started in Japan doesn’t have to be difficult.