Japanese Business Card Ceremony

Universal Lessons

I have admired the Japanese culture’s affinity for beauty ever since I was a young girl.

Japanese business card ceremony

Japanese tea ceremony – Image via Wikipedia

They bequeathed much to us. The first thing that comes to mind is Sushi, my favorite cuisine. And then I think of KimonosKabuki Theater, Flower Arrangement, CalligraphySumo wrestling, Bonsai, Anime, Tea Ceremony and Haiku. And the list goes on.

Years ago I was sitting next to an interesting gentleman on a plane flight back to San Diego. He was returning from a business trip to Japan. When we exchanged cards, he mentioned that it is the height of rudeness in Japan to not have your business cards in a business-card holder. This so fascinated me that I later googled the etiquette of Japanese business card exchange.  So here’s what I discovered.

Business Card Etiquette

Exchanging business cards in Japan is nearly as complex as the traditional tea ceremony.  Like learning to play the piano, it takes many years to learn. “Meishi” is the Japanese term for the exchange of business cards. When exchanging cards with a business person in Japan, it is considered good etiquette to:

1) Have cards printed on one side in Japanese, and on the other in your own native language.  Offer the Japanese side facing up towards the recipient. Bring more cards with you than you think you will need. You may as well not even book a flight to Japan if you are going to forget your business cards, as you will be a persona non gratis without your cards. Carry your cards in a slim and attractive business-card holder, not in your pocket.

2) Offer the card with both hands as a sign of respect.

3) A business card is thought of as a piece of the person and not just a tool to jog your memory later.  So you should peruse the card carefully and memorize all pertinent information right then and there.

Business card ceremony - card case

Business card case – Image via Wikipedia

4) It is considered rude if you accept someone’s card and then fold it, write on it, rip a corner off or stick it in your pocket like wadded-up gum in a wrapper. Place it into your special business card holder.

Thought and Practice

As with the Japanese tea ceremony, the Japanese business card ceremony requires thought and practice. Consequently, there is far more to learn than I have mentioned here, so if you find yourself traveling to Japan, do some homework and study the correct etiquette before you board the plane.

I find that these are simple ideas that could be incorporated into business card exchanges right here in the USA. It’s aesthetically pleasing and a nice way to honor the person you have just met and with whom you would like to do business.


Patty Mooney is a VP, Video Producer, Sound Technician, Teleprompter Operator and Video Editor at San Diego’s award-winning video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions.