How are business cards (Meishi) exchanged in a formal setting in Japan?


In the rich tapestry of Japanese business culture, the ritualistic exchange of business cards, known as “Meishi,” is a meticulously observed custom that embodies respect, formality, and the establishment of professional connections. Conducted with a set of unwritten rules and etiquettes, the process of Meishi exchange in formal settings serves as a symbolic gesture of honor and acknowledgement.

The ritual begins with a choreographed series of movements that reflect the deeply ingrained values of respect and etiquette. When initiating a Meishi exchange in a formal setting, individuals approach one another with a sense of decorum, often bowing slightly as a gesture of respect.

The presentation of the business card itself holds paramount importance. With both hands, the giver offers their Meishi facing the recipient, ensuring the card’s details are visible and easily readable. This act signifies a sincere expression of respect towards the recipient. The manner in which the card is presented—without covering any information and avoiding any creases or damages—reflects the giver’s attention to detail and professionalism.


Equally crucial is the act of receiving the Meishi. The recipient accepts the card with both hands, demonstrating a sign of appreciation and respect for the giver. The recipient takes a moment to carefully examine the card, acknowledging the details and the significance of the exchange. It’s customary to avoid immediately storing the card away; instead, it is usually placed on the table in front of the recipient during the meeting, a gesture that emphasizes the importance given to the exchanged information and the individual who presented it.

The information displayed on the Meishi is scrutinized, as it provides insights into the individual’s professional standing and background. Details such as the person’s name, job title, company name, and sometimes the company’s address are included. The quality of the card, its design, and even the choice of font can subtly communicate an individual’s dedication to professionalism and attention to detail.

In a formal business setting in Japan, the exchange of Meishi is not simply a transaction of contact information; it serves as an initial step in building professional relationships. This ritual fosters a sense of trust, demonstrates mutual respect, and lays the foundation for further communication and collaboration.

The practice of exchanging Meishi in formal settings is deeply rooted in Japanese history, evolving from the aristocratic “ninsōgami” cards of the past to the modern-day business cards. Despite technological advancements and the prevalence of digital communication, the significance of this tradition remains steadfast, embodying the cultural values of respect, formality, and relationship-building.

In conclusion, the exchange of business cards (Meishi) in formal Japanese settings transcends a mere transfer of contact information. It is a ceremonial practice steeped in tradition, reflecting respect, acknowledgment, and the establishment of professional connections—an integral part of Japanese business etiquette that continues to endure and thrive in contemporary society.