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JAPAN-US BUSINESS MISCUES

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``Japanese businessmen are more informed, more familiar with American business culture than the other way round,'' says Shigemichi Takata, Marblehead, Mass.-based consultant in Japanese and American cultural communications. Japan's information on the ``outside'' world is ``100,000 times more than what we in America have.''

But some American concepts aren't easily grasped by Japanese. In negotiation, for example, ``If the Japanese party is a buyer, then the Japanese naturally assume that they are in a superior position,'' says Mr. Takata. Americans see bargaining as a 50-50 proposition.

The most common misunderstanding in a joint Japanese-American venture may involve the different interpretations of ``yes'' and ``no.'' Takata offers an example:

An American businessman tells a Japanese businessman, ``Please don't do this because it is not good for our mutual goal. It is harmful to what we're trying to do, OK?'' The Japanese replies, ``Yes.''

The American returns to find the Japanese doing exactly what the American asked him not to do. To the American, the Japanese is insincere. But for the Japanese, ``Yes'' meant ``Yes, I understand your position,'' not ``Yes, I will do what you say,'' says Takata. The Japanese feels he retains the right to form his own judgment.

Americans are more often offended by Japanese behavior than the other way around, Takata says: ``Japanese don't come clear right away. They're not up front.'' Americans can get irritated and wonder ``what are they thinking?'' he says.

On the other hand, Japanese are taken aback by how quickly Americans make business decisions.


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