Medical Market Research in Japan

Medical Market Research in Japan

Market research in Japan is rather costly, compared to performing the same methodology with a similar sample in the US or even in Europe. There are several reasons for this, including the need for extended timelines, the cost of research services, and the general cost of living in that country.

In Japan, physicians will not participate in market research during weekdays, and in-person market research is normally conducted in the evening, after their working hours. A normal schedule of interviews might include only one or two interviews each evening. A greater volume of qualitative research can be conducted on weekends, particularly on Saturday.

As a result, completing, say, 12 one-on-one interviews can take an entire week, including Saturday. If you are managing IDIs in Japan, you should bring plenty of other work to do, since you may have the whole day open, and then conduct market research through the evening.

Physicians are not often willing to participate in focus groups in Japan, as they demonstrate respect for older and more experienced doctors by avoiding disagreement with them.

A native Japanese moderator is essential. Medical professionals in Japan – as in other countries – would not be completely comfortable with a conversation led by an American, speaking English. Market researchers are accustomed to arranging for simultaneous translation, for non-Japanese researchers.

Tokyo and Osaka are the largest cities, and targets of much qualitative research in Japan. Each is easily accessible with nonstop flights from many US cities, and travel between Tokyo and Osaka is convenient, using the high-speed train system. You can go between your hotels in Tokyo and Osaka easily in one day.

A “working dinner”, served by our hosts, between two evening interviews.

A “working dinner”, served by our hosts, between two evening interviews.


Focus group/interviewing room at Seven Seas Market Research, in Tokyo. The small round table is standard in Japan, but would be unusual in the US.

Focus group/interviewing room at Seven Seas Market Research, in Tokyo. The small round table is standard in Japan, but would be unusual in the US.


Travel Tips: Japan

  • In Tokyo, the larger airport is Narita, and it is a very long way from center of Tokyo (a 2-hour trip). The smaller one is Haneda, about 1 hour from the center of Tokyo. Both cities are so large that it is critical to be sure your hotel is close to where you are going to be working.
  • Besides paper money, a handy unit of currency is the 100 yen coin; it is worth about 93 US cents in late 2016. If you want to have about US$100 with you in Japan, go to an ATM and check out ¥11,000. Here is a website that shows the current value of 1 yen, and how that value has varied in recent months.
  • Before you travel, ask your hotel or market research facility for a “taxi map” that you can hand to your driver; they may not be able to read your English-language paperwork.
  • Japan is 14 hours ahead of Chicago time during the summer (Daylight Savings Time), and 15 hours ahead during the winter (Standard time). Japan does not have a summer time change. Here is a website that will show you what time it is right now in Japan.
  • Electrical outlets in Japan match the two-prong plugs used in the US, but some outlets will not take the wider prong that is common on one side of US plugs. Only some outlets will also accept the third prong on a grounded US plug, so bringing a two-prong adapter (both sides equal widths) is a good idea.
  • Do not tip anyone in Japan; it is not expected, and if you try, you will find that some people cannot understand why you are trying to give them money.

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