4 Things You Need to Know about Japanese Work Culture | Guidable Japan
Japanese Work Culture: Meeting

4 Things You Need to Know about Japanese Work Culture

By Guidable Authors Mar 3, 2021

This post is also available in: Vietnamese

Different countries have different working cultures. So does Japan. If you plan to work in Japan in the future, there are several specific rules related to manners and Japanese work culture that you should get to know before entering any company. Besides the basic rules such as punctuality, office fashion. In this article, we will introduce to you 4 things you need to keep in mind while working in Japan.

1. Greeting at The Workplace! Who Should Greet First?

The word aisatsu” (挨拶) means “greeting” in Japanese. Aisatsu is very important and considered as a common manner in all cultures around the world, not just Japan. However, there are some considerable differences between Japanese-styled greetings and Western-styled greetings that you need to pay attention to. In many western countries, handshaking is a common way of greeting. However, in Japan, handshaking is not as common and bowing is much more prevalent as a custom. One more interesting thing: In Japan, greetings are more of a routine in a natural reflex rather than a way to express feeling or emotion.

Moreover, it is common practice in Japan for a kohai (junior) to greet their senpai (senior) first. Especially if you are a new employee, it is important for you to greet first according to the custom of kohai-senpai. This is not only a way to show your respect to other seniors in the company but it is also a way to show your effort of integrating into a new working environment.

Below are some basic greeting phrases at workplace you should keep in mind:

  • Ohayou gozaimasu (おはようございます): Good morning
  • Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu (お先に失礼します): Excuse me, I’m leaving now (used when you finish working).
  • Otsukaresama desu (お疲れ様です): Thank you for your hard work

2. Teamwork and Horenso – Japanese work culture

Each industry has a different working style and culture. However, in Japan, the general theme in almost every Japanese company is a strong sense of teamwork. People tend to work on projects as a team. Working in Japanese companies, you will not have the feeling of being in competition. Instead, people in the same companies tend to see their coworkers as teammates and decide on things together.

Japanese Work Culture: Horenso

Credit: Icons8 Team

Working as a team requires every member to follow the rule and HORENSO is an important Japanese working rule that you always have to remember in order to achieve the highest working efficiency. Basically, HORENSO stands for:

  • HOKOKU: Reporting
  • RENRAKU: Contacting
  • SODAN: Discussion

In particular, HOKOKU means regularly reporting to managers and colleagues about your work progress, problems that arise or duties that you have completed. RENRAKU means you always have to update information to the relevant departments to avoid arising incidents. Lastly, SODAN is discussing. It is necessary to discuss with people in your team in order to understand your task and together come up with the best solution.

3. Nomi ni Keshon – “Nominication” in Japan

Nominication is an amalgamation of two words – “nomi” (Japanese: to drink) and “communication”. In Japanese culture, drinking is an activity that helps people to build the strong bone in their relationships. In business settings, drinking parties are considered as a means of helping to build closer relationships between colleagues, juniors and superiors, as well as clients. It’s all about deepening bonds. 

Japanese Work Culture: Drinking Party

Credit: Scott Warman

If you are someone who really enjoys drinking parties then the good news is that: Japanese companies often hold drinking parties at regular intervals for events such as welcome parties, farewell parties, year end parties, New Year parties, anniversary parties, and cherry blossom viewing get-together parties. People consider these kinds of events the opportunity to get on well with colleagues or strengthen the solidarity of the company. Drinking parties are usually held at some Japanese styled izakaya. After that, there will be the second party “nijikai” which is often held somewhere such as karaoke or bowling. For the last round, the remaining people will enjoy having ramen together. 

4. Emphasize More on Work Process Rather Than Results

Japanese Work Culture: Report

Credit: Lukas

Obviously, results are important, but besides, Japanese companies have a tendency to emphasize more on the work process as well. Your performance will be assessed based on how you harmonize in a team, your ability to contribute as a member, what actions were taken, how those actions impacted others and your process of solving the problems. Overall evaluation of the work process helps the managers to assess your ability and effort at work in the most appropriate way. 

Therefore, it can be said that even if your final result turns out to be great but during the work process, you lack the ability to follow the Horenso rule then your work will not be highly evaluated. In contrast, even though the result does not come out as your expectation but during the working process, you showed that you could do the best you can, then it would be fine. As the team, you and your colleagues will work together to find out the best solution.

Now You Know Several Things about Japanese Work Culture

As mentioned, if you plan to work in one country, it is necessary to understand the working culture of that place. For those people who have plans to work in Japan in the future, we hope that this article will help you feel less struggling in your future journey. As the number of international workers joining the Japanese workforce is rising, I hope that we get on well with Japanese work culture in order to create a great international working environment for everyone.



Read more here to find out about manners at a Japanese workplace:

4 Things to Expect When Working in a Japanese Company

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