Starting a Business
Find out about the various business structures available in Japan and how to get a venture started...
The process of setting up a business in Japan for foreigners usually takes between six and ten weeks.
Note: Requirements for licences and registration vary for different types of business and across business sectors, so this page can only give an overview of the process.
Who Can Set up a Business in Japan?
Both Japanese nationals and foreigners, including foreign corporations, may set up a business. There are no restrictions on foreigners setting up a company in Japan, as long as one of the representatives of the business entity has a valid, registered address in Japan and a bank account.
A foreign resident representative must have the following:
- A Resident Card (Zairyu Card) issued by the local city/ward office of the residential address
- A personal bank account in Japan
Types of Company
There are five ways for foreign individuals and entities to set up a business in Japan.
- Representative Office (Chuzaiin Jimusho): There is no legal requirement on the minimum number of people or amount of capital. Registration is also not necessary (except for financial businesses, which are required to notify the Financial Services Agency in advance). Its activities are legally limited; it can carry out liaison activities and market research, for example, but the sale of goods or services is not allowed. As it is NOT a legal entity, it generally cannot open a bank account or lease an office in its own name without an individual signatory acting in his/her individual capacity.
- Branch Office (Shiten): This requires at least one representative residing in Japan. No capital is required. After registration has been completed, branch offices can open bank accounts, lease an office, and conduct full business operations within the parent company’s business scope.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC) (Godo-kaisha): This requires at least one investing member, who is a resident in Japan and is responsible for the business execution. A corporation may become a member. Capital of at least one yen is required. As a legal entity, a limited liability company can conduct a full range of business activities within the scope of registered business purposes.
- Joint-stock Company (Kabushiki-kaisha): This requires at least one investor (individual or corporation) and a representative director (individual) residing in Japan. Capital of at least one yen is required. As a legal entity, it can conduct a full range of business activities within the scope of registered business purposes.
- Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) (Yugen sekinin jigyo kumiai): This requires at least two members, and at least one of them has to be resident in Japan. A corporation may become a member. Capital of at least two yen is required. It is NOT a legal entity, but it can conduct a certain range of business activities within the scope of registered business purposes, and it can open bank accounts under the name of the LLP.