Japan is an economic super power nonetheless so one needs to look beneath the surface and see why their productivity is highest in the world and how they are able to flex their economic muscles so well despite being such a tiny nation.
Japan is an Island country separated from rest of Asia which enabled it to develop a unique culture quite different even from China form which it has borrowed heavily. This culture can be defined in nutshell as closely knit (team spirit), (elders), sincerity towards work, networking (trust only in known names) and deferring to seniority. Team spirit is the guiding force in all facets, from the family to all rungs of the corporate ladder even politics. Goel observes that to get ahead one has to get along. A nail that sticks out gets pounded down is an oft repeated saying in Japan. The group is more important than an individual; individuals are defined by the group. ( http://www. uwf.edu/ lgoel/documents/ AObservationsonJapanese Culture Pol . pdf). They are taught to be considerate to others feelings and take lot of care to make all around them comfortable.
They take their work very seriously. Punctuality in starting work and formal atmosphere is the norm everywhere. It is rare to hear laughter or see backslapping except during breaks. Working late is a routine which many a times is not even reported or paid for. With computerization most of them carry work home almost everyday. Loyalty and fidelity towards the employer is taken for granted and it is common for them to work for the same firm for their entire life.
They do not like to deal with complete strangers so usually shokai-sha (introducer) is the go between. Thus having a known person for introduction goes a long way in trust building. They place high value on seniority, more senior the introducer better impact it carries. Shokai-sha is even present during the contract signing ceremony.
Business Communication and Management Style- Both the countries have totally different business communication and management styles which are the result of their opposing cultures and work habits. Japanese mistrust of strangers shows in the number of questions and take time taken to reach a decision. It is important to remember that to get them to compromise one has to show willingness to compromise too. Politeness is never abandoned; harmony is never threatened even in case if something disagreeable needs to be communicated, silence reigns and a lot of pondering is done for a long time. Usually the subject gets changed and diverted to trivial social chit chat. Decisions are reached only after consensus has been reached amongst all the team members so they like to break meetings to have private words with each other. Patience needs to be cultivated for interacting with the Japanese.
Business structures in Japan like in other walks of life like political, academic and religious spheres is like that of the parent and child. In this the superior (parent) takes care of the subordinate, who is supposed to be obliged and repay it. Corporations often pay for personal needs like housing, excursions, outdoor activities of their employees and their families in return for life long employment. They don't like to break harmony or say no on the face directly for the fear of humiliating the other person, so they come across as "reserved, cautious,