In Japan, business networking often involves the practice of "会食" (kaishoku), which refers to business meals or dining with colleagues, clients, or business partners. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Japanese government had regulated the meal where a lot of people gather. And that regulation has caused the movement to reconsider about the custom of kaishoku, especially among start-ups that are run by younger generations. However, being familiar with this custom will certainly benefit you when considering to make business connections. Here are some key points to keep in mind when engaging in business dining for networking purposes in Japan:
Invitation and Venue Selection
When initiating a business dinner, it is common for the host to extend a formal invitation. This can be done through a phone call, email, or written invitation. It is considered polite to extend the invitation well in advance to allow the guest to adjust their schedule accordingly. Also choose an appropriate venue for the dinner, such as a reputable restaurant or private dining room. This should be done according to the date you offer in the invitation. The choice of venue should be suitable for the occasion and reflect the level of formality desired.
Be Familiar With Japanese Styles
First of all, arriving on time is highly valued in Japanese culture. It is advisable to arrive a few minutes early to demonstrate respect for the host and show your commitment to the meeting.
When starting the meal, the seating arrangement often follows a hierarchical order. The host or the most senior person usually sits at "上座" (kamiza), the head of the table or in a central position. Guests are expected to wait for the host to indicate where they should sit.
Business dinners in Japan are not just about the food; they provide an opportunity for relationship building. Engage in polite conversation, show genuine interest in your dining companions, and avoid discussing sensitive or controversial topics. It is also customary to toast and say "乾杯" (kanpai) before taking the first sip of a drink.
Follow-up and Gratitude
After the meal, it is good practice to send a thank-you note or email to express your gratitude for the opportunity to dine together. This gesture reinforces the positive impression and helps maintain the relationship.
Remember that networking in Japan is a gradual process that requires building trust and rapport over time. Business meals provide an informal setting for establishing and nurturing professional connections, so approach them with a sincere attitude and cultural sensitivity.