Setting up a company

YW Legal is very keen to support promising competent foreign nationals who want to start up a business in Japan, especially in Tokyo!

As part of the National Strategic Special Zone*, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government currently offers a start-up visa scheme called “Program to increase foreign entrepreneurs” which relaxes some of the requirements for obtaining residence status. This is a very encouraging and advantageous programme for foreign entrepreneurs.

Normally, foreign nationals wishing to start a business in Japan need to obtain the residence status “Business Manager” (Keiei-Kanri in Japanese). To obtain this status of residence, in addition to opening an office before applying, the applicant must employ at least two people full-time, or invest at least 5 million yen in Japan. This can present a high hurdle for prospective foreign entrepreneurs.

Under the scheme “Program to increase foreign entrepreneurs”, applicants (including those planning to be joint founders) can receive the residence status “Business Manager” for six months even if these conditions are not yet met, as long as business plans and other necessary information have been submitted to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and if they confirm that the applicant is likely to fulfil the conditions within that period.

YW Legal works closely with you in cooperation with The Business Development Centre Tokyo, to enable you to fulfil the conditions by the end of the six months, and renew your status of residence.

We strongly recommend using this scheme for those of you wishing to set up a company in Tokyo. The application form can only be submitted in Japanese, but that’s not a problem. Our office will translate the information you provide in English into Japanese, and will take care of the entire process from application to receipt of your visa.

Please note that this scheme is not open to foreign nationals who are already living in Japan. The only exceptions are those who, from 1st April 2021, are already in Japan with the residence status of “Student”.

*The National Strategic Special Zones are designated by the Japanese government and designed to boost the international competitiveness of industry and promote the creation of centres of international economic activities through regulatory reform. Tokyo Metropolis, Kanagawa Prefecture, Chiba City and Narita City in Chiba Prefecture have been designated as the Tokyo Area zone by the government.

After your business has been set up

Support for entrepreneurs does not end once you have successfully started your business. No matter how accustomed you are to living in a foreign country, you still may have lots of concerns. For example, once you start a business in Japan, various administrative procedures will be required. If you employ new staff or if a new permit is required to expand the business, YW Legal can complete all the administrative procedures such as social security requirements on your behalf.

Also, if you have additional concerns such as “I have started a business but things aren’t going well”, “I want to review the current management” or “I want to restructure the business” etc., there is no need to worry alone. YW Legal cooperates with a partner company that specialises in corporate revitalisation and we would be happy to introduce you to an expert (English or Chinese available).

Visa/residence status

In order for foreign nationals to legally stay in Japan, they must be issued with an official document called a residence status (Zairyu-shikaku in Japanese). The criteria for granting a residence status vary according to the applicant’s situation.

The number of foreigners who speak Japanese fluently has certainly increased. However, many of them still find it difficult to understand written Japanese, even if they have strong verbal communication skills.
And when it comes to administrative procedures, it is often hard for them, to make an official application on their own, because of the legal terminology used. Using the wrong terminology or expressions can result in a rejection. Furthermore, details of the refusal remain on record at the Immigration Services Agency of Japan and thus can affect future applications.

Visa or residence status is only granted at the discretion of the Minister of Justice which decides whether or not to grant entry or residence. It is no exaggeration to say that it decides the future life of applicants who wish to stay in Japan. YW Legal therefore tries to facilitate a smooth and stress-free immigration process for you. 

YW Legal provides you with support in applying for and renewing residence status, as well as the procedures needed to change status.

Employment of foreign nationals

Employing foreign nationals is no longer a rare occurrence. However, unlike employing a Japanese citizen, various procedures are required. Whether you are a Japanese company planning to employ a foreign national or a company owned by a foreign national, YW Legal will take care of immigration procedures on behalf of companies and the foreign nationals who are to be employed.

Permit / licence application

It is said that there are more than 10,000 licences in Japan, and there are many permits/licences that are considered to be “exclusive” meaning that only Gyosei-shoshi can handle these. If you live in Japan and want to start a new business (for example, opening a shop, starting a restaurant, etc.), YW Legal will help you apply for a permit, so please contact the office regardless of whether you are Japanese or a foreign national.

Intellectual Asset-Based Management

About Intellectual Asset-Based Management

Intellectual assets go beyond intellectual property rights such as patents and copyright to include intangible assets such as ‘know-how’. They are the ‘invisible’ source of a company’s competitiveness, a kind of ‘treasure’ but not one represented on the balance sheet. Each organisation will have its own set of intellectual assets, namely the strengths developed over many years and synthesised from different elements of the business. These can include staff knowledge and skills, customer trust and networks, processes and technologies. Figure 1 below shows the relationship between Intellectual Assets and Intellectual Property. 

