Japan - Commercial Guide
Trade Promotion and Advertising

Includes web links to local trade fair or show authorities and local newspapers, trade publications, radio/TV/cable information.

Last published date: 2019-10-13
Having a marketing plan can help companies successfully do business in Japan. Trade promotion and advertising can be key components of a marketing plan. In addition to traditional promotion and advertising channels, digital marketing and social media offer many opportunities.

U.S. exporters can benefit from Japan‘s numerous trade shows, conferences, and other trade events in Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities throughout Japan. The U.S. Department of Commerce certifies several trade shows through its Trade Fair Certification Program. Many U.S. state offices and trade associations also support trade events. Targeted trade events offer outstanding opportunities to gain exposure in the Japanese market.

Japan‘s media primarily arrange advertising placements by working with advertising agencies, and often do not deal directly with advertisers directly. Generally, mood or image advertising achieves the best results. Hard-sell, combative advertising is considered to be in bad taste and is usually counterproductive, but comparative advertising is becoming more accepted given increasingly competitive market conditions.

Advertising can be quite expensive in Japan. As a result, local firms and distribution partners often look for some type of cooperation from their overseas suppliers. Willingness to support this effort sends a strong signal of commitment and willing to work as a team to the Japanese market.

Not all companies can afford to place advertisements in Japan's major national daily newspapers or commercials on Japanese television. Regional and local newspapers and television stations, as well as daily sports newspapers are less expensive and might make sense for a product with strong potential in a specific region or demographic segment. A more affordable option for small- to medium-size or new-to-market U.S. companies might be advertising in some of Japan's roughly 4,500 weekly or monthly magazines. These publications often represent a cost-effective means to reach a specific target consumer with a range of audiences. For example, there are publications to reach diverse segmented audience interests such as gourmet cooking, gardening, fashion, fitness and camping. For industrial and commercial products, Japan's many industrial daily, weekly or monthly newspapers and trade journals offer advertising options.

Transit advertising offers a plethora of opportunities. Japan‘s railways, subways, and buses carry hundreds of millions of passengers every year. Transit advertisements can be found inside commuter rail cars, buses, and in stations. Advertisements include hanging flyers, framed posters, stickers, and flat-panel video.

Internet advertising and email newsletters (generally called “mail magazines” or “merumaga”) have also become popular in Japan. American companies considering using such methods in Japan should be aware of Japan‘s Law on Regulation of Transmission of Specified Electronic Mail: unlike the “opt out” system in the United States in which the sender must stop sending to recipients who choose not to receive future emails, Japanese law requires use of an “opt in” system in which email can only be sent to people who have agreed in advance to receive it.

Japan is a trend setter in social media and digital marketing continues to grow, offering a vast array of online promotion opportunities. Our U.S.-based and in-country Trade Specialists can help you discuss explore social media marketing as a component of an overall market entry strategy.

Department of Commerce Trade Events
For Digital Marketing solutions involving E-Commerce related opportunities, see the Commercial Service’s E-Commerce Innovation Lab.

Companies that wish to market U.S. food, beverage or other agricultural products in Japan can contact the Foreign Agricultural Service via email at ATOOsaka@fas.usda.gov.