Business cards

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Above and beyond the simple task of providing names and addresses, the business card is an invaluable resource in Japan.

For business transactions the card, called a meishi in Japanese, lets you know exactly who you are dealing with. A junior associate, the section leader, the big boss? This is an important clue to your relative worth as a client.

Business cards are used in personal transactions, too. I have dozens of cards from friends and acquaintances. The best cards are those with people's personal e-mail and phone numbers handwritten on them. That is a good clue that the owner of the card welcomes you to contact him or her.

Meishi also help remind me where I've shopped and eaten. The little Italian bistro in Nakameguro, the Greek restaurant in Shibuya. The pigment store near Nezu station.

When I'm researching an article about an area of Tokyo or any aspect of Japan, I end up with a pile of meishi related to my research.

The cards you collect are your network. A good group of cards can help you to find a solution to anything in a hurry. But you'll only find the cards you need if they are neatly organized.

I used to have all my cards in a pile in my desk drawer. But the pile grew into an unwieldy mess. Fortunately, it was easily tidied. The stationery industry has an entire class of business card holders--binders of various sizes & shapes with pockets to slide the cards into. Personally, I prefer a card file to a card binder because it's easier to move things around in a card file. Re-alphabetising my binder is a pain in the patoot! But I do have a binder and I will need another one soon; my collection of cards never stops growing.

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