The Comprehensive Guide to Business Japanese, from Vocabulary Words to Essential Etiquette

Doing business in Japanese has different rules than you may be used to. 

There’s a maze of customs to navigate, from properly addressing your superiors to the etiquette of negotiations. 

Whether you’re diving into the polite world of emails and phone calls or gearing up for important negotiations, we’ve got you covered with practical tips and a sprinkle of cultural wisdom


Essential Business Etiquette

Bowing Etiquette

Bowing is a deeply ingrained cultural gesture in Japan, expressing respect and deference. The deeper the bow, the greater the respect shown.

Types of bows include: 

  • 会釈 (Eshaku): A slight nod, used for casual greetings or acknowledging someone.
  • 敬礼 (Keirei): A deeper bow, used for greetings, apologies, and showing gratitude.
  • 最敬礼 (Saikeirei): The deepest bow, used for utmost respect and apologies.


When addressing colleagues, superiors and clients, it’s important to use the appropriate honorifics:

  • さん (-san): General term of respect used for colleagues, clients and acquaintances.
  •  ( -sama ): Used for customers, superiors and guests to show high respect.
  • 先生 (-sensei): Used for teachers, doctors and other professionals.

敬語 (Keigo) is a complex system of grammar and vocabulary used to show respect and social distance. Different levels of keigo exist, depending on the relationship between the speaker and the listener.

Mastering keigo isn’t essential for basic business interactions, but it does demonstrate cultural awareness and respect.

Business Cards

Business cards, known as 名刺  (meishi) are considered an extension of oneself and treated with utmost respect.

There are a few rules of etiquette you should follow to avoid a business card faux pas: 

  • Present the card with the Japanese side facing the recipient, using both hands.
  • Accept the card with both hands, bowing slightly.
  • Read the card carefully and acknowledge the recipient’s title and position before putting it away.

More Information About Business Culture

Here are a few more tips for Japanese business settings: 

  • Japanese companies are very hierarchical, with clear lines of authority and decision-making flowing from the top down.
  • Companies typically have a pyramidal structure with well-defined job titles.
  • Gifts are a common way to build relationships and show appreciation in Japanese business culture. The act of giving and receiving gifts is as important as the value of the gift itself.
  • Networking is essential for building relationships and finding business opportunities. Be patient, respectful, and willing to invest time in developing relationships.
  • Punctuality is paramount in Japanese business culture. Being late is considered disrespectful and unprofessional.
    Early is best: Aim to arrive at least 5-10 minutes early for meetings and appointments.
  • Dress code in business situations leans towards conservative and professional attire, and a well-groomed appearance is essential. Suits with a tie are expected, dark colors preferred. 

Essential Business Vocabulary

Be prepared to head into the office with these common words, phrases, greetings and polite expressions in a business context. 

