Giving gifts in Japan can be a more complicated procedure than in many countries. There is gift giving etiquette to follow, and the whole thing has an important place in Japanese culture. The number of occasions when you give gifts may seem extensive, including the common practice of giving souvenirs (“omiyage”) after trips. The way a gift is presented or wrapped, the number of gifts, and the way of handing it over to the other person are all important.
Jun 10. 2022
Gifting Culture in Japan
This is business in Japan and most people feel obliged to buy small gifts for everyone while they are away, even on a short trip. Typically omiyage are small individually wrapped cookies, chocolates and a wide range of Japanese confectionery. The range of omiyage on offer is extensive and they are usually pre-wrapped ready to give to your friends, family, and co-workers.
Almost all tourist areas and transport hubs will have omiyage gifts in small boxes, around the size of a textbook, for 700 to 1,500 yen in most cases. These will often include local specialties. This kind of gift, as well as alcohol, is also popular as a gift for a host. If you visit a family at New Year, or a host family for a home-stay, it is common to choose one of the larger boxes or a bottle – in the 1,000 to 5,000 range. More than that would make the host feel uncomfortable and also leave them feeling obliged to give a return gift.
When you attend wedding ceremonies in Japan you put money in an envelope for congratulations. Regarding the amount, you should confirm with collegues and friends while preparing as the customs are varied depending on the relationship with the groom or the bride and regions.
How to give gifts
Gifts should always be wrapped (or at least in a bag from the shop) and money must be in a special gift envelope. When giving the gift, you hand it out with both hands. Gifts are normally given at the beginning rather than the end of a visit, and the gift giver is usually very modest about the gift – even if it is their personal favourite.
If you give a gift at a family home in Japan, you might find that the gift is first presented to deceased grandparents or great grand-parents. For homes which have family Buddhist altars, it is common to put the gift as an offering to the ancestors first.
Summer and winter gifts
We also have the “ochugen” in summer and “oseibo” in winter where gifts are often sent between companies.
Japanese Christmas and birthday presents
Despite the numerous occasions when you will give a gift, Christmas and birthdays are not necessarily included among them. Japan is not a Christian country and doesn’t celebrate Christmas as holidays. If you come to work in Japan, you may even work on Christmas day (without receiving any overtime rate of pay or even time in lieu). Christmas presents are mainly received by children and exchanged between couples.
This information is sourced by Fun Japan Communications Co., Ltd.
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