Whether you want to do business in Japan or already work there, networking is essential to achieve success. But how to build and feed your network in Japan?
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First, even though social media is essential, it is not easy to expand your network well without actually meeting people. Not only in Japan, but everywhere else: if you overlook the importance of physical contact, your number of connections will not increase very fast, or not increase at all. But Japan has some specificities concerning the places you should go to meet professionals.
The word nomikai means ‘gathering to drink’ and it is a big part of the Japanese (business) culture. It is an opportunity to meet your teammates in a more relaxed atmosphere, usually after work. People enjoy a moment with their boss and colleagues – except if they felt forced to participate, which is unfortunately common. It is, however, good for your network. You can build relationships with other professionals, and once you have people’s trust, they will be pleased to introduce you to their friends or their acquaintances. It is both a short and long term method to develop your network. To learn more about nomikai, read our article about the pros and cons when setting up a branch in Japan.
Activities: associations, clubs, etc.
Another good opportunity to meet new people is to join one or several associations. It can be a neighborhood or a community association, an association to help disabled people, to foster gender equality, etc. But think about what kind of organization are enjoying the professionals you want to meet.
It is the same for clubs, which are mainstream in Japan. Some people join expensive clubs to meet businessmen with a high status, but it is just one of the ways. You can also choose a club you like, you will create bonds faster by sharing a common interest. You may find someone who has many connections and is willing to help you. Make many friends (not just to expand your network, of course), they might introduce you to their superiors. You can also join a networking club: even if it seems awkward at the beginning, everyone wants the same thing and you will meet a wide range of professionals.
Events & Meetings
Join as many events related to your business as you can (you might see the same people at one point, but it will strengthen your relationships). In Japan, you can participate to several types of events:
- Chamber of commerce events (with around 2,700 members, not only Japanese)
- Embassy-related events
- Job-search events
- Company events (if they are hiring, for example)
- Seminars, forums, private events, symposiums, etc.
Meet as many people as you can: potential business partners and customers, influential professors, salesmen, etc. They know what the market looks like and what people’s needs are. Also, they can give you the names of the best salespeople, business people, support people, etc. They have a strong knowledge of the Japanese business culture, and because relationships are important in Japan, once someone trusts you, you can trust him back.
Nowadays, you cannot start a business without having social media channels. Check out our article about the most popular social media in Japan and work your communication.
In addition to that, you can create a Wantedly account, which is the Japanese equivalent to LinkedIn. Many don’t like, however, the rating system (which creates competition among users) and the fact that you have to create an account via your Facebook profile.
However, because physical contact is important, prefer calls rather than emails or messages. It is also more polite in Japan.
Reference: www.expat.com/en/guide/asia/japan/19843-expanding-your-professional-network-in-tokyo.html www.japan-experience.com/to-know/understanding-japan/nomikai directionjapan.com/networking-in-japan/ www.japaninc.com/node/4466 www.venturejapan.com/doing-business-in-japan/how-to-start-business-japan/japan-business-network/