Success in Japan for the Language-Challenged Foreigner

Learning as you go is an extremely costly way to build a business from scratch in Japan.  From office space to web designs to accountants, mistakes can EASILY amount to several million yen in just the first year alone.

Without a strong Japanese language ability and cultural sensitivity, banks will make it extremely hard for you to work with them.  Merchants and other prospective customers will look at you like you carry a smart bomb in your rear pocket.  Generally speaking, every conceivable challenge will head your way (including having to pay $700 or Japanese equivalent in taxes for a business which didn’t make a dime for a year)…ouch!

My firm advice based on experience here is to

1) find a Japanese partner who handles all administrative duties and initiates contact with businesses and potential contacts.

2)Stay away from freelancer sites because they – for the most part – do not let the client talk with the freelancer other than through their website chat messenger systems.

3)Expect to spend over a million yen for a “reliable” website developer and administrator, if your site is to be in Japanese.

4) Have a go-between to rent or lease office space/land.

5) Expect time-consuming, frustrating time bubbles when registering your company.  Understand that whatever place your register your company in Japan, you will have to pay more than $500 plus professional fees to move to a new address.

6) Get off your high horses about the superiority of whatever culture you came from and realize that humility rather than aggressiveness will get you further in Japan.  Well-meaning, intense change agents often choke to fiscal death on their own vomit.

Japan -despite rumors of its death – has boatloads’ of opportunity.  Prepare yourself, however, for being in for the long haul and swallowing some pride when necessary.

Smoke-And-Mirrors Japan Defense Buildup

In this Dec. 5, 2010 file photo released by U.S. Navy, USNS Tippecanoe, center, refuels Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Escort Flotilla ships Ikazuchi, right, and Kongo during a joint military exercise in the Pacific Ocean.

If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against the defense buildup in Japan.

Prime Minister Abe may face nominal pressure to tone down the rhetoric towards a defense buildup against the “impending threat” of the hostile and aggressive duo of China and North Korea, but the real intention of the end game is to get tacit approval to a burgeoning, under-the-radar defense industry in Japan gearing up for exporting of munitions and other weaponry to so-called neutral nations.

Under Abenomics and the Liberal Democratic party (LDP), Japan is about to become a military hardware and software exporter second only to the United States…mark my words! The domestic military buildup will be untenable because an offensive army ready for war in the American style can only happen in a totalitarian Japan.

Abenomics is a joke: robbing Peter to pay Paul. But when a military-industrial complex is added into his bag of tricks, Abenomics will find traction. Who would have imagined Japan becoming an exporter of potential genocidal weapons of mass destruction less than a century after their last war debacle?

Until now, the Japanese government’s policy to ban arms exports to other countries has made it difficult for defense companies in Japan to maintain profitability. Since 2003, 20 companies have discontinued their participation in the fighter jet manufacturing business.

But as sure as Japanese eat with chopsticks, so will Japan become an unwitting yet culpable accomplice in terrorism not too far down the pike. The United States may not be pleased with the impending defense industry growth of Japan at the expense of their own parasitic, amoral counterpart, but it is the price America will have to pay for Japanese cooperation in containing China economically and militarily, as well as the renegade North Korean nation.

But in a capitalist setting, I would buy stock in the heavy industry giants and high tech industries of Japan.

The US Defense Technology Office foresees joint US-Japan research as making the best use of each nation’s strong suits. For the US, this is their underlying weapons systems, munitions and aerospace capability, while Japan excels in the areas of miniaturization, robotics and digital optics. These various strengths are almost certain to come together in the future joint development of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs). (Source: Center for Research on Globalization)

Will Japan become a fascistic, emperor-worshiping threat to world peace and shed the alliance with the U.S.? Possibly, but probably not under Abe’s watch. Abe is only setting the table for the domestic industrial powers and bankers who will finance him and his cronies royally under the table for making the arms industry an international player and eventually force.

Mild Yankees

There’s a new class of young people in Japan, Mild Yankees, who are equivalent to what Americans might call a country bumpkin.

They tend to marry or live with mates whom they went to secondary school with.

They seldom travel more than a couple of hundred miles from home, eat in cheap family restaurants, hang around with people close to their homes.

They barely make enough to survive, but they buy cars well beyond their means on scraping-by loans.

They dress in trainers, have pierced ears, play games incessantly on their cell phones…and basically seem unconcerned that they are living paycheck to paycheck and one step from the financial abyss.

They have children through wedlock or without any plan or think of having children as a burden to their carefree lifestyle.


Their parents are usually of a similar ilk a generation removed, and they pamper these children into their 30s and beyond.  Their favorite night store is often el cheapo Don Quixote discount store of mountains’ of junk food and tons’ of shoddy Chinese imports.

However distasteful they may seem to a go-getter or a conventional member of the Japanese society, they are a growing economic force to reckon with in the year 2015 and beyond.

If you use my stereotypical image as a reference point, you can see a profitable niche market.  Get on it!