An exploration of the unique aspects of the Japanese business world.
Western executives who attempt to do business in Japan without reading this excellent guidebook do so at their own risk. This updated edition of a 2005 work comprises just five chapters, but each comprehensively covers its subject, helpfully segmenting the material into small, digestible chunks. The first chapter’s general description of Japanese culture demonstrates an intimate understanding of the country’s hierarchical society and the importance that its citizens place on work. Chapter 2, “Japanese Social Etiquette,” should prove a vital safety net for any foreign businessperson, offering helpful pointers about such basics as bowing and presenting business cards. Just as importantly, Takei (Sociology/Nihon Univ.) and Alston (co-author: Flock of Dodos, 2007, etc.), a professor emeritus of sociology at Texas A&M University, provide insider information about Japanese etiquette regarding eating and drinking, including common courtesies that differ from American conventions. They even show how to craft an email properly: “the normal U.S. American way of writing emails will be interpreted by Japanese as too direct, impersonal, and even unfriendly.” Readers will likely find the book’s third and fourth chapters to be particularly useful, as they deal with “Work in Japan” and “Negotiations.” The former contains insightful information about how decisions are made and meetings are run: “From the Japanese perspective, there is never an acceptable excuse allowing a participant to show anger or lose his temper. Meetings are also not the places to argue vehemently.” The latter chapter offers on-target advice on how to negotiate with Japanese businessmen, warning that a failure of negotiations is “primarily the result of cultural misunderstandings rather than a lack of attractive economic offers.” It bears mentioning that the text is occasionally a bit repetitive, and the final chapter may have a more limited audience, as it concerns working directly for Japanese executives. After each chapter, the authors suggest additional readings, and an aptly titled “Glossary of Useful Words” explains the complexity of several Japanese terms.
A handy, practical manual for understanding cultural differences from a business perspective.