Business Cards = Must-Have Item

Person holding empty business card

If you’ve taken a basic Japanese Business class, you will know that meishi are an important item to have when working with Japanese businesspeople. Business cards summarize your identity, which is why you always study business cards so closely when first meeting someone. 

I’ve found that very few people expect you, the non-Japanese person, to have business cards when you’re job searching or networking. That said, I believe that it is impressive if you do have some

I also realize that for some non-Japanese people it can seem too sales-y, but I still recommend that you carry them with you all the time. You never know when you will have a networking opportunity! If you give your card to someone, they will have a piece of paper to remember you by. If a networking opportunity goes by without an exchange of business cards, there is no guarantee that you two will get in contact again. Don’t just rely on social media like LinkedIn; not everyone has accounts, and sometimes you don’t have correct spelling of names.

Meishi are an affordable way for you to network and remain memorable to the people you meet. You can spend as little or as much time designing your card, as long as you have the basic information: your name and your best contact information (i.e. telephone, email address, social accounts). If you’re a student, write your school name, major, and expected graduation date. You can get creative with your business card if you want to or keep it plain and easy on the eyes.

Ordering Meishi

Go to your local office supplies store or search for business cards online; there are a plethora of sources. Search for “standard business cards” or get fancier, if you like!

Pro Tip

If you want to add katakana or kanji to your business card for added oomph, make sure that the provider you choose allows for those characters to be printed! I’ve experienced this myself, only to find that my name in Japanese (カーシャ) came out as △△△△. 

Solution: design your business card in a program like Canva, save it as a PDF, and upload it to whichever company you choose to order your meishi.

As for adding your photo to your meishi: I say that it can definitely make sense. I’ve met many people working at Japanese companies that have their photo, and it absolutely helps remind you what the person looks like.

Using Meishi Correctly

  • Keep a sufficient number of meishi in a business card holder, and do not use your pockets or wallet.
  • Make sure you can easily access your meishi holder, and that it’s not stuck at the bottom of your purse, briefcase or coat pocket.
  • Present your card with both hands, and try not to have anything else in your hands outside of your meishi holder.
  • Have your card facing your guest (not upside down) so they can easily read your name. Introduce yourself briefly. 
  • When your guest does their introduction, be sure to receive their card with both hands.
  • Note: If you both exchange cards at the same time, place your card slightly lower than your guest’s card with both hands – but don’t go into a meishi limbo game of who can go lower. (The higher up in the ranks you go, the less you will have to do this.) Then exchange cards at the same time. I often use my right hand to keep holding my card, and my left hand to start taking my guest’s card.
  • Observe the other person’s business card and have a brief conversation. 
  • Put the card away politely and respectfully.


  • Throw your card across the table like you’re playing poker.
  • Place guest’s meishi into your pocket – especially the back pocket that you sit on.
  • Write memos on the card while you are with the person. (You can do that afterwards, discretely, without defacing the card.)

Advanced Tips

Stay tuned for Part II about more detailed tips, including:

  • How to observe proper etiquette when handing out cards (i.e. reading the room).
  • What Japanese phrases to say when exchanging meishi.
  • Things to keep in mind when networking at events.
  • How to handle business cards in meetings.

Have you struggled knowing how to exchange business cards? Share your stories and unanswered questions with me below!

Photo by Anomaly on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “Business Cards = Must-Have Item”

  1. When you put away the card respectfully, where should you put it? As you said, it shouldn’t be put in your pocket, and I would assume neither your wallet. Would you put it in your Business Card Holder?

    1. Mohamed Tallouli

      You can put it in front of you at the table or just keep holding it with both hands until the business card holder leaves 🙂

  2. Ikigai Connections

    Great question! Yes, I usually put away my business cards into my meishi holder. Some meishi holders have 2 sections, and I would put the new cards in the top section to keep mine underneath. If you don’t have a meishi holder, then putting it/them away respectfully into your briefcase/bag/binder/etc. will do fine. As long as you don’t drop them in or just shove them somewhere, you should be good.
    Let me know if you have some follow-up questions!
    Thank you for reading my blog 🙂

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