May 26, 2015

Relocating to Japan: What You Need to Know

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Relocating to Japan: What You Need to Know

Often referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun,” Japan is made up of more than 6,800 islands. Our latest Cartus Market Watch explores the typical challenges that some international assignees may encounter during their relocation to Japan, including schooling, climate, and cultural differences.

Located in East Asia, the four largest Japanese islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which collectively make up around 97 percent of the country’s land area. Japan is a major economic and political power on the world stage, with many international assignees frequenting Tokyo and other major cities including Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya.

Schooling in Japan

If you’re moving to Japan with children, we recommend that you do not assume that a school place will be secured in your first-option school. Some international schools may not accept children who cannot speak fluent English, so this is also a consideration when making applications. A top tip would be to apply to schools as far in advance as possible, so once the assignment has been scheduled, start researching schools in the area you’re moving to. From an organization’s perspective, authorizations for school assistance need to be sent to your relocation service provider as soon as possible.

Japan's Climate

Japan is prone to natural disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons, and volcanic eruptions. Indeed, I’m sure most of you will remember the devastating Great East Japan earthquake that hit the country in 2011. With this in mind, organizations should ensure that an appropriate evacuation process is in place so that assignees and their families can be removed from a disaster zone at the earliest opportunity. Assignees themselves also need to make sure that they regularly monitor local radio stations and television news channels to keep up to date with weather warnings and the possible threat of natural disasters.

Relocation to Japan: Cultural Issues

From business meetings to after-work socializing, nearly all aspects of Japanese life are governed by formal etiquette, with a focus on not “losing face.”  Here are Cartus’ Intercultural and Language Solution team’s top tips for achieving business success for a global relocation to Japan:

√  As in many Asian countries, building good working relationships is key to achieving business success; assignees need to take the time to earn the trust of colleagues, customers, and suppliers.

√  Locals will often say “Yes,” but this does not mean that they agree; rather, that they are listening and they understand what is being said.

√  When meeting someone, it is customary to bow rather than to shake hands, although internationally experienced locals will often shake hands with Westerners.

√  The lower the bow, the more superior the person being bowed to is.

√  Punctuality is valued; assignees should avoid being late to any meetings, as it is considered disrespectful.

√  Great importance is placed on exchanging business cards, and assignees should carry a special holder for them. It is also a good idea for assignees to use the blank side of a business card for a Japanese translation of their name and business title.

View our Resource Page for additional information on relocation to other locations around the world.

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Posted By

Ashley Barry

About Ashley

Ashley is the director of Supply Chain Management for Asia. She has more than a decade of global relocation experience, specializing in supplier sourcing, supplier performance management, and relocations to Asia’s key emerging markets.

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