Starting Your Own Business in Kobe

ByJustin Hanus
Apr 15, 2019

Starting Your Own Business in Kobe

With the 3rd strongest economy in the world, Japan is an excellent place to start up a business. There are over 3,000 foreign-owned businesses in Japan but, if you want to become an overseas entrepreneur, you need to get it right. Here’s a short guide on what you need to know to start up a business in Kobe.

Make Sure You Have a Viable Business Idea

Before you start, it’s important to make sure that you have a sound business idea and that there is a market for your product or service. You can download business plan templates and look at sample business plans for different industries from a website such as this one. Successful businesses have been started up in many sectors. Some of the leading industries in Kobe are:

  • manufacturing
  • medical care
  • service sector
  • tourism
  • retail
  • IT

Meet the Visa Requirements

To start your own business, you will need to apply for a Business Manager or Investor Visa in Japan. If you are already in Japan on a different type of visa, you can apply for a change of purpose with the immigration authorities. To qualify for the Business Manager Visa, you will need to have:

  • an office or premises located in Japan
  • the capacity to employ at least two full-time employees with Japanese residence
  • a business plan demonstrating how the business will operate successfully
  • 5,000,000 yen (around US$45,000) to invest. This can include investment in land or buildings

Choose a Company Type

There are different types of company legal structure in Japan. The main ones for expat investors are:

  • representative office or branch office – for businesses just looking to set up a foreign presence in Japan without setting up as a separate legal entity
  • stock company (Kabushiki Kaisha) – limited liability company with shareholders and board of directors
  • limited company (Godo Kaisha) – standard limited liability company that can be run by one individual
  • general partnership company (Gomei Kaisha) – all partners bear unlimited liability

Establish a Location

You’ll need suitable premises or office space to qualify for a business visa in Kobe. There are many locations within the city where you can look to establish your business. These include:

  • Kobe Waterfront
  • Port Island
  • Kobe Airport Island
  • Rokko Island
  • Kobe Techno-Logistics Park
  • Kobe Science Park

You can use an English-speaking property agent such as Core 8 to help you find business premises. Shared office spaces are also available in Kobe through Plug078.

Other Key Considerations

  • Paperwork requirements – if you’re starting a limited company, you’ll need to draw up Articles of Incorporation and order the corporate seal for official registration.
  • Bank account – you’ll need a business bank account as a legal requirement if your business is a separate legal entity. Even if it’s not, it’s advisable to keep business and personal finances separate by opening a business account. The process for this can take 2-3 weeks.
  • Registering for tax and social security – corporate entities must pay corporation tax and a corporate resident tax, which requires notification at the appropriate tax office before you start operating. Similarly, you’ll need to register with a social insurance office for national health insurance and pension payments. If you need advice on this, you can search for financial advisers here.
  • Employees – if you’re looking to employ others, the Japanese government runs a service called Hello Work that offers support around finding employees and guidelines that need to be followed. Information for Kobe can be found here.

Business and Financial Support for New Businesses in Kobe

There is a range of incentives and subsidies available to anyone wanting to start a business in Kobe until March 31, 2020. These include tax discounts, employment, and investment subsidies, start-up subsidies, and help with business premises costs. More information can be found on the Kobe Global Investment website. Support is also available for entrepreneurs through the Kobe Global Startup Gateway.

663highland [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Justin Hanus editor