What to know about Japan’s business card etiquette

What to know about Japan’s business card etiquette

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

In Japan, “meishi,” or business cards, are an ever-important tool for Japanese salarymen.


Like in the U.S., the cards are traded during business engagements and more.


But, unlike in the U.S., there is proper etiquette when it comes to exchanging what is often considered your “face” in Japan.


Any business relationship in Japan is initiated with meishi and a bow. But it goes beyond meetings and work settings. Japanese business cards are exchanged virtually in anywhere. Today, exchanging cards is considered a personal greeting gesture, and how to exchange the cards properly is one of the most fundamental social manners.


Rather than accepting a card and putting it in a wallet or purse for safe keeping, the Japanese like to study the card. They’ll take a careful look at it, then sit down, placing your card on the table, while continually looking at it and you until the end of meeting.


While this behavior might seem rude, or as if a person was being examined, in Japan, it’s seen as a sign of sincerity and eagerness toward new business relationship. The person is trying to remember your face with the details on your card.


Japanese carry their businesses cards at all times. Whether on the job or not, this allows them to deploy the cards in all situations.


When running into an old friend on the street, cards are usually exchanged as people chat and catch up.


Well-arranged, updated business cards help in maintaining a good relationship with various business partners. So, for salarymen, updating their collection of business cards by adding, removing or refiling cards is a must.


Kayoko Shimoda, a graphic designer of Stars and Stripes remembers her experience at a commercial design firm in her younger days. When her senior left the firm, he gave his business card holder to Shimoda, so that she could continue the relationships with various business partners.


Shimoda still owns the holder, despite having left the firm a long time ago.


“The file helped me a lot, and it reminds me of my younger and ambitious days when I was just starting and gaining business skills,” Shimoda said.


If you plan on having business ties while in Japan, make sure to know the proper etiquette, and never get rid of those ever-important meishi.


Business card manners

  1. If you are exchanging business cards with higher-ranking, older or more experienced business partner, be sure to give your business card first in order to show your respect and humbleness.
  2. Give your card with your right hand, and receive the counterpart’s with your left hand. Give your business card at your right hand a little lower than the left hand that receives the counterpart’s to show your humbleness.
  3. Say clearly your full name, your job title and organization while giving your business card.
  4. When you receive a business card, hold it at the edge, avoiding putting your fingers on names or a company logo on the card.
  5. Say “yoroshiku onegai shimasu” (It is nice to meet you) and bow when you have exchanged your business cards.
  6. Don’t write anything on the business card.
  7. Don’t exchange business cards over a table. Stand up and move to the side of the table toward the business partner and exchange the cards while standing.
  8. Keep the business card on the table throughout the meeting.
  9. Don’t hand out a worn or dirty business card.
  10. Don’t take out business card directly from pocket. A business card holder is ideal.

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