Managing for Creativity in Japan Talking with Foreign Executives in Japan

Obstacles Involved with being Non-Japanese

“One major obstacle is that you have to speak the language. If you can’t speak Japanese you better be really good at what you do. You need good personal introductions. You need to prove yourself quite quickly. You need to be there. Also, I think that foreign companies are still viewed with suspicion. There is still a sense of ‘what can someone as a foreigner tell me about Japan?’ I think that is a problem. As a foreigner myself, if another foreigner came up to me and said ‘I’m a marketing consultant, I can do this that and the other’ I would say ‘Well what do you know about Japan?…are you Japanese? ‘no’ Well do you speak Japanese ‘no’….well then what are you basing this insight on?

I don’t speak fluent Japanese but you need to at the very least be able to navigate around an office and understand how protocol and meetings work. At least play the game. You can’t not speak the language and not play the game either. You have to know what you’re doing, for example, turning up for meetings. You might think that the meeting is pointless and that you don’t need to go along but you do…they want to see your face. That’s important. In the West you might get away with not turning up to meetings…you really do have to play the game here.”