The Kinds of Meetings You Meet in Japan

If you are like me, you have way too many meetings. There are productive meetings in this world—or so I’ve heard. Rather, many meetings start out with no clear agenda, cover ground that was already dealt with in prior sessions, or are filled with people who are unsure about the purpose of the meeting.

Fortunately, Japan has a partial solution to this: meeting names! There are millions of meeting types, and Japan has a name for each and every one of them. Today, I’ll review some of the key meeting types you might encounter in your business and community interactions. The great thing about these names is that they help set the tone and expectations for what will happen during the get-together.

These names can also give hints about the types of people who will attend. Perhaps the event will be filled with worker bees who will discuss technical aspects of a project. Or maybe upper-level managers will make an appearance. You can sometimes extract that information from just the type of meeting, even without looking over the agenda. Even if you are a mere background attendee, understanding the type of meeting can help prepare you mentally and emotionally for the confab.

  • kaigi (会議). This is the generic term for a meeting, useful for those who haven’t yet committed to any of the other meeting types.
  • uchiawase (打ち合わせ). This is also a standard meeting, but with a focus on information sharing. It can sometimes act as a pre-meeting, where advance arrangements are made for some other convocation.
  • kao-awase (顔合わせ). This meeting literally means “to meet the faces,” and is a type of start-up or kick-off meeting without a specific agenda.
  • aisatsu (挨拶). This type of meeting usually involves giving a short greeting, speech, or announcement for a special occasion. It can also be a forum for introducing a new member to a team.
  • sōdan (相談). Such meetings are held anytime something needs to be confirmed, or when particular details of a matter need to be discussed. Expect some give-and-take or be ready to provide feedback if requested.
  • teirei (定例). This meeting is regularly scheduled to confirm or update a certain category issue.
  • bu-kai (部会). Depending on the structure of an organization, these are division, group, department, agency, or other section-focused meetings. The name is hierarchical by nature and gives clues as to the importance level of attendees who may expect answers or results.
  • yakuin-kai (役員会). Board of Directors or Executive Committee meeting. This is a gathering of the top decision makers, set in a meeting room brimming with authority and critical action plans.
  • kessai (決裁). This is a budget approval meeting. Bring your favorite spreadsheet.
  • kabunushi-sō-kai (株主総会). The shareholders’ meeting for a publicly traded corporation.
  • torishimariyaku-kai (取締役会). Another Board of Directors meeting type. They sure have a lot to discuss.
  • renraku-kai (連絡会). An info-sharing meeting where reports or updates are communicated, such as between different teams that need to solve a problem together.
  • hōkoku-kai (報告会). Another type of meeting for sharing reports, in this case with the boss or a client.
  • kentō-kai (検討会 ). A discussion or brainstorming meeting on a specific topic. This gathering is common in the early or final consensus-building (nemawashi) stages of a decision-making process.
  • kangei-kai (歓迎会) and sōbetsu-kai (送別会). These are “welcome” and “farewell” meetings, respectively, where incoming team members are introduced, or outgoing members are given a chance to say goodbye. A combined kansōbetsu-kai (歓送別会) merges these two functions into one grand hello-goodbye event.
  • bōnen-kai (忘年会). This is a year-end event, either formal or party-like. A related New Year’s shin’nen-kai (新年会) takes place a month or so after that.
  • nomi-kai (飲み会). These are the infamous “drinking parties” that are more business-centric than you might expect from the name.

When you learn that a meeting is on the horizon, it is a good idea to query the general category name. This will allow you to adjust your expectations and plans to match the format. You might be in a position to propose to your partners a change in the meeting type to better match the immediate goals. When setting up a meeting, choosing the right meeting name will help give that meeting more focus and will let attendees know what you want to accomplish. By going beyond kaigi, you have a standard method to help get things done by communicating your intentions with a single term. The meeting name can also indicate who should attend, and how those attendees can help move your project to the next level.

[Image Credits: おんり/]

Harold Archer

Harold Archer is a Canadian, long-term salaryman manager at Toyota Motor Corporation, based in Japan. Currently assigned to Lexus International, he works on the Lexus and GR Toyota branding team, most recently assigned to the global PR group. He loves cars, bikes, planes, trains, anything that moves, and working across cultures and regions. He was one of a handful of team members for the 2014 Toyota 5 Continents Drive Project, driving first in Australia before expanding to all continents.


  • Setsumei-kai 説明会: an explanatory meeting where administrators provide details of what will happen because policy decisions have been made.

    It is also used for newbies to explain what duties, conduct, dress, and other expectations the entity will demand of their staff.

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