Mar 14, 2016

A memorable Settai or How to impress your client (and your boss at the same time)

A memorable Settai or How to impress your client (and your boss at the same time) photo

What is a memorable Settai?

I was asked recently to write something about "How to impress the boss with a memorable Settai".
A Settai being basically customer entertainment, you might find hard to justify company expenses just for your boss. (and if he is  your boss he might invite you and not the reverse. Except if he is a bubbly salaryman, more about this here)
Now, you might find a good occasion to impress your guest (the client) and at the same time your boss with a memorable Settai.

How to define a memorable settai in such occasion?

  1. It should be well organized
  2. It should have uniqueness
  3. It should be well executed

A memorable Settai is well organized:

One stage or Two stages

First of all you should decide if you will have one stage or two stages. (see more about The Art of Settai here).
If depends if you will go to only one restaurant, or move to another place like a drinking establishment after.
It will all depends on the level of intimacy you have with your guests and your boss.
If you are with your boss and if he is not the type to drink late (especially if he is coming from the Headquarter and is jet-lagged - more about the Headquarter peoples here), you might chose to execute this Settai with one well-selected place.
Especially if you are on company expenses, your boss might not appreciate that you are spending so much and might imagine that you are doing this everyday...

The location and transportation:

The place or places your will go to should be well researched and located.
If you send the client some invitation, include a map. Or better visit them, have a taxi arranged to pick all of you and move to the place. (it avoids to have to find some taxi outside in a rainy night)
Inform the taxi company of the FROM and the TO, and indicate which time you want to be there. They will check-up the route and will inform you when they will pick you up.
Keep with you printed map of the places (if the taxi does not know how to use his navigation system, yes it happens a lot)
In case, send to your mobile e-mail address the Google map location of the places too.
When finishing the Settai, you can give taxi ticket to the guests (they fill in the amount at the end and the taxi company invoices your company at the end of the month).

The uniqueness of a memorable Settai:

You guests (and your boss at the same time) should remember this evening like a very pleasant one.
You should treat them to some unique place, not the places they could go every night.
It does not need to be extremely expensive (well sometimes it is) but the atmosphere, the decoration or some attraction should be unique and specific to this place.
You have won when they consider at the end of the party that it is some place where they would like to treat their own clients.
If your clients are satisfied, you can be sure that your boss will be too.

One example:

I took last year some of our clients and my boss to a restaurant in Kagurazaka in Tokyo. The place is named Ajisen (Kagurazaka Ajisen)
It features traditional Japanese cuisine with a show of Shamisen (more about this on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamisen), traditional singing or dance.
This is not something you can see everyday, and enjoying this in the center of Tokyo, while dining and drinking can be a good occasion to entertain your clients (and your boss).
Our clients are visiting now regularly this place.

The execution of a memorable Settai:

Choosing the seats:

In traditional Japanese rooms, you will have what you call Kamiza (上座 more on this in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamiza).
This refers to the top seat, where the "highest" person should seat.
Check the position of your clients, how they are ranked in their organization so not to make any mistake.
This applies to Taxi too!


Check before the budget you want to invest in this Settai. Check if the place takes credit card or if only cash (rare case though).
You might well visit the place to talk about them with your budget. Some of them will accept to make a special course for you based on the price per guest you want to invest. (for the meal only, for drinks it's another story)


If some of your guests do not like long evening (or your jet-lagged boss), you might have to manage the timing during this memorable Settai to avoid displeasing them.
This is again something you can manage with the restaurant you will go to. You can indicate that the dinner should be finished within i.e. 2 hours. (they will bring the hot tea at the end indicating that it's over).
With all this in mind, you should have everything to make it happen. They will surely be a memorable Settai.



20 years experience in Japan. running http://directionjapan.com
French citizen in his forties living in Japan and almost 20 years working for foreign companies in Japan.


  • SalarymanJim

    on Mar 15

    There are some great ideas in here. Do you think during a settai it's a good idea to have some form of entertainment as you eat then? Like the shamisen performance you talked about. I worry this might be a distraction from the conversation (or maybe that's a good thing). The place in Kagurazaka is quite expensive (well, if you're ordering a course). Is this a normal kind of price? 'bubbly salaryman' - I like that!!

  • DirectionJapan

    on Mar 17

    Hello Thank you for the comment. In most cases we had some business meeting before the dinner. So the settai was really for entertainment and create some bonds between companies. I had other occasions where we talked business during the settai but maybe the first half then after talk about other things. The place in Kagurazaka is quite expensive but I had to bring some kind of VIP so that's in the range. On normal occasions if I invite for example our distributor, we go to much cheaper places.