Business & dining etiquette—Japan
Like in most cultures, meals can really help relationship building in Japan. If invited to dinner in Japan, you should learn a few phrases in Japanese to show your host respect. Key phrases are itadakimasu at the beginning and goschisousama deshita at the termination of a meal. The word to use when toasting is kampai and when drinking, the glass is never left unfilled. Drinking is viewed as a way to relieve the stress that comes with doing business and is an important part of networking. You should never pour yourself a drink; this is a pleasure exclusively reserved for your host.
While eating, you should slurp your noodles. This will demonstrate that you are enjoying your food. Feel free to use this time to get to know your host. Communication is very unemotional, but very direct. You may be asked questions related to the size of your house or the amount of your annual income. The Japanese strive to maximize business effectiveness and pursue topics that can help them better assess a situation or an individual. Unlike China, dinnertime is acceptable for business discussion. Although they are direct, the Japanese are very comfortable with silence and use it often in conversation. You must learn to interpret these signals and not mistake them for insecurity.
Dinners are usually held after business hours at bars, restaurants, or “hostess bars.” The latter are reserved exclusively for businessmen, and women should not attend. If invited out, you should allow your host to pay. Reciprocation of this gesture is expected as well. To invite your host out, choose a Western-style restaurant and insist on paying for the meal. Do not openly display money, however. Use an envelope if needed.