Japan vs. the rest of the world: 3 major cultural gaps to be aware of
I keep saying that Japan is Asia, but not really.
I can probably say this because I'm not fully Japanese myself - I grew up in a mixed family of Japanese born Koreans and this really gave me some identity challenges... but actually is a huge advantage now that I can navigate international waters so well.
I'm sharing some major key points when dealing with the local Japanese startup ecosystems and foreign startups who are looking to enter into Japan.... (I thought this was so intuitive but apparently not so I hope this helps!)
Before you start investing in (not just financially) important discussions that cost your precious time - honestly, time for me is the most important factor, do the best you can to clarify if the relevant party "really" wants to make an impact. I find that the "wabi-sabi" (here nor there) mindset can actually also be very difficult and fuzzy.
High context vs. low context cultures
The "societal norm" and "what's accepted" can be hard to understand for those who are not familiar with Japan. Not much is "verbally communicated" but that is "normal" for Japan.... My advice: Ask a lot of questions even if you think it's annoying. It's better off for everyone this way because you can be extremely clear from the very beginning of building a relationship than finding out much later in the process and you "feel like you wasted so much time".
The learning process for both sides (local Japanese and whomever is trying to learn about Japan) can take A LOT OF TIME which usually is not accounted for, or is really obvious, in which case, feeds into the frustration and stress level for both sides because this AWARENESSS is not there.
Translators play a key role during multi-language discussions, but if you're really trying to make the conversation effective, invest in a professional translator rather than, for example, an intern who says they understand both languages "pretty well" because this will make a major impact on the process of the discussion, and minimize what's lost in translation.
GOOD LUCK Y'ALL :)