In Japan, gift giving
is a wonderful practice deeply rooted in their rich cultural tradition.
People do not only buy gifts for social events but also for social
obligations. To them, it is generally not the value of the gift that
matters, but the very act of giving itself because it shows a person’s
thoughtfulness toward another.
although the value of the gift is not as important as the gesture, you
have to take note that this beautiful custom is not simply about giving
presents during occasions and social obligations. It is a Japanese
tradition that a person must learn and take seriously so as to avoid
offending Japanese culture.
you plan to give your Japanese friends, colleagues or potential
business partner’s gifts, you might want to be guided by these few
Tips for Japanese Gift Giving
1. Occasions to Give Gifts
In Japan, it’s popular to give gifts for housewarmings, anniversaries, weddings, births, and even children’s achievements.
attending weddings, it is socially acceptable in Japan to give money as
a gift to the couple. After the honeymoon, the newly-weds then show an
appreciation of their gift by giving their guests souvenirs. It is
important to remember that in Japanese customs, the value of the money
should not be an even number, as it is a superstition that if the value
is an even number, the married couple might think of dividing the money
between them rather than sharing as a married couple.
Days that Show Affection
Valentine’s Day, it is customary that women give men chocolates. It
serves as a symbol of a woman’s affection to the man she is giving it
to. Men get to respond to these gifts a month later during White Day,
when they are typically expected to return the favor with chocolates,
jewelries or other items.
Coming of Age Day
Coming of Age Day is a national celebration dedicated to the country’s
youth who have recently reached the age of twenty. Instead of receiving
regular gifts on this day, people often receive Buddhist Prayer Beads or
juzu to welcome them during this joyous occasion as newly recognized
is important to note that in Japan, they don’t usually give gifts for
birthdays or Christmas like those commonly practiced in Western
2. Social obligations
the Japanese also consider social obligations as reasons to give others
gifts, the Japanese give gifts even to persons they are indebted to as a
reflection of their gratitude.
when to give gifts for this reason may be a bit confusing, but a good
example of Japanese gift giving for a social obligation is the giving of
“key money” to a landlord at the beginning of the tenancy agreement as a
sign of gratitude for letting the giver rent a room.
great example is oseibo gifts given every December 20. Oseibo gifts are
commonly known as gifts given to anyone one is indebted to. The value
of the gift in this case is actually important, because it is a
reflection of the giver’s opinion of the help he has received.
3. Business Gift Giving
Japanese culture, companies actually spend large amounts of money to
buy gifts for their clients or customers. When companies first meet for
business dealings, it is quite common exchange gifts in hopes of
encouraging more transactions in the future. Since expensive gifts are
generally given in business, they are not perceived as bribes.
Kinds of Gifts
the value of the gift is not as important as the act of giving.
However, when giving gifts, you must also take note of their beliefs.
instance, avoid giving them any gift that consists of four or nine
items. Said numbers are considered as unlucky numbers and you wouldn’t
want to give them something utterly offensive to their superstition.
flowers may be a good idea to give to the sick, it is not so when you
are giving lilies, lotus blossoms or camellias since such flowers are
said to be associated with funerals.
Other Important Japanese Etiquette
- Give and receive gifts with both hands.
giving a gift to just one person, give it to them in private. Giving
gifts in front of a group of people is offensive if you don’t intend to
give everyone else presents as well.
you plan to give gifts to two or more persons, refrain from giving the
same kind of gift to persons of unequal rank as it could be seen as
- Learn to modestly refuse gifts once or twice before accepting them.
- When receiving a gift, it is customary to reciprocate such gift through o-kaeshi or thank you gifts.
has an amazing and beautiful cultural tradition of gift giving that
deserves to be honored and respected. Remember to guide yourself with
these tips when giving gifts to Japanese friends, or acquaintances so
that you too can fully appreciate and immerse yourself to this wonderful