How to Exchange Business Cards in Japan

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3 cartoons eating Japanese noodles


Business cards are mainly used as a quick way to exchange contact details with a business associate once you’ve met with them face-to-face. However, if you’re planning a trip to Tokyo sometime soon then there’s a few business etiquette lessons you need to learn first before even considering handing over your card.

How to correctly offer a business card in Japan

Japan is a beautiful country located in the Pacific Ocean, full of history and tradition in areas such as Kyoto where you’ll find some of the oldest Japanese architecture. Also known as the Land of the Rising Sun, you can be transported from Takayama’s serene countryside to the futuristic capital of Tokyo for a complete contrast of technology to come.

Cultural Differences Dictate Business Behaviour

If you are travelling to Japan, remember that every country has a different culture, therefore, they have different sets of beliefs, behaviours and attitudes to our own, which as a visitor you should respect and adhere to as appropriately as possible.

One aspect of behaviour this article focuses on in particular is etiquette where one country’s expectations can be completely contradictory to another e.g. in Japan it is considered good manners to slurp your noodles at the dinner table whereas in the UK I’m sure you’d agree it would be off-putting to say the least (Japanese table manners).

Japanese sign on how to eat noodles in Japan

Japanese vs British Business Etiquette

In the UK, we care a great deal about the look of our business cards to make sure that they impress and deliver our contact information in the clearest way possible. However, when it comes to handing them over to our business associates, we never stop to think about the way in which we deliver them because there is no right or wrong way as far as we’re concerned.

On the other hand, Japan has a set of social rules surrounding the etiquette of doing business and exchanging business cards – translated as Meishi in Japanese.

How to correctly hand over a business card in Japan:

  1. Bow at a 40-45 degree angle from the hip;
  2. Point your feet out with your heels together to create a V shape angle of about 40 degrees;
  3. Hold the corner of your card to display all of the card’s information;
  4. Ensure the card is facing your receiver in a direction where they can read the information;
  5. Stand back up after the receiver has put the business card away in their case.

Here is a video from the BBC that shows the correct way to deliver a your card in Japan:

How to correctly receive a business card in Japan:

  1. Bow at the same time as the person handing you the business card with the same feet position as above;
  2. Receive the card by holding the corners and admire the wording and design of the card for a moment – this can be done standing upright;
  3. After you have admired its design, carefully slide it into your business card holder and store it away in your jacket pocket.

Here is another video that shows the correct way to receive a card:

Japanese Business Card Etiquette…done!

Now you’re prepared for your first business card exchange in Japan! It may seem picky but it’s a good way to gain the respect of your overseas associates. After all, other nationalities appreciate it when you learn about their culture and behave accordingly. 

8 COMMENTS

  1. I recently learned about this (the hard way!). I just took a card from someone and put it in my folder, without really reading it, as I do at most meetings. The lovely Japanese gentleman whose card it was explained what I should do according to Japanese custom. Fortunately he was very understanding about it all!

  2. Thanks for that tip. I love Japan, Korea, China and India and whilst all very different picking up etiquette tips helps enormously when travelling and working in Asia.

  3. Wow, who knew. I find other cultures fascinating and I always try to be aware of etiquettes before I go away. I have never been to Japan but will certainly be practiscing this for when I do.

  4. There are also other things to consider about their etiquette as well. You keep the cards in front of you normally until the meeting is over, then you place it into your business card case. Never fold or write on a card; if you notice an error, inform the person it belongs to and they can amend it for you. Also, the depth of the bow depends on your social status. The lower it is, the deeper your bow. So you would bow deeper for a boss of another company if you are a regular worker and shallower if you were the boss and they the worker.

  5. WOW I’m actually really enjoying listening to the “how to exchange business cards” – a very interesting piece of information. I’m a dedicated traveller so always read up on useful pieces of information about the Country first so glad I came across yours !!

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