Foreign companies and individuals wishing to expand the business into Japan or start a new business in Japan should consider Japanese administrative system and domestic laws and regulations regarding incorporation, taxation, business lisences, employment (HR), and insurance as well as immigration system.

Also, you will need to make a rental/lease agreement for the office space as well as to open a bank account for the business.

In this page, you find a list of what you should consider mainly to set up a business in Japan for the first time.

For further detailed assistance, you may contact JETRO, the government related organization which is providing services to expand your business into Japan >> JETRO: SETTING UP BUSINESS


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Decide your business location.
In major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, there would be incentive packages/programs available for foreign companies and individuals to encourage investment outside Japan and start the business in the area.

In case that you intend to apply for BUSINESS MANAGER visa status based on your business, you need to find an office space in advance. You can set up a company with a virtual office, however, you cannot satisfy requirements of BUSINESS MANAGER visa status with virtual or shared office. You need to find a physical office space where you can specify the existance of the company if you intend to work in Japan to manage the business as a business manager under BUSINESS MANAGER visa status.

Jump to the webpage for BUSINESS MANAGER

Most of the administrative procedures in Japan requires to be processed at relevant government/public offices which handle the area of your company. We recommend you should find specialists in the area where you are planning to start the business.

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There are several types of business operation when individuals and/or companies outside Japan consider to start a business in Japan.

In case of starting business as an individual:

  • Sole proprietorship/Self-employed
  • Corporation: i.e. Kabushiki Kaisha (KK) and Godo Kaisha (GK)

In case of statring business as a foreign company:

  • Representative Office
  • Branch Office
  • Corporation: i.e. Kabushiki Kaisha (KK) and Godo Kaisha (GK)

From visa application point of view, it is not easy to certify your eligibility for BUSINESS MANAGER visa status (or other working visa) in case of starting sole proprietorship – especially to certify the business scale and stability, so we recommend you should set up a corporate entity which requires legal registration at the Legal Affairs Bureau.

In case of setting up a Representative Office or Branch Office in Japan, at least one representative person should be a resident in Japan.

KK and GK can be set up without any resident in Japan, however, it would be hard to process most administrative procedures without any resident in Japan. In addition, the initial capital requires to be transfered to one of the sponsor/invertor/directors’ personal bank account in Japan – if none of the sponsor etc. has a bank account in Japan, you need to find a person who has a bank account in Japan and can be a sponsor of the company. You should take all the process of incorporation into account before you start.

See also >> Types of Business Operation

Moreover, some business is required to obtain specific license or permit before starting the business. Procedures for obtaining each business license and permission are different. So, you might want to ask a specialist to check whether your business has to have any business licenses or permissions in advance.

Business which requires License or Permission

Restaurant Industry, Secondhand Dealer/Shop, Retail/Wholesale/Trade of Alcohol, Retail/Wholesale/Trade/Manufacturing/Leasing of Medical Equipment and Devices, Wholesale/Trade/Manufacturing of Cosmetics, Warehousing, Transport Industry, Financial Instruments Business, Building/Construction Industry, Real Estate, Worker Dispatch Service, Hotel/Hostel Industry, Travel Industry, Hospital, Nursing Insitute, and so on…

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As noted in TYPES of BUSINESS OPERATION above, it is requried to have at least one representative person who is a resident in Japan in case of setting up a Branch Office in Japan. In case of incorporation, it might be difficult to open a bank account in Japan without any resident in Japan.

Foreign individuals who stay in Japan under TEMPORARY VISITOR visa cannot register their residence in Japan.

If you are outside Japan and would like to set up a comapny by investing your own money, you should;

  • come to Japan under other type of long-term visa such as STUDENT, CULTURAL ACTIVITIES or DESIGNATED ACTIVITIES for WORKING HOLIDAYS etc. first. While you are engage in the activity permitted, you can open a bank account and prepare for setting up a buisness in Japan. Then, you apply for CHANGE of VISA STATUS to BUSINESS MANAGER.
  • find a partner who is a Japanese national or a resident in Japan and can help to set up your business in Japan.

In case of foreign company which doesn’t have any resident in Japan but plans to set up a business entity in Japan, we recommend that you should open a represeintative office first and transfer a staff to Japan in order to start market reserch, client development and preparation for setting up a Branch Office or subsidiary company. It is much easier way to set up a Branch Office or company after having a staff living/working in Japan.

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When you start a business in foreign country, it is important to understand the system of the country regarding immigration, taxiation, social security, labor management, company law, and other matters related to company and business management.

There are various types of specialist in Japan as follows:

  • 税理士 Zeirishi: tax and accounting
  • 司法書士 Shihoushoshi: registration of company and real estate.
  • 行政書士 Gyouseishoshi: immigration, business setup, business licenses
  • 社会保険労務士 Shakaihoken Roumushi: labor management, social insurance and pension
  • 弁護士 Bengoshi: law as a whole, lawsuit
  • 弁理士 Benrishi: patent and trademark

Each of them has their own specialty. In most of cases, the company hires several specialists in each field.

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