Aug 2, 2019

The rules of meishi

When we first moved to Japan for my husband's work, I was surprised at his insistence about the importance of business cards - right down to how they're handed out, received, and stored. I'd worked in the corporate world previously in Australia and I could count the number of times on one hand that I'd ever seen someone use them. In the age of the internet, people I knew leaned more towards connecting on sites like Linkedin rather than worrying about swapping these little pieces of cardboard.

Here though? They're a big deal. Even before I had my own job in Japan, when I met people here in social settings they often politely offered me a business card to introduce themselves with.

There are a bunch of little unwritten rules to remember when it comes to meishi though, that I've had to learn - often clumsily - along the way. If you're also a newcomer to this business card culture, here are some things to remember if you'll be working in Japan and exchanging them.

The rules of meishi photo

Don't hand someone your card like this - it's a faux pas! 

Be aware of how you hand them out

You're meant to extend your business card in such a way that you're holding the top two corners of it, so that the recipient can immediately read the information on it. It's something I'd never thought about before, but I appreciate the politeness of it now!

Also, be aware of how you receive them!

For the receiver, you should take the business card from the person handing it to you by the bottom two corners. Don't just stick it in your wallet once you've received it, either. Etiquette dictates that you should read the front of the card over (after all, the person giving you the business card has extended it a manner making it easy to immediately view!), then bow and thank the provider of the card.

Exchanging cards with someone senior to you?

Yup, rules apply here too. If you're lower ranking than someone else (i.e. if you're exchanging a business card with a department boss who is classed as being above you in the workplace hierarchy), you're meant to exchange your business card so it's lower than the person whose card you are accepting.


If you're exchanging business cards on the regular, you're going to need a meishi case. It's incredible just how many you accumulate in the workplace here, and most people I know gravitate towards leather or metal cases for their durability. If you're not sure where to find a meishi case, online options are aplenty on Amazon Japan.



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!