おはようございます Ohayou gozaimasuGood morning
こんにちは KonnichiwaGood afternoon
こんばんは KonbanwaGood evening
失礼いたします Shitsurei itashimasuExcuse me (used when entering or leaving a room or conversation)
よろしくお願いいたします Yoroshiku onegaishimasuPlease (used when making a request or at the end of a meeting)
お疲れ様でした Otsukaresama deshitaThank you for your hard work
ご苦労様です Gokurousama desuThank you for your hard work
ありがとうございます Arigatou gozaimasuThank you
すみません SumimasenExcuse me / I'm sorry
失礼いたします Shitsurei itashimasuExcuse me (used when entering or leaving a room or conversation)
お願いいたします OnegaishimasuPlease / I request
お疲れ様です Otsukaresama desuThank you for your hard work (used during work)
初めまして HajimemashiteNice to meet you
ごめんください Gomen kudasaiMay I come in? / Excuse me
名刺 MeishiBusiness card
仕事 ShigotoWork
会議 KaigiMeetng
プレゼンテーション PurezenteeshonPresentation
取引先 TorihikisakiBusiness partner
報告書 HoukokushoReport
提案 TeianProposal
契約 KeiyakuContract
予算 YosanBudget
目標 MokuhyouObjective
部下 BukaSubordinate / Junior
上司 JoushiBoss / Superior
協力 KyouryokuCooperation
お知らせ OshiraseAnnouncement
承認 ShouninApproval
進捗報告 Shinchoku houkokuProgress report
質問 ShitsumonQuestion
面接 MensetsuJob interview
会社 KaishaCompany
社長 ShachouPresident / CEO
部門 BumonDepartment
プロジェクト PurojekutoProject
経営 KeieiManagement
取引 TorihikiTransaction / Business
契約 KeiyakuContract
顧客 KokyakuCustomer / Cliet
マーケティング MaaketinguMarketing
販売 HanbaiSales
利益 RiekiProfit
損失 SosshitsuLoss
予算 YosanBudget
経済 KeizaiEconomy
投資 ToushiInvestment
雇用 KoyouEmployment
労働者 RoudoushaWorker
資本 ShihonCapital
企業文化 Kigyou BunkaCorporate Culture
戦略 SenryakuStrategy
評価 HyoukaEvaluation
交渉 KoushouNegotiation
リーダーシップ RiidaashippuLeadership
ビジネスモデル Bijinesu ModeruBusiness model

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Industry-specific Vocabulary

Finance Industry

金融 KinyuuFinance
資産管理 Shisan KanriAsset management
投資 ToushiInvestment
取引 TorihikiTransaction
株式市場 Kabushiki ShijouStock market
貯金 ChokinSavings
貸し出し KashidashiLending
債権 SaikenBond
ポートフォリオ PootoforioPortfolio
リスク管理 Risuku KanriRisk management
指数 ShisuuIndex
企業財務 Kigyou ZaimuCorporate finance
ヘッジファンド HejjifandoHedge fund
財務諸表 Zaimu ShohyouFinancial statements
信用評価 Shin'you HyoukaCredit rating
為替レート Kawase ReetoExchange rate
ペイメント PeimentoPayment
ローン RoonLoan
ファンド FandoFund
証券取引所 Shouken TorihikijoSecurities exchange
信託 ShintakuTrust
仲介手数料 Chuukai TesuuryouBrokerage fee

Technology Industry

技術 GijutsuTechnology
ソフトウェア SofutoweaSoftware
ハードウェア HaadoueaHardware
プログラミング Puroguramingu Programming
データベース DeetabeesuDatabase
クラウドコンピューティング Kuraudo KonpyuutinguCloud computing
アルゴリズム ArugorizumuAlgorithm
人工知能 Jinkou ChinouArtificial Intelligence (AI)
サイバーセキュリティ Saibaa SekyuritiCybersecurity

Hospitality Industry

ホスピタリティ HosupitaritiHospitality
ホテル HoteruHotel
予約 YoyakuReservation
フロントデスク Furonto DesukuFront desk
客室 KyakushitsuGuest room
宿泊料金 Shukuhaku RyokinAccommodation fee
朝食付き Choushoku-tsukiBreakfast included
清掃サービス Seisou SaabisuHousekeeping service
アメニティ AmenitiAmenity
宴会場 EnkaijouBanquet hall
イベントプランナー Ibento PurannaaEvent planner
ホステス HosutesuHostess
エグゼクティブスイート Eguzekutibu SuiitoExecutive suite
バレーサービス Baree SaabisuValet Service

Healthcare Industry

医療 IryouHealthcare
病院 ByouinHospital
診察室 ShinsatsushitsuExamination Room
患者 KanjaPatient
看護師 KangoshiNurse
医師 IshiDoctor
処方箋 ShohousenPrescription
薬局 YakkyokuPharmacy
手術 ShujutsuSurgery
手術室 ShujutsushitsuOperating Room
救急 KyuukyuuEmergency
救急車 KyuukyuushaAmbulance
検査 KensaExamination
検査室 KensashitsuExamination room
診断 ShindanDiagnosis
治療 ChiryouTreatment
リハビリテーション RihabiriteeshonRehabilitation
入院 NyuuiHospitalization
退院 TaiinDischarge from Hospital
歯科医院 Shika IinDental clinic
精神保健 Seishin HokenMental health Insurance

