Business Otsukiai Revisited

I picked up this book while I was consulting to a North American company that was dealing exclusively with companies in Japan. The purchase and study of it proved to be massively valuable, as I'll explain in the sections below:

Business Otsukiaia

The full title of the book is "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Business Otsukiai" and the subtitle is "A Guide to Japanese Business Protocol." I supplemented the study of the materials it contained by also taking a number of levels of Japanese language courses as well as a Japanese business culture course. Each complimented the other, and the combined knowledge allowed me to communicate with my client's clients so much more effectively than if I had no accumulated it.

Several rows in my bookcases are devoted to foreign languages as well as the cultures they reside in. As a consultant, it is imperative that I can draw out from clients not just their technological requirements, but also the cultures they must function in. - Miles Overn

What is Business Otsukiai?

Japanese culture is both rich and deep. Otsukiai is a Japanese term that means something akin to "associating with" or "getting along with." Business otsukiai is more focused on relationships within the business world within Japanese society. There are a great many rules and guidelines that will benefit one greatly to understand and follow.

How Business Otsukiai is Organized

The book is divided into 6 sections covering different aspects of Japanese business culture. Those sections are:

  1. Dealing With Customers and Visitors
  2. Inside The Company
  3. Secret Techniques for Expanding Business Relationships
  4. Ceremonies are the Peak for Otsukiai
  5. A Short Course in General Affairs Know-How
  6. An Illustrated Guide to Otsukiai

Book Details and Remarks

The book, at least in the edition that I have (First printing, 1991), is just shy of 200 pages, so it could be a quick read. However, as otsukiai is so important within that society, I would encourage any who read it to take their time with it. Try to envision in-person meetings and phonecalls through the lens of business otsukiai.

Anecdotally Speaking

My client at the time was forward thinking enough to employ a native Japanese speaker to liase with their customers over in Japan. Murphy's Law, however, reared its ugly head on the occassion of a visit by the CEO of one of their biggest Japanese clients. My client's native speaker was sufficiently sick as not to be able to make it in on this most important day. No other members of management or staff spoke a word of the language. The most basic questions and functions that would have been provided were suddenly absent and it was causing frustration on the part of the guest. Having invested into my client by both taking Japanese lessons, and studying business otsukiai, I was able to introduce myself with the correct level of honorific and answer the visiting dignitaries questions and help salvage at least a part of the visit. This book, along with the other things I studied, played a huge role in that. My cient's CEO asked me, "What was that?" My response was "Preperation." Subsequent to that event, my client instituted company wide in-house delivered Japanese language and otsukiai lessons.

On The Bookshelves

Books that I have read, and likely reread, over the years that I have felt compelled to keep.

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