In this article, we provide a guide to help foreigners who want to open a restaurant in Japan.

1.Are Foreign Restaurants Popular in Japan?

Foreign food is already widely available in Japan, with restaurants serving Chinese, Indian, French and Italian cuisine amongst others. Japanese people enjoy these foreign restaurants very much, especially when the business is run by natives of the country and authentic foods are served.

In general, those running a restaurant outside their home country may consider natives of their own country to make up the main customer profile. In Japan, however, foreign restaurants can also expect Japanese customers to be a key part of their target audience. If well managed and properly marketed, a newly established foreign restaurant can quickly gain a good reputation and become very popular.

2.Leasing A Property for Your Restaurant in Japan

A difficulty faced by foreigners who want to open a restaurant in Japan is finding a property to lease. Property owners in Japan can be adverse to renting property to foreigners to run a restaurant from. More specifically, there have been cases where real estate owners have refused to rent property to foreigners, or where a deposit of an amount equivalent to nearly 1 year’s rent was required to form the contract.

restaurant-in-japanOn the positive side, there are a growing number of real estate companies and property owners who are willing to rent to foreigners. For further information on how foreigners can rent property in Japan, please refer to our page “Is it Possible for a Foreigner to Rent Property in Japan?”

You may find it helpful to contact others from your country who have successfully rented property in Japan and get advice from them. There are also a number of companies in Japan, including our own, who specialise in providing support to foreigners in launching businesses, incorporating companies and management. Working with a company like ours will help to make the process of opening and running your business in Japan much easier.

3.Applying 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 care centre of plans to open the restaurant and get permission to go ahead.

This process is not difficult – all that is required is for the restaurant owner to present an application document for the business license, along with nominating a food hygiene manager.

business-permitsIn cases where certain foods will be sold by the restaurant, additional procedures may be required to obtain special licenses. For example, if puffer fish is on the menu, the chef must hold a special license, while restaurants in Tokyo Metropolis must have a license to serve raw oysters.

It is advisable to make an advance visit to the appropriate health care centre for consultation before you apply for permission to open your restaurant in Japan. This will save time during the application and ensure that you do not miss out on any essential licensing process.
Please note that our company can provide foreigners with support in applying for permits and licenses for their restaurant.

4.Buying Stock for Your Restaurant in Japan

When you have your rental contract and official permits, you have reached the stage of buying stock and opening your restaurant. There are no special restrictions placed on foreigners wishing to buy foodstuffs and other supplies, with the exception of certain trades such as fish markets.

To summarise, running a restaurant in Japan is an excellent choice for a foreigner. If you are able to find a property, obtain the licenses and serve the authentic flavours enjoyed by both Japanese and non-native residents, then your foreign restaurant in Japan has every chance of becoming a great success.