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Meishi (business cards) are essential in Japan. The cards contain one's name, company's name, job title, company address, phone number, email address and so on. They are exchanged when two people meet for the first time in a business context. The person of lower status or younger person usually presents his/her mesihi first. When the card is extended, it should be turned so the other person can read it as he/she accepts it. It is considered impolite to use a damaged card.
The word meishi is written in two kanji characters; "mei (name)" and "shi (thorn or needle)." The use of the character for "thorn" came from the fact that ancient Chinese carved their names with needle-like splinters of bamboo or other wood.
One of the reasons why meishi are used extensively in Japan is because most Japanese names are written in kanji. Since there are many different kanji characters that have the same pronunciation, it is hard to know which characters are actually used by just hearing it. With meishi it makes clear how a person's name is written.
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