Japan offers unique opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors and remote workers. In our recent interview with Miho Tanaka, founder and CEO of Tokyo-based Startup Work Inc., we share some valuable insights into her role for assisting aspiring entrepreneurs in launching their ventures in Japan.
Japan's unique business marketplace
Japan's dynamic business ecosystem offers an expansive marketplace that fosters the growth and success for both foreign and domestic startups. With its technologically advanced infrastructure, robust financial systems, and a culture that embraces innovation, Japan presents a unique and exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs.
Did you know? In 2022, Japan had over 10,000 startups.
The country's rich consumer base, characterized by a high level of purchasing power and a keen interest in new products and services, creates a favorable environment for startups to introduce their offerings. Furthermore, Japan's commitment to research and development, along with its emphasis on collaboration between academia, industry, and government, provides startups with access to cutting-edge technologies and a supportive network of mentors and investors.
Visas in Japan
The Japanese government has implemented a series of commendable initiatives aimed at providing incentives and support for graduate students and founders of start-ups. Initially, a 6-month visa program was introduced, which was later extended to a more favorable 12-month program.
The goal of these programs was to create an environment conducive to the growth and success of start-ups. As a testament to their commitment, Japan now offers an exclusive 5-year visa specifically tailored for start-up founders, providing them with long-term stability and the necessary resources to establish and expand their ventures. In addition, recognizing the potential of graduate students, the government offers a 2-year visa, although there have been challenges in ensuring awareness among university faculty members.
Immigration trends in Japan
- The current net migration rate for Japan in 2023 is 0.516 per 1000 population, a 1.71% decline from 2022.
- The net migration rate for Japan in 2022 was 0.525 per 1000 population, a 1.69% decline from 2021.
- The net migration rate for Japan in 2021 was 0.534 per 1000 population, a 1.84% decline from 2020.
During the interview, Miho Tanaka shared two notable success stories. The first case involved a talented graduate student who secured a startup visa with a mere product prototype. Remarkably, this individual transformed the prototype into a highly successful product valued at 5 million Yuan, approximately equivalent to 700,000 USD.
In Japan, where business processes tend to be slower, it typically takes around six months for startups to obtain a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). However, Tanaka's current collaboration with a Norwegian company selling mycelium products exemplifies a distinct advantage. This company has surpassed the average timeline, achieving three to four NDAs within one to two months. This efficiency has allowed the Norwegian company, under Tanaka's guidance, to thrive rapidly compared to other Japanese startups.
Who is eligible for the Japan start-up visa?
When coming to work in Japan as a start up the first thing that one must consider is getting a start up visa. The main consideration is having employees or a capital of 40k USD which makes embarking on a professional endeavor in Japan rather difficult.
Can I obtain an investor visa for Japan?
To be eligible for a business investor visa in Japan, certain requirements must be met. Primarily, applicants must possess substantial business acumen and expertise to effectively operate a business within the country. Additionally, a minimum investment of 40,000 USD or the equivalent of 5 million yuan is mandated, alongside the submission of a comprehensive and well-defined business plan.
Once these prerequisites are fulfilled, the applicant is required to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the Immigration Bureau. Moreover, providing evidence of sufficient funds to sustain their stay in Japan is crucial. Lastly, a physical office space located within Japan is mandatory, and virtual office setups are deemed ineligible for this purpose.
How affordable is living in Japan?
The affordability of living in Japan can vary depending on various factors such as the location, lifestyle choices, and personal preferences. Expenses such as housing, transportation, and groceries tend to be relatively higher in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Transportation costs in Japan can also add up, particularly if you rely heavily on trains and taxis. However, Japan's public transportation system is highly efficient, and utilizing local buses, trains, or bicycles can help reduce transportation expenses. The country offers various support systems, including affordable healthcare insurance and public education.
Connect with Immigration and Start-up Experts in Japan
Miho Tanaka is a founder & CEO of Startup Work Inc. based in Tokyo, and Shibuya's Startup Visa Lead in Shibuya. From incorporation to immigration, she can guide you through the entire process of starting your business in Japan. With bilingual support staff and extensive, practical experience working with startups, she provides a leading source for supporting individuals and startup businesses in Japan.