The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

For many foreign firms and entrepreneurs, the prospects of entering the Japanese market and establishing a business in Tokyo can be exciting. This is because the metropolis is a bustling and interconnected megacity, with potentially endless opportunities for new products and services.

However, because of its vast size, the predominant use of the Japanese language, and the nation’s business culture, Tokyo can also present newcomers with daunting challenges.

The Business Development Center TOKYO (BDCT) was established in part to help firms and entrepreneurs navigate their entry into the city. The BDCT provides a one-stop consultation desk to support foreign firms wishing to gain a foothold here.

“Tokyo is a major international city and there is a lot of opportunity,” says Kazz Kinoshita, a consultant at the BDCT. “But some people are concerned about the barriers here, including the language barrier. At the BDCT, we eliminate most barrier-related misconceptions; our role is to make it easier for foreign companies to establish themselves in Tokyo.”

Consultants at the center provide advice and hands-on support via face-to-face meetings, as well as by phone and email. They facilitate business networking and work-related matchmaking opportunities, including introductions to potential Japanese business partners, suppliers, and distributors.

The BDCT staff also facilitate introductions to professional service providers—such as lawyers and certified public accountants—in addition to helping companies find office space. That was the case for Masao Ohata, the Tokyo-based Japanese representative of a software company headquartered in Finland.

“Atsushi Sasaki at the BDCT not only helped us establish the company here, but also introduced us to an attorney’s office, a tax office, and so forth,” Ohata says.

What’s more, Sasaki provided Ohata with advice on how to apply for other products and services on offer, such as subsidies for recruiting costs. Indeed, as part of its one-stop service, the BDCT provides market research information, in addition to setting up and attending meetings between foreign firms and their Japanese counterparts.

Working in tandem with the BDCT, the Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center (TOBEC), located in Akasaka district, offers a variety of services to companies and startups. TOBEC facilitates filing procedures required when starting a business, including those for company registration and notification of incorporation, taxes, social security, and immigration.

Advisers at the BDCT provide support in English and Japanese. Moreover, they have international business experience coupled with comprehensive local knowledge.

Typically, businesses approach the center on the advice of either their embassies in Japan, or their home country’s chamber of commerce.

As Hiroaki Kitano, Japanese representative of a Norwegian software developer says, “I was introduced to the BDCT by a lawyer at the Norwegian embassy in Japan. At BDCT, I was greatly assisted by consultant Kinoshita.”

And, with each consultant having a different business background—such as IT, trading, aviation, real estate, and tourism—the center caters to a broad range of business demands and industry needs.

Each expert also brings to bear their personal network, ensuring newcomers gain fast-track access to the local business community, which is a key element of the step-by-step approach to doing business in Japan.

Since the 2013 launch of the National Strategic Special Zone (NSSZ) initiative, the BDCT has supported foreign companies wishing to take advantage of the scheme, which is designed to create a business-friendly environment in the city.

According to Sasaki, the center’s chief consultant, “Our role includes promoting special economic zones in the Tokyo area. Of course, there are certain conditions for foreign companies to enter the area, but we provide support such as filling out the required forms, and setting up interviews with the relevant authorities.”

The BDCT also supports foreign companies aiming to establish their headquarters in Tokyo—under the Special Zone for Asian Headquarters scheme, which was launched in 2011 and includes Central Tokyo and major business hubs such as Shinjuku and Tokyo Haneda Airport.

An important part of the BDCT’s service for foreigners is the valuable information it shares regarding day-to-day living in Tokyo. The center provides useful advice and responses to inquiries, including queries of an administrative nature, and information on everyday concerns such as hospitals with multilingual capability, as well as introductions to international schools.

Established with the goal of making it easier for foreign companies to enter the Japanese market, the BDCT goes the whole nine yards to ensure that foreign companies, as well as their employees and families, can thrive and grow in one of the world’s major centers of business.