Working in Japan

The Japanese Business Card and its Importance in Work Culture

The business card exchange in Japan is a practice that remains vital to doing business, despite the prevalence of remote work and digitalization.

Author: Jasmine Ortlieb

The business card in Japan is paramount to success in the workplace, even in an increasingly digital age with telework. If you’ve ever seen business cards being exchanged in a Japanese company before, you’re already aware of how much time and effort is put into exchanging these important cards. Continue reading below to learn more about the business card in Japan, how to properly exchange cards, and other things to keep in mind.

Business card culture in Japan

Business cards are still a big deal in Japan and most people have their own business card, whether they are a company employee, a freelancer, or a business owner. With important information for communicating and doing business––e.g. someone’s name, association, and contact details, a business card is like a mini introduction to you. Therefore, it is the key to networking and the start of many relationships in Japan. Even with the prevalence of remote work, the business card is still exchanged online and offline, so it’s important to have a professional, high-quality card on-hand wherever you go.

The art of the business card exchange

The Japanese business card exchange is something that you may have seen in films or manga, or have even experienced yourself if you’ve worked at a company in Japan.

It may look effortless and flow perfectly, but there are actually a lot of different steps. If you have the opportunity to try it yourself, keep the following points in mind:

  • Before you go to your meeting, be sure to bring enough business cards so that you can exchange with as many people as are there. You should carry these business cards in a designated case and have easy access to it. Don’t just use your wallet!
  • You will usually exchange business cards right after you meet up with your client or contact for the first time, but wait until the right timing for your exchange.
  • When it’s your turn to exchange your card, present it to your partner with the text facing them, so that they can see your name, title, and company name. It is typical to hold the business card with both hands while holding onto your business card case underneath.
  • When receiving the business card, accept it with a bow and thank them, saying 頂戴いたします (chodai itashimasu). Don’t shake your partner’s hand.
  • Hold the business card, and take a moment to look over the card and their name. If you are unsure of the pronunciation, now is the perfect time to ask.
  • If you are sitting down for your meeting, keep the business cards you’ve received out on the table so that you can refer back to the names and roles of the people you’ve just met.

There are also a few precautions to take when you are exchanging business cards: For example, don’t write or make notes on the person’s business card, and put away the card in your business case holder until the meeting is over. You should also keep your own business cards neat and free of creases, to make the best impression possible.

The business card exchange and everything business card-related is usually taught in career preparation classes at universities or business schools in Japan. It will take several rounds of practice and even years to perfect your exchange, so while it is great to mind your manners, don’t worry too much if you make mistakes.

When you can’t exchange business cards in-person

If you have an online meeting, there are still ways to give and receive business cards. You should consult first with those attending the meeting to see about the most appropriate way to exchange cards, but you can either mail your physical card or simply send a picture or scan as an attachment in an email.

Whether you’ve exchanged your business card over the internet or in-person, there are also plenty of online services and apps that allow you to save and manage the contacts you’ve made through your business cards. Using one of these business card management services will allow you to use and organize your contacts wisely.

Business card culture in Japan remains relevant today. For anyone who wants to get ahead in their career, have your card ready to exchange wherever you go, and use your existing contacts wisely!

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