Can't the Japanese do business without business cards?
In Japan, business cards are indispensable for business.
It's a well-established custom to exchange these cards with people you meet the first time.
The Japanese never visit clients without bringing business cards.
Japanese names are often pronounced the same, but are written differently.
So these cards are also nccessary to convey people's names precisely.
Historically, washi calling cards (some of which still exist) on which only the name of the person was hand-written, were used at the beginning of the 19th century.
Printed calling cards were first introduced by the West.
The card seems to have been initially used by Japanese officers who had to make contact with non-Japanese when the country opened its doors at the end of the Edo period.