Why Getting Drunk Is Important to Business Culture in Japan

All part of what the relationship-based Japanese culture calls 'nomunication.'

May 16, 2017 5:00 am
The Best Way to Do Business in Japan Is to Get Sloshed

The next time an American executive does business in Japan, it might be a good idea to get drunk with his potential partners.

According to Business Insider, that’s because Japan is a “relationship-based culture,” one in which drinking is seen as an effective way of breaking the ice and sharing “true inner feeling” (i.e. honne) in business situations. Drinking can also help weed out negative issues that may arise in the pre-negotiation process.

It all fits neatly into the bilingual phrase, “nomunication,” which basically means “communication” through drinking (the Japanese verb “to drink” is nomu).

It also provide insulation from potentially uncomfortable conflicts. Like the old “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” tagline, “Under no circumstances should the discussions of the night before be mentioned the next day.”

Of course, some might wonder what good can come of drunkenness with potential business partners. A lot, actually, per Business Insider. “When you share a round of drinks with a business partner, you show that person you have nothing to hide. And when they ‘drink until they fall down’ with you, they show you that they are willing to let their guard down completely.”

For the teetotalers of the business world, you can sub in a trip to a karaoke bar in lieu of the drinking—also seen as an equally effective icebreaker.


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