Education Industry

教育 KyouikuEducation
学校 GakkouSchool
先生 SenseiTeacher
生徒 SeitoStudent
教室 KyoushitsuClassroom
教材 KyouzaiTeaching materials
カリキュラム KarikyuramuCurriculum
試験 ShikenExam
成績 SeisekiGrades
授業料 JugyouryouTuition fee
学位 GakuiDegree
大学 DaigakuUniversity
専門学校 SenmongakkouVocational school
小学校 ShougakkouElementary school
中学校 ChuugakkouMiddle school
高校 KoukouHigh school
大学院 DaigakuinGraduate school
教授 KyoujuProfessor
留学 RyugakuStudy abroad
教育政策 Kyouiku SeisakuEducation policy
教育機関 Kyouiku KikanEducational Institution
教育改革 Kyouiku KaikakuEducation Reform

Real Estate Industry

不動産 FudousanReal estate
物件 BukkenProperty
賃貸 ChintaiRental
売買 BaibaiBuying and selling
住宅 JuutakuResidential property
商業用不動産 Shougyouyou FudousanCommercial real estate
土地 TochiLand
建物 TatemonoBuilding
不動産業者 Fudousan GyoushaReal estate agent
仲介手数料 Chuukai TesuuryouBrokerage fee
抵当権 TeitoukenMortgage
リース RiisuLease
住宅ローン Juutaku RoanHome loan
物件評価 Bukken HyoukaProperty appraisal
賃貸契約 Chintai KeiyakuLease agreement
土地区画整理事業 Tochi Kukaku Seiri JigyouLand Readjustment Project
建築許可 Kenchiku KyokaBuilding permit
賃料 ChinryouRent
物件管理 Bukken KanriProperty management
住宅開発 Juutaku KaihatsuHousing development
不動産価格 Fudousan KakakuReal estate prices
田舎の不動産 Inaka no FudousanRural real estate
マンション ManshonCondominium
共同住宅 Kyoudou JuutakuCooperative housing

Business Japanese Email Communication

In Japanese business communication, email etiquette is crucial. The structure and tone of emails are typically more formal than in Western cultures.

Common email phrases include a polite greeting like this one:

お世話になっております (Osewa ni natteimasu) — I appreciate your help

This is followed by a concise subject line that clearly states the purpose of the email.

When writing business emails, it’s customary to express gratitude using phrases like these:

ご協力ありがとうございます (Gokyōryoku arigatou gozaimasu) — Thank you for your cooperation

お手数をおかけしますが (Otesuu o okake shimasuga) — I apologize for the trouble, but…

The use of honorifics, such as -さん (san), adds politeness to the communication.

Conclude with expressions of gratitude and a polite closing remark like:

敬具 (Keigu) — Sincerely.

Maintaining a formal and respectful tone is crucial for effective written communication in a Japanese business context.

Business Japanese Telephone Etiquette

Some business exchanges are better handled in person. When that isn’t possible, a phone call is often sufficient. 

As with many other aspects of Japanese culture and society, formality and politeness is important. Begin with a polite greeting:

失礼いたします (Shitsurei itashimasu) — Excuse me for interrupting

お電話ありがとうございます (Odenwa arigatou gozaimasu) —  Thank you for calling

Then, state your name and the name of your company or department. For example:

こちらは [Your Name] と申します。 [Company/Department Name] でございます。 (Kochira wa [Your Name] to moushimasu. [Company/Department Name] de gozaimasu.) — This is [Your Name] speaking. I’m with [Company/Department Name].

