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Country Guide: Japan

With its position as top-three power player in the world economy, innovative culture and passion for tradition, Japan presents the perfect partnership potential for British businesses. With preparation, patience and reciprocal respect for Japan's unique culture, British businesses can tap into these exciting opportunities to export the best that Britain has to offer and form long-lasting and rewarding trading relationships.

Key Export Opportunities:

  • British fashion, textiles and clothing

  • Food and drink, especially British teas, beers, whiskies and biscuits

  • Technology, including cybersecurity and financial technologies

Top Tips for Doing Business in Japan

Consensus and cooperation is key
In contrast to western companies, where CEOs are often able to sign off on key financial decisions, Japanese firms are more likely to take into account the views of wider stakeholders and staff before making decisions. Again, this means decisions can be slower to reach, and this needs to be factored into business plans. 

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Slow and steady wins the race
Japanese business culture is based on consensus and cooperation. Cooperation and long-term commitment is valued and vital to forming strong relationships in Japan. Doing business in Japan typically takes longer than in the west as a result.  

Avoid business card blunders 
For the Japanese, though, the business card or meishi is an especially important item since it is believed to represent the face of the individual. Business cards for distribution to Japanese business prospects should be bilingual with Japanese on side and English on the other. Offer your card to the most senior person first, with both hands and holding the two corners closest to you. Never fidget with, write on or bend a Japanese person’s business card since this is considered disrespectful.  

Don't fail to prepare otherwise you're preparing to fail
Planning and practising your pitch rather than adopting a more off-the-cuff approach is more likely to gain the respect of your Japanese business partners, who are likely to act with precision and diligence themselves 

Professionalism and politeness are paramount
From the correct way to use chopsticks to the removal of shoes indoors, Japanese culture is synonymous with formality.  

Japan at a Glance

3rd (↔ from '19)

Projected Economy 2030



Japanese, English

Business Languages

GMT +9

Time zone


Standard VAT/

GST Rates

Trade at a Glance


Largest UK Export Market


Largest UK Import Market


Ease of Doing Business Rank (2019)

12th ( from '19)

Projected Import Market 2030


Largest Outward FDI Markets


Largest Import FDI Markets

18.2 (2021)

World Bank - Export of Goods and Services (% of GDP)

18.7 (2021)

World Bank - Import of Goods and Services (% of GDP)

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On 23rd October 2020 the UK signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Japan. The FTA aims to boost trade between the UK and Japan by over £15 billion and includes provisions to benefit the following sectors, businesses and opportunities: Agriculture,food and drink; manufacturing; digital and data; financial services; creative industry; fashion; SMEs; Services; Investment. Additionally, Japan is one of the eleven members of the CPTPP which the UK ascended to on 16th July 2023. Overall, the CPTPP has a combined GDP of £12 trillion and allows for over 99% of goods exported to CPTPP member states to be eligible for zero tariffs.

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