The Art of Settai in Japan


Settai is another side of business in Japan.

Following my post about The Art of Nomikai in Japan, I am gladly bringing you all you need to know about Settai.
Settai or 接待 means “Business entertainment” (the two characters mean basically “to connect” and “to entertain or to practice hospitality or play host”).
It related to a business practice where a company will invite another (client or potential client) to spend a time together which should bring the two (or several) entities closer.
As this post might be very long as it is related to a very specific matter of business relationships between companies, I decided to divide it in several parts.

The types of Settai:

In a Settai, either you are the guest or the host.
  • A Settai is not necessary a 1 to 1 relationship and is not necessary a president to president relationship.
  • You can have a sales person inviting a sales person from his supplier or client.
  • You can have a distributor inviting a supplier and a potential client to make a smooth relationship for a future deal.
  • So basically it can involve several peoples inviting several peoples. (or several companies inviting several companies)
  • Whatever the rank the Settai will remain the Settai.
I will first explain what you have to expect if you are the guest and so invited by a company (either your customer, your supplier or another business relationship).

The typical Nagare (or 流れ) or the typical “flow” of a Settai:

First the invitation:

You will be invited to a Settai either by e-mail, phone or in more formal cases, you will receive a formal letter or postcard indicating the time and place.
(you can expect your team to have “pre-meetings” about this… you can read about meetings in Japan too here)
In some cases you will be expected to meet directly at the venue, in other cases you will meet the company at their office and move to the venue by taxi most probably.
(or by foot if it is really close, and if you are close with the company inviting you).

Second, the first place:

The first place in a Settai will be most probably a typical Japanese restaurant, maybe in a private room. Expect a 2 hours dinner.
If you are very close to the company inviting you and if you are invited by a sales person if might be a more relaxed place (like a fusion French, a Yakiniku place, or other, …)
As Settai is also a kind of Nomikai (more about Nomikai in Japan here and also here) expect to have several drinks.
First 50% percent of the time you will spend in the first place (1 hour) will be mainly on casual talking, second part (fueled by alcohol) will be mainly on what the other side is expecting from you or your company.
Do not expect pressure, this is after all an occasion to spend a good time together and to pass lightly some messages that would be to formal to pass during normal business time.

Third, the second place…

But this will be part of a second post and I hope you will enjoy reading this too.
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About gaishikeiman 33 Articles
French citizen in his forties living in Japan. Almost 20 years working for foreign companies in Japan. I have an engineering background with an extensive sales experience in highly regulated industries. I am currently the representative director and managing director for an European company's subsidiary in Japan. I have seen all the lows and highs of foreign companies in Japan since late 90ties. Feel free to contact me wether you are looking for opportunities in Japan.

2 Comments on The Art of Settai in Japan

  1. How interesting! I never experienced any of this since my jobs were all teaching. It must’ve taken a while to get used to all this. Do you like settai?

    Btw, I love your shot of the three maikos. I met the one of the left before! 😀

    Thank you so much for sharing this for Trekking with Becky’s #ExpatTuesday! 😀

    • Thank you for posting. I consider settai as part of the job, but too much is too much.
      I only went once to a Maiko restaurant and got their cute meishi or business cards (maybe 1cmx5cm)

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