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Japan is the third-largest economy with a stable consumer base and tech-savvy population. Despite embracing emerging technologies and predicted SaaS revenue CAGR of 15%, there are hard truths to acknowledge:

Japan is not easy.

If it were, you would not likely be reading this right now (thank you). Some of the biggest companies in the world have failed in Japan; Vodafone, Tesco, Nokia, and Carrefour to name a few. Many others privately endure years of frustration and costly investments for meager returns. What works elsewhere won’t work in Japan; you need a different mindset.

Entry can take up to 3 years. 

While you can easily have a pin on a map, laying a solid foundation for sustainable revenue in Japan requires time and planning. Quick strategies or other low-hanging solutions rarely work and even agreements with local entities tend to produce little more than pleasant back and forth. It can take up to 3 years to properly introduce and monetize new tech solutions in Japan.

Passive tactics just don’t scale.

Passive access through things like convenient connections, random leads, and region-wide deals are just checking a box. In exchange for pricing discounts or professional services, SaaS companies receive “free money” and feel present; this, however, is not what success looks like. You can do better with an active interest in Japan – the following things usually come to mind.

Common Tactics for Active Japan Entry

Send HQ staff

PROs: Reliable representation, deep product knowledge in territory, and a wealth of information conveyed back to HQ

CONs: Ineffectiveness of global tactics applied in Japan and potential missteps by staff without local cultural knowledge

Hire staff locally

PROs: Reliable local cultural knowledge, visible presence in territory, and potential best of both worlds: global and local

CONs: Cost (US$500K+ for 2 staff with expenses & social costs), staff motivation, and communication challenges

Join a program

PROs: Make a lot of connections at incubators, trade shows, match-making events, and quasi-government programs

CONs: Time wasted on formulaic activities that define success as the number of connections made, not new revenue

Rely on a big firm

PROs: Consultancies have lots of contacts, information, and collective experience helping foreign companies into Japan

CONs: Consultancies create professional dependencies, aren’t responsible for results, and stop short of doing the work

We recommend bypassing these common tactics and instead entering Japan with the right partner. The “right” partner is one that is both Motivated and Meaningful. We can help you discover and align with this partner for long-term profitability and growth.

JAPAN PARTNERSHIPS