A Shrinking Market with Growing Opportunities

Japan continues to experience a trend of population decline and a rapidly aging society. Some researchers project a population decrease by as much as one third by 2060, from 127 million to 87 million, and the share of individuals over the age of 65 projected to rise from 27% today to 40% by 2060. The Japanese government, healthcare industry, and business community are actively engaged in seeking to ameliorate negative consequences of this population decline, and are taking measures to offset its impacts on macroeconomic growth. [1]

Growing Segments

Although an aging population is often seen as a drag on the economy, it also presents business opportunities in various segments [2]:

  • Medical devices and equipment
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Healthcare facilities and infrastructure, including in-home care
  • Biotechnology
  • Healthcare information technology
  • Safety-related products and services
  • Robotics
  • Leisure and travel
  • Educational services
  • Home delivery services
  • Inheritance related services

Major Retail Holidays

There many local holidays and traditions that can be used for a themed seasonal sales push (New Year, Hanami season, “ochûgen” – mid-summer presents, etc.). Adding to that Japan has happily adapted various western (Christian) holidays for marketing purposes. Although only 2% of Japanese are Christian, big marketing campaigns are run every year in time for Christmas, Halloween or Valentine’s Day. Easter is not (yet?) widely known in Japan, though.

Japan consistently has higher online spending in the summer months when Japanese firms are known to give yearly summer bonuses. In 2015, the average bonus was approximately $2,900 and spending primarily focused on luxury goods, leisure, and travel. [3] 

Japanese Culture Basics

An appreciation of Japanese business culture and social practices is also useful, if not required, in establishing and maintaining successful business relationships in Japan. Indifference to local business customs can indicate a lack of commitment on the part of the exporter, and may lead to misunderstanding, bad feelings, and lost opportunities. Finally, understanding the demanding expectations of the Japanese consumer in terms of product quality, appearance, packaging and display, delivery timing, as well as after-sales service, is crucial. Additional business culture concepts to keep in mind [4]:

  • Japanese society is complex, structured, respectful of age, hierarchical and group-oriented
  • Group decision-making is important in Japan, and reaching consensus may take longer than in Western business culture.
  • A long-term approach to business relationship development is advised.
  • Gift giving is expected on many business occasions in Japan

127 million

Median Age:


Internet Use:

92.0% (15th)

Most Popular Social Network:

Line (217M users)