This article is aimed at individuals already living in Japan, who want to establish their own business in the country.
Nevertheless, there are basic information and links to different sources within the article to help those who are planning to move to Japan and start their own independent business as well.
If you're considering establishing a company, you probably have something you want to sell, be it your time in the form of services, or a product. However, that doesn't mean you need a company.
For people looking to run a business by themselves, one-man business or Sole Proprietorship (個人事業 - Kojin jigyo), can be an attractive option. Because you're the same entity as your business, taxation is simpler, and can be advantageous over having a company.
Other benefits include being able to expense a portion of your apartment rent (if you work out of it) and not needing to hire an accountant because the process is easy. With a sole proprietorship, you can still hire people, and self-sponsor your visa.
Except in the case of some outside employment prohibition created by one’s current employer, it is even possible for an already employed individual (salaried worker) to set up a Sole Proprietorship.
What visa do you need?
Detailed information about these visas can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs "MOFA" Website.
You can study the details about laws and regulations concerning the immigration services on Immigration Bureau of Japan Website.
Individuals who start their Sole Proprietorship are required to file a Blue Form called a Kojin Jigyo no Kaihaigyo Todokedesho (個人事業の開廃業等届出書 - "Notification of Commencement of Business") with their local tax office at their Ward / City within 30 days of the business’s establishment.
Do you need a special permit?
- Restaurant - Will require a permit from your Local Public Health Center (保健所 - Hoken-jo), and a permit from the Public Safety Commission (公安委員会 - Koan-iinkai) if you intend to operate after 22:00 or serve alcohol.
- Language School - A permit from the Ministry of Education is required for opening a specialized private school, however no permit is required to run an "Eikaiwa - 英会話" or other types of after-school class.
- Exporting & Importing - Although you require no permit for this type of business, you will need to pay the necessary customs tariffs for Japan and perhaps the country you are exporting to. Some countries have very strict customs and may not allow some items to be brought in or sold in their territory. Make sure you thoroughly check with the appropriate authorities in all countries involved before commencing this type of business. On Japan Customs Website you can read about outline of export and import.
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Register with the Post Office
Note: if you are living in rented property, it might be necessary to obtain a written consent from the property owner, especially if you have regular visitors.
Be sure to keep records of revenues and expenses as well as bills and receipts issued or received in relation to your business. If you decide to set up your own company you will be required to submit an annual tax return to your local tax office.
For more details visit National Tax Agency JAPAN Website.
Do You Speak Japanese?
In short, if you don’t speak Japanese, you will always be dependent on someone else, and that is a huge handicap as an entrepreneur.
So why wouldn't you want to use a sole proprietorship?
Another reason is that because the business is not a separate entity, you have unlimited liability - so if your business go bankrupt, is litigated, or something else happens, you are personally liable for it.