Taking messages and leaving voicemails is pretty much the same as in English: Provide a clear and concise summary, including the caller’s name, contact number and the purpose of the call. If leaving a voicemail, articulate the message clearly, repeat essential details and conclude with a polite expression of gratitude.

Ready to end the phone call?  Express gratitude for the conversation using some call ending phrases:

お世話になりました (Osewa ni narimashita) — Thank you for your assistance

お疲れ様でした (Otsukaresama deshita) — Thank you for your hard work

Offer further assistance if needed, with a formal conclusion like:

どうぞよろしくお願いいたします  (Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu) — Thank you, and I look forward to your continued cooperation

Meetings and Presentations

Need to make a presentation or take part in an office meeting? Here are some vocabulary words to help you along:

Vocabulary for Meetings

会議 kaigimeetings
開催する kaisai suruto hold a meeting
資料 shiryoumaterials/documents
議題 gidaiagenda
出席者 shussekishaattendees
議長 gichouchairperson
議事録 gijirokumeeting minutes

Vocabulary for Presentations

発表する happyousuruto present
資料作成 shiryou sakuseipresentation preparation
スライド suraidoslides
視覚的に分かりやすい shikakuteki ni wakariyasuivisually understandable
要点 youtenkey points
質疑応答 shitsugi outouQ&A session

Phrases for Expressing Opinions

私は思う Watashi wa omouI think...
それに賛成です Sore ni sansei desuI agree with that
私は異議があります Watashi wa igi ga arimasuI have a different opinion
それは確かにそうですね Sore wa tashika ni sou desu neThat's certainly true
同感です Doukansu desuI feel the same way
その通りです Sono toori desuThat's correct
そうとは思いません Sou to wa omoimasenI don't think so
私は異なる意見です Watashi wa kotonaru iken desuI have a different opinion

Presenting Data and Information Clearly

まず初めに Mazu hajime niFirst of all
今日は~についてお話しいたします Kyou wa ~ ni tsuite ohanashi itashimasuToday, I will talk about...
重要なポイントはこれです Jyuyou na pointo wa kore desuThe important point is this
要点を整理しましょう Youten o seiri shimashouLet's organize the key points
以上が私のプレゼンテーションです Ijou ga watashi no purezenteeshon desuThat concludes my presentation
ご質問がありましたらお聞かせください Go shitsumon ga arimashitara okikase kudasaiIf you have any questions, please feel free to ask

Negotiations and Business Deals

When it’s time to strike a deal, there are a few elements of Japanese business culture to consider:

  • Relationship-building is essential in Japanese business culture. Invest time in developing a personal connection before diving into negotiations.
  • Japanese negotiation is often indirect and may require you to pay attention to non-verbal cues and read between the lines.
  • Decisions are typically made collectively in Japanese businesses. Build consensus rather than focusing solely on individual agreements.
  • Japanese culture values thoroughness, so be sure to prepare well for negotiations.
  • Understand and respect hierarchical structures: Decision-making may involve consultation with superiors.
  • Recognize that decisions may take time and involve multiple levels of approval. Be patient and avoid rushing the process.

Here are some vocabulary words you may need to know for your negotiations:

契約 KeiyakuContract
条件 JōkenTerms
同意書 Dōi-shoAgreement
合意 GōiConsensus
取引条件 Torihiki JōkenTrading Terms
契約期間 Keiyaku KikanContract Period
契約解除 Keiyaku KaijoContract Termination
違約金 Iyaku-kinPenalty for Breach of Contract
規定 KiteiStipulation
契約書 Keiyaku-shoContract Document
交渉 KōshōNegotiation
保証 HoshōGuarantee
終了条項 Shūryō JōkōTermination Clause
機密保持契約 Kimitsu Hoji KeiyakuNon-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
法的拘束力 Hōteki KōsokuryokuLegal Binding


With these vocabulary words and cultural notes, you’ll feel at home when conducting business in Japanese.

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