Society Report 6/10/95
My first day in the company was by far my most hectic one as well (so far).
I had the opportunity to meet several dozen high-ranking employees.
Many of those meetings required the exchange of meishis (business cards).
I had suspected that this would be the case, so while I was still in America I constructed some for the occasion.
I had them printed on "robin egg speckled" cardstock, and each had a black and white halftone picture of my face in the lower right corner.
I thought they looked pretty suteki, and I couldn't wait to start giving them away.
When I did, however, I noticed looks of shock and curiosity on the recipients' faces.
One aite kept looking at the card, and then looking at me, and then saying,
"This picture doesn't really look like you."
It was less than two hours after I had given one to Takai-san, the man who appears to be the most responsible for my "well-being,"
that he came to me with a brand new box of freshly-printed meishis and said,
"Please use these from now on."
These meshis were plain and simple, sporting no graphics except for the company logo.
From that point on, I carefully examined every meishi I saw.
I noticed that within a given group, all of the meishis had very similar appearances.
And not a single one of them drew as much attention to the person as they did the company,
as all of the meishis displayed their company association very proudly.
After the first day, every once in a while,
Takai-san (my boss's boss, as far as I can tell) or Sonku-san (Takai-san's boss) would come and drag me away from my desk to go meet someone.
(I was the company's gaijin mascot.)
I noticed that the higher up the corporate ladder the people I met were,
the higher up would be the person who took me to go meet them, and the less talking they would let me do.
Regardless, before taking me away from my desk they would always say,
"Put on your coat and make sure you bring meishis."
Meishis must be very important.
I have gathered that one would rather forget to wear a necktie to work than forget to have meishis on hand.
Of course, I learned through embarrassing experience that there is a certain "protocol" for exchanging meishis.
I noticed that both Sonku-san and Takai-san always watched me very closely to make sure I did it correctly.
And whenever I made a meishi blunder, they would advise me almost immediately.
One time I absent-mindedly reached into my shirt pocket for a meishi and presented it to my aite, blank-side up.
Sonku-san quickly corrected me and I felt very stupid.
Another time I presented it with the printed side up but upside down.
And another time I accidentally tried to give away a meishi that I had just received from my previous aite.
My various escorts rescued me as often as I screwed up, but I now wonder how many blunders may have gotten past my loving senseis' scrutiny.
Sonku-san was finally so upset about my meishi incompetence that he pulled me aside for a meishi giving lesson.
This is what I learned from Sonku-san, my blunders, and my observations:
When you present a meishi, orient it in such a way that the recipient can read it.
Have the printed side up and the text right side up, from the recipient's point of view.
Special care must be taken when your meishis are two-sided, with Japanese on one side and English on the other.
I noticed that for some strange reason my meishis always came English side up.
Keep several "emergency meishis" within easy access, such as your shirt pocket.
They are extremely helpful in those "surprise introduction" situations.
Whereever you store your meishis, make sure they stay in mint condition,
and make sure your remember how they are oriented so you can present them properly with your eyes closed.
If you make a blunder, correct it.
If the aite notices, say "Shitsurei shimashita (I was rude)."
If you and your aite exchange meishis simultaneously, give with your right hand and receive with your left hand.
This leaves you free to shake right hands afterwards.
If the aite cannot give you his meishi right away because he was unprepared or your visit was unexpected,
patiently wait but do not comment about the situation, since he is probably embarrassed
and will begin searching his clothing, briefcase, or desk to find one as quickly as he can.
In the above situation, the aite will prefer that you wait for him to find his meishi stash before you give him yours,
so that a simultaneous exchange can be made.
While you wait, don't keep holding the meishi out for him to take it.
Remove it from sight until he is ready.
If you ever receive a meishi while your are not giving one, receive with two hands and say, at the same time, "Shitsurei shimasu."
When you receive a meishi, look at it and admire it for at least as long as your aite does the same for yours.
You can even make (positive) comments about it.
If you cannot read your aite's name written in kanji, don't hesitate to ask for help.
If you wish to "mutilate" the card by writing on it, ask permission first.
When you are through with the meishi, put it away in a safe place
so that your aite will believe you intend to take care of it and keep it in good condition.
Keep your incoming meishis separate from your outgoing meishis, so that you do not accidentally give away someone else's meishi.