Business Cards in Japan

Business cards in Japan are exchanged like germs, that is to say they are very common. It’s not just business men that use them, they are used in any setting that calls for introductions, college students for example. The reason why they’re so popular is because they save a lot much time in building relationships..

What is it with business cards in Japan?

Japan is perhaps the most famous for business cards, as it’s the only place in the world that has turned the simple concept of passing information, into a methodical practice requiring rehearsal time.

But of course, if you don’t see beyond the surface you’re missing what Japan is really about (any if you’ve got this far I’m sure you are filled with curiosity about these things!)

“People often have 2 or 3 different cards for varied purposes, such as numerous business interests or personal introductions.”

What does the practice represent?

Respect- respect for your partner

Representation-presenting yourself well

Rapport-building a strong relationship from the start

Did Japan invent business cards?

Japan has made this custom their own but they did not invent the business card..

“Little bit of history..”

That honour goes to China. Or more to the point, a 15th century Imperial Eunuch; Minister of the Chinese Empire. Known as visiting cards they were used to write general notes and messages on by the wealthy.

Next, they became popular in 17th century France, where they were used for the same purpose. Most notably by Louis XIV, the “Sun” King.

Finally, at around the same time, they were used in London where they evolved to advertise local businesses. There we have it, the history of the business card.

“Early business cards had small maps printed on the back because buildings weren’t individually addressed.”

They were not introduced to Japan until the latter half of the 19th century, when Japan began to westernise.

Source: “”

“Business cards play a big role in Japanese relationship building”

As well as using business cards when introducing yourself to people, it’s best to establish a relationship through mutual friends. It’s that universal saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” and that message rings just as true here. “Gold plated and heavy weight gloss business cards aren’t guaranteed to get you that business deal. But there’s no second chance to make a good first impression..”

The Japanese have a gift for adopting elements of foreign culture and making it their own, the business card is perfect example. Not only does it give you an opportunity to introduce yourself: In Japan it can control everything from

-Seating order


-Who your peers are

-Even who pays for a meal!

Basically, these little cards have a lot of pulling power in Japan..

Should I take my own business card?

With the important role these cards play in Japan you could be forgiven for wondering if you should take your own business cards. Networking can be quite difficult in Japan without them so the simple Yes!

-Even if you are not on business

(While we’re there)

-Even if you’ve never had business cards

Personal cards-

So if you have business cards with your personal email, great. Take those. If you don’t have business cards, create personal cards. All you need is your name and email on them, and any other information you’d like to add. Here are some reasons why it’s a good idea:


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