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Travel Tips: Japan

japan-smallThe purchase of a discount first class airline ticket from Executive Class Travel is only the first step in your trip to Japan. Your next step is understanding the ins and outs of conducting business in accordance with their culture. Here, you will find helpful tips regarding Japanese business customs as well as valuable tips on where to go and what to do while in Japan. Travel tips, currency exchange information, important phrases, and dining etiquette are important things to know not only for a successful business trip but also an enjoyable one.

Japan’s Major Cities

Many people visit Japan every year, both for business and for pleasure. Many of these tourists are drawn to its major cities, including Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya. Professionals traveling to Japan often go to Tokyo, which is the financial heart of Japan and the city with the most business dealings. In addition to being a business and financial hub, Tokyo is also the largest city in Japan and its capital.

Safety Tips

Japan is one of the safest places in the world; however, this does not mean it is entirely without crime. If you should become the victim of a crime or an accident, dial 110 for emergency assistance. If you are suffering from a medical emergency, dial 119 instead. Japan also has police boxes, called Koban, which are staffed by police. These are located throughout Japan and are easy to find. Go to a Koban to report stolen goods or lost items. The U.S. Embassy might also be able to help if you are a victim of a crime.

Electrical Tips

Electronics can be a problem for unprepared professionals planning for Japan travel. Tips for travelers include buying an adapter with two prongs that converts to 100 volts for Japanese outlets. Because Japan’s voltage is close to the voltage in the U.S., some electronics will run fine without a converter. However, having one on hand is a smart backup plan.

Managing Money and Tipping

Exchange rates vary daily, but you should expect the U.S. dollar to equal 100 to 120 Japanese yen. You must fill out a customs declaration if you are leaving Japan with more than 1 million yen. While in Japan, avoid tipping for services rendered, as it may be considered offensive or rude. Tour guides are an exception to this rule, and in some rare cases, inns will accept a tip left in an envelope. Tour guides are the only people who will accept cash tips directly.

Dining in Japan

Dining in Japan is an experience to be remembered, consisting of food that is eclectic, interesting to the palate and eye, and often not what you’ll expect. It is good manners to know how to properly eat the food that is served, particularly when using chopsticks. Loud smacking, belches, or scraping the plate are frowned upon; however, it is customary to slurp when eating soba noodles. When eating in a restaurant, expect to remove your shoes, as it is customary in most restaurants. One of the Japanese business customs associated with dining is to give a toast at business dinners.

Understanding Japan’s Business Etiquette

Respect, loyalty, and politeness are important aspects of Japanese culture. As a result, they are key elements of Japanese business etiquette. The goal of following Japanese business etiquette is to help develop trust between parties, which is critical to business relationships. Because the Japanese do not like confrontation or embarrassment, you should make every effort to avoid situations that may cause them. If a meeting or dinner is scheduled, arrive on time, as punctuality is important and schedules are strict in Japan. When greeting a Japanese professional, a deep bow is a sign of respect and a traditional greeting. When bowing, your hands should be at your sides. Handshakes are a Western form of greeting and not generally practiced in Japan; however, most professionals understand that this is normal for Americans and do not take offense. For others, a handshake may make them uncomfortable, as invading personal space is a sign of rudeness. Also avoid hugs, pats on the back, and standing overly close. Another sign of rudeness is making and holding eye contact for any length of time. If exchanging business cards, only provide crisp, new cards. Do not simply take the offered card; instead, use both hands and take it by the top two corners. You should bow while holding the card before placing it on top of a table or your briefcase. Never stuff the card in a pocket or your briefcase, as this is seen as an insult. Another greeting custom is the exchange of gifts. This should be done with a bow and the use of both hands.

During the course of the meeting, be polite and respectful at all times. Do not attempt to push, pressure, or otherwise strong-arm your way through the meeting. Nod silently in understanding, and never use the word “no.” If it becomes necessary to decline an offer or suggestion, it is normal to use the word “maybe” for “no.” For negotiations, use an interpreter if necessary, and expect to work with middle management as you build trust. Upon closing a deal, a handshake should be given. While conducting business, avoid sitting with your legs crossed, not wearing socks, or wearing socks that are dirty or have holes. Never refuse invitations to lunch, dinner, or drinks, and do’t keep your hands in your pockets or point. Also, avoid mentioning, wearing, or giving things involving the color white, red ink, or the number four, as they are seen as symbols of bad luck and they may negatively impact any business dealings.

Familiarize Yourself With Common Japanese Phrases

Although you may not speak Japanese, it is important to learn how to properly say a few phrases that may benefit you while conducting business. Honorifics are important to learn for the greeting process. Examples of common honorifics include the addition of –san or –sama to one’s last name. When addressing a peer, –san should be used following the person’s last name. If addressing a superior, use the honorific –sama. Keep in mind that first names are rarely used. Some basic phrases that may prove helpful include Konnichiwa for “good afternoon,” Konbanwa for “good evening,” and Hajimemashite for “pleased to meet you!” When parting, you may say “thank you very much” by using the phrase Doomo arigatoo gozaimashita.

Requirements for a Visa

While in Japan, visa requirements must be met if you are staying longer than 90 days. If you are from the United States but are spending less than 90 days in Japan, visa requirements do not apply to you. If you are planning to make a profit during your stay, however, this changes. If you do intend to profit from your activities in the country, you may need to apply for a special type of visa.

Fun Activities in Japan

After your work is complete, shed your corporate attire and enjoy exploring Japan. Because we’re able to help you get an affordable business or first class ticket, you’ll have extra money to spend on souvenirs or seeing the sights. Visit popular destinations like the Imperial Palace, Shinjuku, and the Ginza neighborhood in Tokyo. In Kyoto, there is the Golden Pavilion; Mount Fuji is located near Fuji; and Osaka’s Osaka Castle is also a popular place to visit.