by Tim Richardson
printed in: The New Canadian; Thursday June 18, 1992
It was once said to the author that there were only two types of people in Japan who didn't regularly use meishi (business cards), those that were so senior , (bank presidents, members of parliament, etc.) that everybody already knew them, and those who were so junior that they didn't matter.
Why is the possession of meishi so important in Japan? The reasons are part of the understanding of the importance of the group over the individual, and understanding of each person's ranking as it relates to the language and mannerisms of communication. The giving of meishi is also part of saying, "I want to be remembered by you." Receiving meishi and offering your own in return means "yes, I will remember you." otherwise you can say, "sorry, I'm all out."
However, having made the point that the giving and receiving of meishi is more deliberate in Japan than in North America, one must be careful not to be too strict in applying generalizations since more and more Japanese business persons have lived in North America and Europe for several years and give and receive meishi much more casually than one might expect.