Secrets of Japanese Business Etiquette: Business attire

This blog is the third one in our series of Secrets of Japanese Business Etiquette (How not to Faux Pas). In particular, it will clear any confusion in terms of appropriate business attire when conducting business in Japan.

 

There has been much written about Japanese business etiquette, but sadly much of it seems written by people who have not been to Japan for many years. Also, most guides do not take into consideration that Japan is a clash of traditions and modernity. This is why we have come up with our Business etiquette series which covers:

 

Business Attire

There are different rules for women and men.

Men:

Japanese business etiquette has become less formal, but business attire has not changed much.

  • Although it may seem like every businessman in Japan is wearing black, do not wear a black suit, white shirt, and black or near-black tie because that is funeral attire.
  • From October through April, most Japanese businessmen, especially senior managers, executives, and salarymen, wear dark navy, charcoal grey, or black suits, with a white shirt and subdued tie.
  • Japanese businesspeople tend to wear formal coats in the winter months of December through February, and Burberry-style short raincoats in March and April.
  • Japanese businessmen generally have well-groomed short hairstyles.
  • From May through September, Japanese businessmen swap their dark suits for light grey suits.
  • Japanese summers are hot and humid, so most Japanese men wear half-sleeve shirts during the summer months. Some Japanese salarymen (except salespeople) wear ties in summer. Some companies might insist their male employees wear ties to summer meetings, so to avoid embarrassment we recommend wearing a tie to such meetings and then asking if it’s acceptable to remove it if the Japanese side is more casual.
  • Avoid wearing too much aftershave or cologne in a meeting.
  • Consider that most Japanese companies do not allow male employees to have beards or shaved heads.

business meeting in japan women

Women:

You should make your own decisions about how and to what extent you adjust your image to suit our company’s business needs and goals. Whether you like it or not (we don’t), the following are common recommendations for any female executive who wants to avoid being treated below her corporate level:

  • Look strong but avoid looking too glamorous.
  • Wear shorter or tied back hair.
  • Avoid wearing too much perfume.
  • Avoid bright handbags in meetings; it’s better to use an executive briefcase or shoulder-bag.
  • Wear trouser suits or longer skirt suits with seasonal colours as described in the section above for men. Venture Japan does not impose a dress-code on female employees but I noticed they always wear trouser suits for external business meetings.
  • Consider that most Japanese companies do not allow female employees to wear jewellery or above-the-knee skirts.
  • Despite Japanese companies often ‘requiring’ female employees to wear high-heeled shoes in the office, a foreign female executive should feel free to wear whatever business formal shoes she feels appropriate.