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As a result of learning about the geography, climate, history, religion, cultural rituals, politics, education system, and the role of the family; it will allow a business or business person the insight needed to understand how society functions and the method in which business is conducted. Geography & Climate Japan is an island nation that is located across the Japanese Sea. Japan consists of the islands of Hokkaiodo, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu (Yamada & Kurashige, 2003). The landscape of Japan is seventy-one percent mountainous (“Population Demographics,” 2007).
Japan is a small country that is situated in the northern temperate zone. Japan experiences the four seasons similar to that of North America. Japan experiences typhoons which are a lot stronger than their sister hurricanes in the Atlantic (Yamada & Kurashige, 2003). Religion Over eighty-four percent of the people in Japan observe Buddhism, Shinto or a combination of both. Confucianism from China added loyalty and hierarchy to the mix, and Taoism gave order and sanction to the system of government.
The introduction of Buddhism brought contemplative religious aspects and helped to develop their culture of art and architecture.
With the addition of Christianity, western ideas most importantly social justice and reform were infused into society (Long, 1994). Religion is not a large part of the Japanese society, but people will usually practice such holidays as birthdays, weddings and funerals (“Japan,” 2007). Recent History Japan went through major change during the World War II, when most of their cities and infrastructure was damaged or destroyed. After the war, they drafted a new constitution and the population of Japan began rebuilding the country.
In only a few decades, Japan become the second largest economy in the world.
In the 1990s, Japan suffered and economic down turn because of scandals and over-investment. The Asian economic crisis of 1998 caused Japan to experience its worst recession since World War II (“Japan: History,” 2007). From 2003 onward the economy has been improving, even surpassing at one point, that of the United States and E. U. (“Economy of Japan,” 2007). Current Issues in Japan Political Issues All foreigners entering the country are to be fingerprinted and photographed in a recent effort to fight terrorism. Also, airlines and ships must provide passenger lists before arriving in the country.
Some may be very reluctant to have their photograph and fingerprints taken. Passenger lists may be time consuming and costly for cruise lines or freight vessels that wish to enter the country. There is pressure from the United States, for Japan to resume refueling of foreign vessels in the Indian Ocean, however there is much opposition within the Japanese government. This opposition may lead to tension between Japan and the United States. This could lead to some negative consequences for United States-Japan trade. (“Chief,” 2007).
The Japanese government has sent a senior foreign minister to Iran to inquire about the kidnapping of Satoshi Nakamura, a Japanese student, more than a month ago. The Iranian Government is ignoring Japan, forcing the Japanese minister to Pakistan to ask for help in this matter (“Official release,” 2007). This will only negatively affect Iranian-Japanese relations. Social Issues Twenty percent of Japan’s population is age sixty or older. At the same time, the country has had a declining birthrate for a few decades. The population of Japan peaked in 2004 and started to decrease afterwards.
The reasoning given is that that more women are working and they do not see it necessary to have children. (“Japan fertility,” 2005). One blogger notes that women may be insecure about having children (Coco, 2006). The shortage of labour will force more older men to stay in the work force as well as force more women into the business world. Economic Issues Japan’s declining birthrate is a major concern for the Japanese economy. The country needs to maintain a healthy population to keep its economy strong; this is proving very difficult (Atsumi, 2007).
One foreseen problem of the low fertility rate is that the already suffering social pension fund could be crippled further (“Japan fertility,” 2005). The Tax Commission has found that taxes must be raised in order the finance the growing social welfare costs. People in Japan are purchasing portable technology, and the Japanese market is showing a sharp decline in purchase of home computers. With the high costs of home computers and the advances in technology could mean a shift in how people use and access the internet.
The companies that produce home computers are now shifting their focus to the developing world (“PCs,” 2007). Social Organization Family Japanese families moved away from their traditional family structures after World War II when the occupying American forces created a new, Western, family ideology. The father still remains the head of most traditional families in Japan, but there are shifts in how a Japanese family is organized. Women, who would have remained at home to manage the household affairs, are now obtaining employment outside of the household.
Since more Japanese women are entering the workforce, the men are being required to take on more of the household and child raising responsibilities (Long, 1994). Another change that has occurred in Japanese society is the idea of the multi-generation family living together. Although common at one time, many elderly people are not living with their families anymore (“Family,” 2007). Roles of Men and Women Japan was traditional a male centered society. However, shortly after World War II women were legally given equal rights as men. A great change came when women started to work outside the household.
Companies in Japan were, and still are, desperate for skilled workers, and with participation of women in the workforce, it helped companies fill their need for workers (Matsui, 2007). Workplace In the workplace, as in other areas of the Japanese collectivist culture, they view themselves as part of a group. Workers are expected to show the utmost loyalty to the firms they work for. Leadership in Japan is not based on a Western values of assertiveness or quick decision making. A good leader in Japan is expected to take the interests of his subordinates into account and create consensus among the group.
Seniority within a group is determined by age and length of service, rather than by individual effort and initiative (Genezberger & et al. , 1996). Their system of group management rewards the team effort and rarely the individual. Often accomplishments are credited to the entire group and not the individual. Individuals are motivated to participate in group activities and maintain harmony. The pride of the individual or the group is expressed through competition with similar groups in the company or other companies (Long, 1994). Proper Etiquette for Doing Business in Japan
Perception of Westerners The Japanese have some common preconceived notions about Westerners. Japanese see Westerners as lacking patience, often interrupting, and being bad listeners. They often see Westerners as being unable to work in teams. They may seeWestern expressions of friendship as insincere. Japanese may sometimes perceive Westerners as being selfish. Business Etiquette & Protocol In Japanese culture personal space is highly respected, they are not a tactile people, and they dislike being crowded. In Japanese culture they try to avoid direct eye contact with other individuals.
