Japanese is the official language of Japan, which has a population of over 125m. There are also around 2.5m people who speak Japanese as their first language, living in Brazil and the rest of the Americas, particularly the US. It is the 9th most spoken language in the world.
There are only typically 1100 to 2000 Kanji in use which are used in combinations to form half of the words in Japanese. This means that if you learn these one or two thousand Kanji you can read most things in print. Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system.
Japanese has an extensive grammatical system to express politeness and formality. This reflects the hierarchical nature of Japanese society.
- Japan is known as an industrial nation. It produces world-class machines, electronics and vehicles.
- Japanese is a unique language which boasts a specific alphabet system for writing words.
- Japan’s new maglev bullet train is the fastest train in the world.
- Toyota, a Japanese automobile company is the world’s third-largest automaker.
- Coffee is extremely popular in Japan and is imported in large amounts from Jamaica.
- Japanese has no genetic relation to Chinese even though it ‘borrows’ quite a few phrases and words from Chinese.
Research suggests that there is a huge export market for those in the technology and manufacturing industry, leading the way with robotics, gaming & imaging, 3D printing and scanning and detection cameras for moisture vapour, heat loss and smoke.
Life sciences are also of interest to the Japanese and whether you have created innovative healthcare products, ultrasound devices, mediums for cell culture or a range of new devices then there is a potential market there for those.
Manufacturing plays a large part in Japan’s economy and items such as anti-UV materials, permeation measurement tools, detectors for dangerous gases and narcotics as well as road simulation equipment, autonomous driving methods and apparatus for over the air communication and transmission are all desired.
Japan has a culture which is very unique and has a strict code of etiquette, such as the way to eat noodles, how to accept gifts and what numbers you should avoid under any circumstances.
It is common in many East Asian and Southeast Asian regions to have a phobia known as Tetraphobia – this is where the use of no.4 is avoided at all costs due to it sounding like the word ‘death’. Using anything in a four i.e. a gift or grouping can be seen as very ominous and situations where an elevator can be without a fourth floor or floors 40 to 49 are not unheard of.
Some of the customs can relate to how noisy something is or isn’t. For instance, blowing your nose in public is seen as rude although you can sniff for as long as you like until you find somewhere private to blow your nose. Eating noodles must always be carried out in a noisy fashion by slurping which enables two things; showing your appreciation of good food and allowing the food to cool down a little.
When making payment for something in a shop or restaurant, it is common courtesy to place the money in the tray provided and not directly into the server’s hand. This tray should not be used for tipping/change and in fact tipping is not common practice like it is in the western world, as it is considered offensive.
Business cards should be exchanged at the beginning of a meeting, received with two hands and studied for a moment. They should be placed in a business card holder and not within a wallet or pocket and should never be folded as this is seen as a lack of respect. Face to face greetings are always carried out with a bow, which can be simultaneous with a handshake.
Here are some basic greetings and phrases to familiarise yourself with:
|What’s your name?||O namae wa nan desu ka||お名前は何ですか？|
|I like it||suki desu||好きです|
|Thank you||Arigatou gozaaimasu||ありがとうございます|
|Please say it again||mou ichidou itte kudasai||もう一度言ってください|
We have worked extensively in the technology & engineering sector in Japanese, most specifically on websites and technical white papers for our client Zettlex. They are a position sensor manufacturer for extreme environments.
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