Japanese Business Cards Etiquette
Here’s a fact you may not know: when presenting Japanese business cards, it is customary to bow and present the card with both hands in a formal
manner rather than just pulling it out of one’s wallet and tossing it across the table. The reason? That card represents not only you, but your honor.
The Japanese concept of honor, or what is sometimes translated as “face,” is as important today as it was during the days of the shōgun, and
has been successfully adapted to modern Japanese business culture.
Much of Japanese corporate business culture traces its origins back to the ancient bushido code, or the “Warrior’s Way.” The violent savagery of the
early samurai was tempered and refined with the introduction of Buddhism to Japan starting in the 9th Century; bushido became a moral code that
incorporated not only the mastery of martial arts, but frugality, loyalty, honesty, benevolence and a strict code of honor. In this sense, it is similar to the
European concept of chivalry.
One important manifestation of the modern bushido code is that the individual is completely subordinate to the group. When you present Japanese
business cards, it is important to be aware of where in the hierarchy the recipient stands. Proper presentation of Japanese business cards is a sign of
respect that acts as a “social lubricant,” maintaining harmony between those doing business.
Japanese business cards are unique in that they are printed on both sides. One side is in English (the de facto language of business), while the other
side is in Japanese.
Exchanging Japanese business cards is done with a certain degree of ritual. As mentioned above, the card should be presented with both hands; it is
important that there is no barrier between yourself and the recipient. When the other offers you his or her card, you should similarly accept it with both
As is the case in other Asian countries, doing business in Japan involves building relationships that are based on trust, compatibility and sincerity.
When your Japanese partner agrees to do business with you, he is putting his honor on the line; should you fail to deliver on something, your partner
will “lose face.” Doing business in Japan is a personal thing; you will want to show that your concern is for the people with whom you are dealing, not
simply monetary gain.
Japanese business cards are the most important part of making that first impression. Having this done professionally will insure that proper language
is used and that your card – an extension of yourself – establishes who you are clearly and in a culturally appropriate way.
About the Author
Wayne Hemrick does business within the Asian market place. He believes you can Maximize Your Business Success with Japanese, Chinese and
Korean Business Cards.