Business cards in Japan

Meishi, or business cards, are very handy to have in Japan. Even if you don't work for a company.

Almost every Japanese adult I’ve met during my time here has 名詞 (めいし, or meishi), the equivalent of business cards. When I went to E3 back in 2007, I made sure to create some of my own to hand out, and it’s a good thing I did. Here in Japan, I’ve been without any my entire time. Until today.

Since arriving in Tokyo, printing up some cards has been a goal of mine. They’re great for various networking events, and to some people can even be impressive. Of course, with myself looking for work, this is a great way to tell people a little about myself. Much handier than carrying a resume with me all the time.

I think almost every single card I’ve received here has been two-sided. Many time, though not always, one side of the card will be composed in English while the other side is in Japanese. Mine follow this format. Some cards though have a logo or name on one side with pertinent job and contact info on the other side, such as the one for YMCK and Slate in the pic at the top of this post.

I’ve seen many stories and other things over the years about the proper etiquette of trading business cards in Japanese. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds. Basically, stand up, hand out your card (using both hands), maybe give a slight bow. If you’re receiving a card, stand up, receive it with both hands, look at it, make a comment about something written on the card.

Now, if you’re receiving it, you shouldn’t immediately cram it into a wallet or purse or pocket. Keep it in your hand. If you’re at a table, such as a business meeting, keep it on the table, along with any others you may receive.

And if you’re not Japanese, you can have a little more flexibility and not follow the rules exactly. If you do, kudos to you.

If you plan to spend any amount of time here in Japan, and you think or hope you’ll run into people worth keeping in contact with, printing up some professional cards could be handy. Or even if you’re not visiting Japan, but you’re going to a big networking event, such as a trade show or conference, be sure to have plenty on hand!

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