Intellectual Asset-Based Management is a management method that leads to the improvement of business performance by focusing on these elements of excellence and combining and using them effectively. Not only can this be applied to business improvement, but also to start-ups and for business succession planning. When setting up a business, it is important to identify existing strengths and weaknesses and make a robust plan for the long-term future. For smooth business succession, we recommend that you consider this as early as possible, so that the current owner and their (potential) successor share the same vision for the company.

Figure 1: Relationship between Intellectual Assets and Intellectual Property (Reproduced with the permission of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)

Using the assets and property rights relationship outlined in Figure 1, YW Legal uses the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis approach to assist businesses with the identification of their hidden assets and therefore strengths. We also apply a Cross SWOT analysis to explore future business development. Using a Business Management Design Sheet*, we then draw up two reports; Business Worth and Intellectual Asset-Based Management, to inform your decisions. If you are a start-up, we suggest that you develop a prospective business plan with our assistance.

The *Business Management Design Sheet, promoted by the Japanese Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, is an additional tool for thinking about a company’s future.

Even if companies produce technically superior products or offer excellent services, it is now hard to survive in a competitive global market driven by the diversifying needs and desires of a wide range of consumers. The ability of organisations to innovate quickly and flexibly is key to success in these conditions. Alongside Intellectual Asset-Based Management, therefore, it is also important to engage with Design Management which evaluates the value of intellectual assets to the company’s overall worth and how this can be developed and enhanced.  

For further information, visit the Prime Minister’s Office Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters

What is an Intellectual Asset-Based Management Report?

This is a report that provides a rounded picture of the management and measurement of the Intellectual Assets within an organisation. There are two types of report: one is mainly for internal use and can be a tool to raise awareness of these Assets within the company, (A4 sized one page business worth report). The other is for circulation to external stakeholders or other interested parties and is a full colour company guide with photographs and illustrations which provide detailed information of a company’s worth. 

The value of these reports lies in their clear presentation of information which can sometimes remain hidden to internal and external stakeholders alike. The true worth of SMEs and venture companies cannot be fully recognised by conventional evaluation focused on financial statements, as Intellectual Assets are unlikely to appear on balance sheets. This means that aspects of your company which could be strongly promoted remain far less visible. These could even be factors which you might not consider as strengths, but others see as powerful advantages. 

Whilst business managers within the organisation are more likely to be aware of Intellectual Assets, other staff may be less well informed. In other words, the Asset value may be neither visualised nor verbalised clearly to those outside of the organisation or, indeed, to those who work there. This could even include company management, as there are often strengths of which the management themselves are unaware. 

For the survival and development of a company therefore, it is very important for all stakeholders: customers, financial institutions, business partners, employees, etc., to understand the company’s strengths not only through the provision of accurate financial statements but also the less tangible but equally important non-financial information.

An Intellectual Asset-Based Management Report provides an ideal vehicle for disseminating this vital intelligence. By creating and publicising this material, you will also have a clear picture of the worth of your company’s intangible assets. The degree to which you disclose or otherwise the entirety of this information either internally or externally depends on the degree of confidentiality which you wish to maintain. It can be advantageous, however, to be as clear as possible about the strengths of the organisation as this can facilitate the recruitment of very capable staff. Using this report can lead to the recruitment of very capable human resources. The report visualises your intangible assets efficiently.

A summary of the benefits of an Intellectual Asset-Based Management Report
The report can:
(1)       Enhance the credibility of the company’s future earnings projection, thereby improving the corporate value.
(2)       Clarify how each employee’s work is linked to the corporate value, thereby enhancing worker morale.
(3)       Increase the business associates’ and clients’ level of confidence in the company
(4)       Achieve optimum distribution of management resources
(5)       Indicate future growth potential to prospective shareholders when going public
(6)       Provide an advantage when raising funds from financial institutions

For further information: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

About Gyosei-shoshi

A Gyosei-shoshi is a nationally licensed lawyer who specialises in preparing documents for government and municipal offices and/or submitting them, on behalf of fee-paying clients.
The scope of their work is determined by the Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialist (Gyosei-shoshi) Act and can include certification of information used in various contracts and procedures, including immigration and company formation.
The law prohibits Gyosei-shoshi from handling litigation as an attorney or lawyer does, regardless of whether this is inside or outside of a court.

The demand for highly skilled legal and professional knowledge to assist with documentation is growing as both societal structures and the business environment become more complex.
The work of a Gyosei-shoshi, as a legal specialist, has been widely recognised in Japan on the grounds that lawyers protect the rights and interests of an individual and a society in addition to ensuring efficient administrative procedures by their accurate and quick documentary preparation.


YW Legal takes confidentiality extremely seriously. Clients can expect all of their affairs to be treated with the utmost confidentiality. YW Legal implements a number of security measures to ensure that all documents and correspondence are protected and secured, so that privacy and confidentiality can be maintained at all times, and the office also remains up-to-date with any changes to the laws surrounding confidentiality and other security developments.