Japanese workers are often viewed as working hard all day and never missing work.

This is called being loyal to one’s company, and it is a core value in Japan. However, it does not apply to just companies, but also to suppliers and customers.
So if you want to enter the Japanese market or work in Japan, you will need to have an understanding of what loyalty means and the ways people display it.

Seller – Buyer

It is a fundamental aspect for Japanese salespeople to build a strong relationship with buyers as it is part of their jobs. As a result, many buyers have only one supplier for specific products. At the same time, suppliers should not commit a mistake, or too many mistakes, since their buyers trust them.

This kind of intimacy might be difficult to understand from a western perspective and many companies failed to enter the Japanese market because they are unable to break through with loyalty. This is a barrier for many even if foreign brands have an advantage it is not enough. Foreign entrepreneurs have to understand how Japanese firms work and copy them, especially if they hire Japanese employees. Almost 40% of managers felt intense stress from working with foreigners, according to Niconico News and J-Cast, partly because foreigners did not understand how to work in a Japanese company.

For foreign firms, business relationships are less oriented toward the long term. This is one of the main concerns of Japanese businesses this is a transaction costs to maintain a business relationship with them.

So, what do you do to attract companies’ attention? First, a business experience in Japan is better than being a famous brand. It is the quality of the product and its durability or performance. An innovative product from a company will attract more buyers, even if ordering from a Japanese company is preferable for them.

To quickly build a relationship with buyers, you must meet their demands quickly and even exceed them. Please know that the quality requirement is quite high. For example, Japanese firms located in the U.S. would prefer to buy parts from Japan rather than buying locally. Also choosing a single-source supplier will help your business be and stay competitive, will reduce the total cost, and create a stronger bond between the buyer and the supplier.
It is not about the price tag. Most importantly, you need to understand Japanese culture, learn the language, or hire people who do.

Nelson Mandela said, ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’

Worker – Company

The concept of faithfulness was present during the era of the samurai when warriors preferred dying rather than betraying their masters. As a consequence, employees prefer working for the same company all their life to display loyalty.

So, it is common for companies to punish ‘disloyal’ workers if they do something against their companies’ interests, even if it is in the public interest. These ‘disloyal’ workers are those who can be fired, demoted, or get pay cuts. The companies’ secrets are kept by ‘loyal employees’, which has led to disastrous consequences and scandals in the past.

Even if new laws are enacted to support whistleblowers and minds are changing, the concept of loyalty is still an important value in Japan.

Unlike Europe or America, working for a company for life is extremely valued. Think of it like team spirit. Overwork is almost compulsory to be better integrated in a Japanese company and the work is not always very productive. Working hard does not have the same meaning in Japan than in the West. The time aspect working is more important than productivity itself. So it can be seen negatively to leave after one’s boss, so many employees stay late to make a good impression. As a consequence, they work slowly or do something else. Japanese people, however, often speak positively about their company as being part of a team means is being part of a family. 

Company – Customer

Nowadays, the Japanese working system is criticized by foreigners, however, it is a result of centuries of tradition. These differences should not be misunderstood and therefore it is essential to learn about its culture and tradition. You should learn how Japanese people think and not judge them too fast. This will help you integrate better into their society and feel more at ease.

Check out our article to see how to build customer trust in Japan.