Monday, 29 July 2013

Exporting to Japan | Tips and Advice

Poetically termed the "Land of the Rising Sun", Japan is one of the economic powerhouses of East Asia and boasts the third largest economy in the world. UK Trade and Investment reports that 450 British companies have operations in Japan and that exports from the UK to Japan amount to £9.6 billion annually.

Three japanese dolls
If you're thinking of exporting to Japan, it may be much more cost effective than you think. As the crow flies, it's approximately 6000 miles between London and Tokyo, and for a 1kg package, it could cost you as little as £29.90 to send your parcel via a TNT Express service if you book through a reseller such as Transglobal Express. And as is often the case, the more you send, the lower the rate per kilogram. 

Sending goods to Japan may seem daunting if you have little experience of exporting or just sending goods internationally for non-commercial reasons, so we've compiled some tips, advice and general information to help you. 

Customs Regulations + Documentation

Japanese FlagSince it is non-EU country, all exports to Japan from the UK will be subject to customs clearance and any related duties and taxes. Most international shipments are delivered DDU (delivered duty unpaid) which means that customs charges are billed to the recipient. Be sure to make your recipient and/ or customers aware of this in advance. To anticipate these charges as best you can, we recommend boning up on Japanese customs regulations and restrictions. A good place to start is the Japan customs website, which also publishes lots of useful trade statistics.

As well as an Air Waybill (this is the label that you attach to your shipments), you will need a Customs Invoice when sending parcels to Japan. This is a document detailing the contents and value of your consignment and any other relevant details. Transglobal Express produces a simple customs invoice for you as part of our online booking service, but you are welcome to use your own proforma if you have one - the more detail the better!

Business Culture

Japanese business activity has changed dramatically since the Meiji era. Until 1853, the international relations policy of "Sakoko" (chained country) was practised, which dictated that any foreigner attempting to enter Japan and any Japanese person attempting to leave the country was subject to the death penalty. This policy was part of a wider isolationism which meant that Japan traded only with China, Korea, the Ryukyu Islands and the Netherlands - so international trade was limited to say the least! It's therefore remarkable that in a relatively short space of time, Japan has grown to become both the fourth largest export economy and fourth largest import economy in the world. 

Nevertheless, some Japanese business practices remain peculiar to the country and so it's advisable to familiarise yourself with these if you are planning on doing business in Japan:  

The concept of Wa or 'harmony' is vital in Japanese culture. In business practice, it means that the avoidance of self assertion and the maintenance of good relationships in spite of differences of opinion. Wa may mean that negative feedback is expressed indirectly, so pay attention to body language, and attempt to be diplomatic yourself. 

Face or Kao is also an important concept in Japanese culture. It's important to ensure potential business partners do not lose face - this includes avoiding direct criticism and confrontation.

Omoiyari refers to a sense of loyalty and empathy that is encouraged in Japanese society and therefore also important to business culture. Building strong relationships based on trust is imperative to doing business in Japan. 

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