Business entities in Japan in 2024

pay fee by instalmentsbusiness setup without travelGuaranteed solutions

There are several types of companies available for registration in Japan. Please find below more details what is required to form each of them and the business needs they enable our Clients to meet. Kindly contact Healy Consultants if you wish additional information on doing business in Japan.

Doing business in Japan with a local entity

The Japanese limited liability company (Godo Kaisha)

  • A Japanese limited liability can be registered by only one shareholder, who can be a foreigner. Our Clients living outside of Japan are however required to appoint one director ordinarily resident in the country and they usually use our nominee services to comply with this Government rule. The minimum investment to form the company is only US$1 (JPY1), the Japanese Government requires to increase this share capital to JPY3 million (US$39,000) within five years of incorporation;
  • The setup of a GK Godo Kaisha in Japan can take at least one month, notably due to the need to find physical office space and submit evidence of the same to the Japanese Company Registrar. Our Clients willing to relocate to Japan should also expect it will take approximately three months for the Government to review their work permit application following formation of their company in Japan;
  • One year after their formation, all Japanese entities are required to prepare and submit their financial statements to the Japanese tax authority. Japanese LLCs however benefit from an audit exception provided their issued capital is below US$4.5 million;
  • Best uses for a Japanese limited liability company: thanks to limited setup requirements, the Japanese limited liability can be used to conduct most types of businesses activities in Japan. It is the optimal type of business entity for most of our Clients willing to do business in this country.

The Japanese free zone company

  • While this has become uncommon due to rising operational costs in Japan, it is still possible to register an export oriented manufacturing business in one of Japan free trade zone, the most famous being the Okinawa free zone. Our Clients interested by such option usually register a limited liability company with a paid-up capital (at least US$50,000) sufficiently high to meet the requirements of the free zone authority;
  • Best uses for a Japanese free zone company: the Okinawa free zone is usually used for logistic businesses re-exporting their production to other Asian countries.

The Japanese joint stock corporation (Kabushiki Kaisha)

  • Japanese joint stock companies are essentially the same type of business entity as a limited liability company. They require the same amount of paid-up capital (JPY1) upon incorporation and can also be formed by foreigners, provided one resident director is appointed;
  • Unlike most other countries, Japanese joint stock corporations are not subject to audit requirements, provided they meet all the following conditions i) they are not listed on a stock exchange ii) they have less than three directors (no Director Board) and iii) their issued capital is below US$4.5 million and iv) their M&AA explicitly includes some restrictions over the power of shareholders to transfer freely shares. These exempt joint stock companies are known locally as Kabushiki Joto Seigen Kaisha, alias a closed JSC;
  • Best use for a Japanese joint stock corporation: forming a Japanese joint stock corporation is usually done when the company owners are planning to finance their business by raising capital on the Tokyo Stock Exchange or by issuing shares to third party investors which may be more comfortable with a company having: i) a Board including independent members and ii) an obligation to go through an audit (automatically triggered when there are three directors sitting on the Board).

The Japanese limited liability partnership

  • Foreigners can register a limited liability partnership, with no minimum capital requirement. At least of the partners must be ordinarily resident in Japan. All partners can benefit from limited liability against the business’s operations;
  • The partnership is a tax transparent entity, meaning that earning are deemed automatically distributed to the partners and must be included in their personal/corporate income tax statements. Financial statements must however be prepared by the partnership.
  • Best uses for a Japanese limited liability partnership: the LLP is a good entity for our Clients who already have a partner in Japan.

Doing business in Japan with a foreign entity

The Japanese branch office

  • Japanese regulations allow foreign companies to setup a branch-office in Japan of their existing business. The scope of operations of the entity is usually dependent of the M&AA of the foreign company, which notably means that a branch is only allowed to have activities corresponding to those of its “parent” company. Branches are also required to appoint a resident representative in Japan;
  • Best uses for a branch: registering a branch instead of a separate subsidiary enables our Client to minimize accounting and bookkeeping obligations, as the accounts of the head office and the branch will be the same. It is also a good business entity when our Clients plans to provide products or services subject to a licensing requirement with a high amount of capital required. Our Clients should however be cautious when opting for a branch, as their foreign company will bear unlimited liability for the debts and losses of the Japanese branch.

The Japan representative office

  • Representative offices are only allowed to engage in i) market research and ii) promoting the business of the parent company. The representative office will not be allowed to open a bank account in Japan, so most of our Clients ask our Firm to provide their representative in Japan with a personal bank account;
  • Best uses for a representative office: Our Clients are advised to setup a representative office in Japan usually to “test” the Japanese market, before registering a branch or a subsidiary.

Comparison of different types of Japanese companies

Operations and logistics LLC (GK) Free zone company LLP JSC (KK) Branch office Rep office
Doing business in Japan permitted? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Allowed to sign contracts with local Clients? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Allowed to invoice local Clients? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Local office premises required before registration? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Allowed to import raw materials? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Allowed to export goods? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Accounting and tax
Corporate tax on local income? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Not allowed
Corporate tax on foreign income? Yes No Yes Yes No Not allowed
Statutory audit required No No No Yes Yes Yes
Annual tax return to be submitted? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Access to DTAAs? Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
Company law
Issued share capital required? US$1 US$1 US$1 US$1 None None
Paid up capital recommended? US$50,000 US$50,000 US$50,000 US$50,000 US$5,000 US$5,000
Resident director/representative required? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Japan shareholder required? No No Yes No No No
Minimum number of directors? 1 1 2 1 1 1
Minimum number of shareholders? 1 1 2 1 Parent company Parent company
Individual shareholders allowed? Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Corporate director(s) allowed Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Corporate shareholders allowed? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Public register of shareholders and directors Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Can the entity hire expatriate staff? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
How long to get work permit approved 3 months 3 months 3 months 3 months 3 months 3 months
Fees and timelines
How long to set the entity up? 6 weeks 6 weeks 6 weeks 6 weeks 6 weeks 6 weeks
How long to open corporate bank account? 4 weeks 4 weeks 4 weeks 4 weeks 4 weeks 4 weeks
Estimate of engagement costs US$20,325 US$13,325 US$13,325 US$14,500 US$17,050 US$14,750
Draft invoice View invoice PDF View invoice PDF View invoice PDF View invoice PDF View invoice PDF View invoice PDF

Contact us

For additional information on our limited liability company registration services in Japan, please contact our in-house country expert, Ms. Yekaterina Li, directly:
Consultant at HC - katya
japan-tourism japan-jica japan-coc japan-jftc