Market Trend

Increasing English Proficiency in Japanese Business: A Global Perspective [Entry to Japan 3]

Kyumin Na
March 25, 2024

Previous Post|How the IPO structure in Japan affects the strategy of startups entering into the market in Japan [Entry into Japan 2]

When you hear the words "Japan" and "English," what comes to mind? 

You probably think of a place that doesn't speak English. However, today's Japanese business professionals are all able to speak English. And they are very proficient at it.

Today, I would like to express my gratitude to Shunsuke Uematsu, Technical Director of Niantic, Inc., and Ryusuke Komura, Director of Venture Café Tokyo, for their assistance in brainstorming this article.

낮에 건물로 둘러싸인 붉은 탑의 항공 사진
(Source : Unsplash)

Japanese companies supporting English training?

The number of "foreign-affiliated" companies in Japan is increasing. 

Large corporations that expand their business by investing capital from overseas companies, launching services, and localizing development and operations have been dominating the Japanese market. 

There is also a trend of employees moving to foreign-affiliated companies, which offer higher salaries compared to Japanese companies.

Even beyond the commonly known GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple), there has been a gradual increase in overseas startup companies entering Japan since Prime Minister Kishida's 2023 startup 5-year investment plan.

In particular, due to policies and support programs to attract overseas startups, the number of quality companies and talent heading to Japan is gradually growing, including "China, the United States, France, Spain, Sweden, and Poland," as seen in the Toranomon Hills Business Tower where I work.

It is noteworthy that "global talents and companies continue entering Japan."

서 있는 사람들의 그룹
(Source : Unsplash)

Global companies need to conduct business with people from various nationalities. Naturally, English is required to communicate with team members from different countries. 

As you move up to managerial levels, the importance of English proficiency increases. Even operational staff are highly involved in collaborative work with multinational teams.

Although they were Japanese companies, as more cases of acquisition by foreign companies occur, individuals who were solely in the Japanese environment are now forced to adapt to the global market. Therefore, most companies are systematically promoting English education and creating an environment by supporting tuition fees to internationalize.

As a result, "most people in Japan now have proficient English skills, especially in larger companies."

How about Japan-oriented companies?

Reasons why Japanese companies are considering global expansion

Japan-oriented companies have realized that they can no longer survive solely on the domestic market. It has become a fact that there is no longer the possibility of continuous growth solely based on domestic business as it was before.

Therefore, there is a natural increase in cases where Japanese companies overcome their shortcomings through continuous efforts such as finding and collaborating with overseas partners, actively expanding new business areas through global M&A, and continuously investing in SI of startups. They are making efforts to continue exchanging with overseas partners.

건물로 둘러싸인 보행자 도로를 건너는 사람들
(Source : Unsplash)

Japan is witnessing both the gradual entry of global companies into Japan and the movement to create global companies.

Japan is no longer what it used to be. It is showing movements to overcome shortcomings and make changes while executing solutions. Therefore, the current Japan is naturally moving towards an environment where English is used, and it is a country that is progressing globalization faster than any other country.

Thus, "Globalization" has become more necessary in Japan than in any other country.

I believe that the perception of "Japan does not speak English" needs to change. I think it's time to understand the accurate situation and environment of the Japanese people and to cooperate more.

Japan has already established an environmentally friendly internationalization and is further developing it. Now, it is not uncommon to see foreigners anywhere, doing anything.

The scene of Chinese working at Japanese call centers, Europeans receiving guests at hotels, Nepalese making payments at convenience stores, and Middle Easterners making ramen has long been integrated into Japan.

아시아식 글씨가 있는 노란색 간판의 클로즈업
(Source : Unsplash)

Japan's lost 30 years, and the plan for the next 5 years

Japan has lost 20 years for its people, now it's been 30 years.

After the economic downturn due to the bubble and international circumstances, many people had the perception that they shouldn't challenge. At least for the generation that experienced the bubble and beyond, the idea of challenging itself may have become fearful. I think that's one of the main reasons for Japan's lost 30 years.

However, they now have the mindset to learn from their lessons and make improvements.

When talking to Japanese partners, they emphasize their desire to leave a good environment for future generations and to instill hope in the younger generation. They are attempting faster changes than anyone else and continuing their efforts. At least the generation that is trying to transform the younger generation and the environment is keeping the movement and thoughts for globalization.

Therefore, I believe that Japanese startups will change faster and more innovative than any other country in the next five years.

And I believe that Korea and Japan should cooperate more. Various policies encouraging entry into Japan are being implemented by the Korean government and institutions. There are increasing opportunities for stronger ties between Korea and Japan. Therefore, I think it is now a time when we need to understand and cooperate with them more accurately.

Let's summarize today's column in one sentence.

"Japan's English culture is already in progress. 🤣"

I always think about creating opportunities for Korea and Japan to continue their business together.

I want to create a network that can help people doing business in both countries and create opportunities to connect them strongly. I will return with the topic of Japanese business and partnerships next time!

Next Post|Establishment of a Japanese Corporation and Partnership Process [Entry into Japan] 4

Written by Kyumin Na (Link)

Original Post : Globalization of Japan


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Kyumin Na
Head of Business Japan and APAC
Datarize, Corp. - Head of Business Japan and APAC