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  • Curtis Mackenzie

Marketing Tips for doing Business in Japan

- by Paul Mcinnis

Consumer Dynamics

If you keep up with the news at all, you'll have heard that Japanese consumers fit a certain type. They buy domestic, they don’t spend much on in-home luxuries and they pay a lot for quality. These stereotypes, however, don’t ring so true anymore. Due to emerging economic trends, Japanese consumers have, in certain areas, become more cost-conscious. Inexpensive and discount stores, such as McDonald’s, Daiso and Costco, have seen a boom over the past few years. To avoid being profilagte, Japanese customers are much more willing to shop around, going out of their way to visit outlet malls, or simply purchase online instead of browsing their local neighborhood businesses seen in the decline of the shotengai (traditional Japanese shopping street).

Print is Essential

Japan hosts three of the five largest daily newspapers in circulation in the world. A major part of this has to do with Japan’s aging population. Senior citizens are avid readers of physical papers and are intensely loyal to their selected newspaper.

Approximately 95 percent of Japanese newspapers are delivered domestically, and this native distribution network is what leads to their continued success. It, however, limits their digital growth as newspapers are afraid to emphasize any online segments out of fear of offending their physical distributors.

As a result, there is a sharp divide in media consumption between the young and old in Japan. Not only are the Japanese consuming media through entirely different mediums, they’re obtaining news from wholly different sources. Vlogging/Blogging/Apps prevail in Japan, and an upbeat, energetic v/blog/Line app presence is a suggested method to connect with younger demographics.


Japan has the second oldest median age in the world. The  younger population has a declining rate of marriage, and they spend a great amount of their free time online. It is worth considering adjusting a product to appeal to older consumers if you intend to focus your business in Japan. It's essential to consider this generational divide when crafting your marketing materials in Japan. Whether you market to the older demographics or younger demographics, always consider that the medium you use to reach those customers will have an effect on the values emphasized through your ads.


One of the most recommended methods to reach customers in Japan is to create and galvanize relationships with both businesses and influencers within the country. One good way to go about doing this is through affiliate marketing networks. It's advised to create your team from the bottom up. Find locals who understand and believe in your business or brand, and learn how to convey that message in a simple way that connects with customers. A team of interpreters, copywriters, translators and designers will help bridge that cultural and linguistic gap.

Customize Your Website:

Your firm's Japanese language website should never be a direct translation of your English language site. You need a site that can foster trust with Japanese customers, interact with your audience and rank high in terms of SEO. There are a number of ways this can be achieved. Being verbose isn't necessarily a negative aspect. Japanese consumers  are more open to cluttered pages of text compared to American and European consumers. Additionally, Japanese characters enable you to include more information into the same amount of space. A relatively long “About Us” section can be an effective way to list your company’s accomplishments and build trust. Look at Yahoo Japan and Rakuten (two of the most popular Japanese websites) for inspiration.

New Frame KK provides Advisory and Consulting services to both new and existing Tokyo businesses, contact us at

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