How to Address Business Associates in Japan: Tips for Entrepreneurs in Japan

【Koshida Accounting Firm Column Date:

Hi, my name is Taisei Koshida, and I am a certified public accountant as well as a tax accountant.


I aim to assist non-Japanese business owners who struggle with reading or writing in Japanese. If you find the Japanese tax return system challenging, I can help you with your tax filings.


This blog may help if you are unclear about how to address business associates in Japan.







In the Japanese business context, it’s customary to address others by their last name followed by “san(さん)” when speaking face-to-face. Using first names or nicknames is uncommon unless the relationship is intimate. Furthermore, employees in the service sector address customers by adding “sama(様)” to their last name.


Written Communication

When sending emails or documents to business associates, it’s customary in Japan to address them using their last name followed by “sama(様)”, even if you might address them with “san(さん)” in person. The same applies when paging them over the phone or at a reception.



Furthermore, instead of “san(さん)” and “sama(様)”, it is also common to address individuals using their last name followed by titles such as “president(社長)”, “manager(部長)”, or “sensei(先生)”. “Sensei(先生)” is often used to address professionals like doctors, politicians, lawyers, and tax accountants.



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