Exchanging Business Cards in Japan – Japanese Etiquette

When you attend a business meeting in Japan, you will mostly likely go through the ritual of meishi-koukan – business card exchange.

So what is this ritual?

Prepare your business cards

Have your business cards or meishi ready, as the business card exchange ritual is usually the first thing that happens at a meeting.

If you visit a Japanese company, make sure you have enough meishis in your nice business card or meishi holder (it is highly recommended to purchase a business card holder or meishi-ire to keep your cards in good conditions, as well as holding the meishis that you receive). Even though you may have arranged a meeting with one or two people, it is very common to have more people from the other side attending. Usually the person’s manager, and the manager’s manager will also attend.

If multiple people are meeting from both sides,it is often the most junior ranked person who approaches first to start the ritual, though there may be cases where the senior ranked people will exchange meishis with each other first, then the next in line, all the way down to the most junior person.

The starting of the ritual

Hold your own meishi with both hands (at the corners so you don’t cover the text or your company logo), with the text facing the person you are exchanging with. This is that the other person can immediately read your details when they receive your meishi.

If your meishi has English on one side, and Japanese on the other, display the Japanese side if you know the other person understands Japanese.

As you exchange your meishi, give a quick self introduction:

ABC kabushiki-gaisha-no-John Smith-to-moushimasu – “I’m John smith from ABC company”.

(of course, replace with your company name and your own name.)

Receiving the meishi

Receive the meishi with both hands, and express your gratitude by saying:

Choudai-itashimasu. Yoroshiku-onegaishimasu. – “Thank you for your business card.”

It is normally good manners to first look at the details (or pretend to), and then exchange small talk. In many cases, if you are the foreigner, you will be asked where you are from.

After receiving the meishi

Do not place them back into your meishi holder as it is considered very rude.

Leave it on the table until the meeting ends. Having the meishi in your view is a good reminder of the person’s name if you need to refer to them by name.

If you had exchanged multiple meishis, place them in the order of where the people are seated.

Advanced manners

Here is a list of other manners to keep in mind:

  • As you receive the meishi, do not cover the company logo on the meishi with your fingers.
  • Do not hand meishis that are folded, bent, or dirty.
  • Do not play with the meishi in from of the person.
  • Do not write on the meishi during the meeting (you can write on it when you are back in your office, to remind you about the date and purpose of the meeting).
  • Do not leave the meishi on the table when you leave the meeting.
  • Do not exchange meishis over the table.

Make sure you get a nice meishi holder.