I recently traveled to Japan for work. It was an awesome experience. I wanted to share some of the knowledge I gained.
When meeting executives and other hight level personnel there is a right and wrong way of exchanging business cards. You should always carry business cards. In this case less is not more. Running out of business cards will be awkward.
Try to get your business cards translated with one side in English and the other one in Japanese. This is a nice to have but I found that people were really impressed.
Here is a good video on how you should exchange business cards. I found that it was spot on. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=of8UgykfUbw
I feel like this is obvious but not everyone speaks English in Japan. If you are presenting you will need to consider that there will be a translator on-site. If you have never had someone translate for you here are some things you need to consider:
If you have slides of some sort allow for the translator to finish translating your spiel before you switch slides. Furthermore, do not point to the slides while speaking. You think you are pointing something out but they will not understand you and I doubt the translator will mimic your actions.
If you have written a script keep in mind that, depending on your skills and delivery, it might be hard for the translator to translate what you are saying. Some people get nervous and stutter, say the wrong word, or pause awkwardly when they shouldn’t. I found that speaking freely is way more effective.
If you have brought a gift ensure it is in a presentable package. Presentation is more important than the gift itself. Gift exchange is done on the last day and not the first.
I found that the Japanese will pre-arrange everything from the time and place to the menu. If you have any restrictions (allergies, vegetarian) let them know in advance and they will accommodate you.
I believe all restaurants will give you moist towels to clean your hands with. These towels will remain at the table and the waiter/waitress will not collect them. This may see strange to some people so if you wish you can ask the waiter/waitress to take the towel away.
If you are a smoker I believe it is rude to leave the table for a smoke break but that may depend on if members of the host team also smoke. When I was in Japan none of my co-workers smoked but a couple of the executives from the Japanese company did smoke. During my week there they NEVER left the table during a meal to go for a smoke break.
I hope you found this knowledge useful 🙂