A relationship between companies often begins with a simple business letter. This is the first impression that can open the door to a productive working relationship. When addressing a foreign company, it is necessary to follow proper etiquette to leave a good impression. This is especially true when addressing a business letter to a Japanese company. Japanese business letters should follow the customary format and etiquette of formality and politeness.

Organization

Japanese business letter etiquette requires that the writer follow a specific organizational format. The name of the person receiving the letter and his or her proper honorific title, department and the name of the company are to be written in the top left corner of the page. The date is placed at the top right corner of the page. Leave a space below the addressee information and include your name, title, department and company below that on the left side of the letter. Below all of this, the title of the letter should be typed and centered. Write the body of the letter below the title and include a space between the body of the letter and the complimentary closing at the very end of the letter.

Keigo

Keigo means “honorific” or “respectful” speech and refers to the different levels of politeness that exist in the Japanese language. The higher, respectful form of Japanese requires modifying both verbs and nouns in sentences into their longer forms. This respectful level of Japanese is expected in the business world and should be used when writing a letter or addressing a customer or client.

Opening and Closing

The opening of the letter should begin with salutations as well as seasonal greetings. It should also include a show of respect to the company as well as appreciation for the company’s business. A complimentary closing reiterating the language used at the beginning should be used at the end of the body of the letter but before the closing word. “Haikei” (Dear Sir) and “Keigu” (Sincerely) should be used when beginning and ending the letter.

Body

The body usually begins with the word “Sate,” which means “well,” or “so.” The purpose of the letter should follow the opening. Be clear about what you are asking or proposing and maintain the level of appropriate level of formality.