Business English for Japanese 

There’s a lot of discussion today in Japanese business communities about globalization and using good business English. How can small-to-medium sized Japanese companies manage with this? Expert English business writer Mike Druttman offers some views.

The trend toward more English

In Japan many business people now say that growth depends on doing more trade with markets outside Japan. Clearly, companies that can communicate in English (the world’s main business language) are more likely to enjoy additional business orders than those marketing only in Japan.

This is the message of Mr Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder and CEO of Rakuten, in his August 2016 article ‘Why more and more Japanese companies are doing business in English’.

Opportunities for smaller companies

Larger companies are already taking Mr Mikitani’s advice, but major progress will depend on smaller companies also doing the same.

The challenge is great because few Japanese people currently speak good English and Japan ranks quite low among Asian countries that have a good command of English.

Happily all this is changing. Quite often smaller companies now have some staff members who can communicate in reasonable English. First, they prepare the base material (in English) of a web page, brochure, presentation or important email. Then a professional English marketing writer who works online can take it to the next stage.

Following a more efficient track

Mr Mikitani and other business leaders on the Internet say that Japanese businessmen need to use good business English. Only by following ‘kaizen’ will the Japanese economy refresh itself. However this must come in small steps. One successful job leads to another as the ‘gaijin’ marketing writer gradually gains the trust of his or her Japanese clients.

Specialization is important. It helps greatly if such a writer has long expertise in his field – as well as the motivation to constantly improve on previous knowledge. For example, there’s a strong need today to reduce the volume of texts, get to the point quicker and also spread marketing messages across many media. A skilled marketing writer/copywriter knows how to do that.

So your company is already communicating in English with overseas markets – either for export purposes or when writing to foreign suppliers. That’s fine. Perhaps use good and convincing authentic English as a way to gain a marketing advantage.

Mike Druttman is a member of the Israel-Japan Chamber of Commerce. An English language business writer and copywriter, he is helping Japanese companies to communicate better with international audiences. His site is