Are foreign restaurants popular in Japan?

Foreign cuisine is already well established in Japan, with restaurants offering Chinese, Indian, French, Italian, and other cuisines. Japanese locals enjoy these foreign restaurants very much. This is especially true if the business is run by natives of the country and serves authentic cuisine.

Many people have the idea that many locals will not come to their restaurant and that they will be serving mainly natives to the cuisine. However, foreign restaurants in Japan can very much attract the attention of Japanese customers if marketed properly. A newly established foreign restaurant can quickly gain a reputation and become very popular.

Lease a property for your restaurant in Japan


Many foreign companies face the difficulty of being able to lease property for their restaurant. The property owner may refuse to rent their property to foreign companies or individuals, or in some cases, they may require a security deposit equivalent to almost one year’s rent to sign the contract. This is partly due to the bad reputation caused by a handful of foreign businesses and individuals who have fled the country during the 2011 earthquake and have completely violated their leases for their apartments and establishments.

As a result, it is very difficult for a non-Japanese individual to operate a restaurant business in Japan. We limit our support to foreign companies or those with capital. For more information on how foreign nationals can rent real estate in Japan, please refer to our “Can foreigners rent real estate in Japan? page for more information.

It may be helpful to contact other people in your country who have successfully rented property in Japan and receive advice from them. There are several companies in Japan, that specialize in helping foreign companies start, incorporate, and run their businesses in Japan (we do too!). Working with a company like ours can help make the process of starting and running a business in Japan much easier. Please note, however, it is difficult to establish a successful restaurant business in Japan if it is privately owned by a foreign individual. The clients we can assist are limited to, for example, foreign companies with a high budget or capital.

Apply for restaurant licenses and/or permits


Having found and taken out a rental contract on the property that will become the restaurant, the appropriate licenses and/or permits must be obtained. The restaurant owner must notify the relevant health Once you have obtained a lease agreement for the property that will now become your new restaurant, you will need to obtain the appropriate licenses and permits for operating the business. The restaurant owner will need to notify the relevant health care center of their plans to open a restaurant and get permission to go ahead.

This process is not too difficult. All that is required is for the restaurant owner to present the application documents for the business license and appoint a food safety officer.

If certain foods will be sold in the restaurant, additional procedures may be required to obtain a special license. For example, puffer fish are known to be poisonous food if not prepared properly, the chef who wishes to serve puffer fish on the menu must have a special license to prepare and serve this species; while restaurants in Tokyo must possess a license to serve raw oysters.

Before applying for a permit to open a restaurant in Japan, it is advisable to consult and with the appropriate health care center beforehand. This will save you time on your application and ensure that you do not miss any important licensing processes.

Buying shares for your restaurant in Japan

Once you have a lease agreement and all the licenses, you are ready to buy shares and open your restaurant. There are no special restrictions on foreign nationals wishing to buy wholesale food or other supplies.

In conclusion, running a restaurant in Japan is difficult, but if you are a foreign company with a good track record and capital in your home country, you may have great success with our support. If you can invest a certain amount of capital in Japan, find property in a good location, obtain all licenses, and provide authentic flavors that everyone can enjoy, your restaurant in Japan can be very successful.