I’ve lived in Japan since 2009 wife my wife (a native of Nagoya) and two young sons.
So, what have been the main things I’ve learned from running a business in the land of the rising sun? First off, obtaining the right information is essential – what requirements do you have to meet? Are these a “should” or a “must”? (Sometimes this distinction can be unclear) What certifications/licences do you need to hold in order to operate a business? To obtain insurance cover?
I’ve found the yakuba (town office) and local tax office to be very helpful (if you don’t speak Japanese, always head there with someone who does), as well as other business owners. But it’s always up to you to ask the right questions. For example, if you run a business from home, don’t expect the tax office to ask if you’re claiming all the expenses that you could.
Sure, if you ask them a direct question like “if I have an office at home, can a portion of my utility bills be claimed as a business expense?”, they’ll give you a direct answer. But the onus is on you to ask the question.
That’s where hiring an accountant can actually save you money because they’ll be able to offer detailed and reliable advice so that you don’t end up paying more tax than you should.
Overall, I’ve found the Japanese authorities great to deal with. Follow the procedures, ask if you’re not sure of something, and keep meticulous records.
So, if you’re thinking of setting up a business here in Japan, don’t see the fact that you’re a foreigner as an insurmountable obstacle.
Up here in Niseko, there are foreigners who own businesses in almost every sector imaginable: real estate, property management, project management, vehicle sales/rental, restaurant/bar, entertainment, concierge, ski guiding, farming, retail, and more.
(It’s worth keeping in mind that a significant number of those business owners neither speak nor read Japanese)
They hire the right people and/or use an English-speaking consultant as and when necessary.
Bottom line? If you’ve got a viable business model and the desire and commitment to make it work, Japan can be a great place for a foreigner to operate a successful business.
Got any questions? Feel free to ask me anything!