When yawning, coughing, or using a toothpick, they cover their mouths. The pointing of feet at another person is considered to be rude, and is therefore important to sit with correct posture. Criticizing and disrespecting authority openly, and being impatient are seen as disrespectful. In business, the personal relationships are far more important than the business itself. In order to do business with a company in Japan formal introductions, patience, flexibility, and respect are vital. Business cards are very important in Japanese business culture, and business people often carry many business cards.
When meeting a business contact for the first time it is important to bow, or shake hands, then exchange business cards. When presenting or receiving a business card one is expected to use both hands and put it in a pocket, above the waist, after carefully reading it. For foreigners, it is common practice to have a Japanese translation on the back of the card (Genezberger et al. , 1996). Men and women are expected to wear are dark and expensive suits. Business women are encouraged to wear conservatively. Business meetings must be scheduled far in advanced.
Before the meeting, Westerners should mail or fax a detailed list outlining what is to be discussed. One must establish relationships with middle and junior level managers or they may resent the person for having bypassed them and feel they have been insulted. When visiting a Japanese company it is customary to remove one’s jacket immediately upon entering and putting it back on as soon as one leave. The leader of the group should introduce each of the group members in descending order of rank. Visitors are to exchange business first with the Japanese executives and then with subordinates in descending order.
In the Japanese culture there is an expectation of receiving a gift at the first meeting. The presentation of the gift can be as or more important that the actual gift itself. Gifts must be given with both hands, and are often rejected a few times before they are accepted. Gifts are not opened when they are received. Certain flowers or potted plants do not make suitable gifts because of the meaning the Japanese associate with them. It is recommended to inform that one informs they are giving a gift beforehand (Roberts. 2007). Socializing ; Eating
Japanese extend their affinity to their groups by socializing outside of work (Long, 1996). Japanese men and women are considered heavy drinkers. Incorrect behaviour while drunk is often forgiven. In Japan it is not expected for one to leave a tip for their servers. In restaurants, where sitting on the group is required, is common practice for men to sit cross-legged and women to sit on their legs or with their legs off to one side. Communication High context High context and low context are two terms used to describe broad differences between cultures.
High context cultures are those where the main aspects of the culture are vague and not explicit. Generally collective cultures tend to be high-context, where much of what is being said is non-verbal, and the level of understanding depends on your relationship with the other party. Japan is a prime example of a high context culture (Beer, 2003). “Face” Saving face means preserving your or someone else’s dignity, self-respect, or good reputation. In cultures that are high-context “face” is a major characteristic. There are many ways that a person might cause the other individual to lose face.
Derogatory remarks, reveling of personal inadequacy, or being forced to compromise a cherished value are ways in which “face” is broken (Face, 2007). Avoiding a loss of “face” generally means never saying “no,” and being politely evasive when conveying disagreement (“Face,” 2007). Greetings When conducting business in Japan, it is very important to know the proper amount of respect owed to individuals. Japan has a very formal and ritualized culture. Bowing is the Japanese custom greeting. How far you bow depends on your relationship with the other individual (Genezberger ; et al. , 1996).
If you were to be greeted for the first time in Japan, it is recommended that one waits to be introduced, since it can be seen as being rude to introduce oneself. Foreigners may be only expected to bow their head slightly or shake hands (“Doing Business,” 2007). Practical Considerations Immigration In an effort to counter terrorism, all foreigners will be finger printed and photographed when entering the country. Japan has an agreement with some countries where only passports are required to enter. Foreigner tourists are required to carry their passports at all times. A visa required if one plans on extending their stay over 90 days.
It usually takes about two days to a week to obtain a Visa, depending on the situation at the embassy you are applying. A single visa costs 3000 yen to obtain. Certain countries have exemptions from paying fees. (“A Guide,” 2007). Travel When traveling in Japan it is recommended that one does not travel long distances, because of cost. However, traveling long distance one can travel by train, highway bus, airplane, or long distances ferries. Renting a car is another possibility for travel. Accommodations For single travelers the prices of hotel rooms will vary depending on the traveler’s budget.
The price range for inexpensive business hotels would cost between 3,500 and 7,000 yen per day. For more expensive business hotels, or Western style hotels the prices can be from 7,000 yen and above. Adaptation and Survival Public washrooms rarely have toilet paper, so one should bring their own. It is important to ask for a “toi”, short for “toilet,” not a “bathroom,” otherwise one may be directed to a room for bathing. When traveling, it is polite to store your backpack or luggage out of the way of other travelers (Haslam, 2002). Heath ; Emergencies All households are required to have a survival kit in case of an earthquake. “Japan Travel,” 2007). English speaking hospitals and services may not be covered by Japanese national health insurance, and could end up costing visitors money (Rogers, 1994). Conclusion Japan is a very collectivist culture and it very apparently in everyday business dealings. To a Western business person business protocol and etiquette may seem very unusual. It is important to understand that their traditions and customs are deeply rooted in their history. However, Japanese people view Western business practices just as unusual, but they are very accommodating to foreign business people. References
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