Q Why are business cards necessary at work?

A Business cards are not unique to Japan. It is said that the origin of business cards dates back to China. When meeting a high government official, the person in the lower position would carve his name onto a piece of slivered bamboo to give to the official. The following reasons account for why attention is given to the fondness of the Japanese for business cards.

The first is that Japanese names are written in Kanji. Because many different characters have the same pronunciation, it is difficult to know just by its pronunciation what characters are actually used; hence, business cards serve as a convenient means to make clear how a person's name is written.

In the name NAGAI Hiroshi for instance; NAGAI can be written as and Hiroshi can be written as There are many different character combinations that can be used for the same name that cannot be discerned by ear. Another reason is the custom in Japanese society of calling a person by title not only in one's company but also for people in other companies. Businessmen from other companies are called by their titles such as shacho (president) or bucho (general manager). A name-only business card does not reveal position, and there is hesitancy in outright asking and an unnaturalness in declaring it on one's own initiative. This is why it is necessary to exchange business cards that state both the name of the company and position.