Gift giving traditions in Japan

Japanese society is very much obsessed with sending and receiving gifts on various occasions. Giving and receiving gifts in Japan is occasional and it is associated with some unwritten rules and manners. For every foreigner, the gift-giving customs and manners related to it are really surprising and interesting. From selecting the gifts to wrapping it in the best way, Japanese care about gift items like everything else. But it is easy to find the items related to every occasion easily at the supermarkets or gift shops where they wrap it and cover it in the right manner suited for the occasion.

Seasonal gifts like Oseibo and Ochugen as well as occasional gifts of the wedding, childbirth, etc. are also considered very important. Even though gift items like eatables, beverages and other things are sent as seasonal gifts(Oseibo and Ochugen), monetary gifts are prefered as the ceremonial gifts. There are many other occasions when Japanese gift or offer money to their relatives or friends.

Okaeshi: the return gifts

Okaeshi is the return gift for what you have received from someone during some special occasions. In general, the Okaeshi gift should worth half the price of what you have received.

For convenience, the return gifts for everyone who is attending a wedding function will be arranged on the wedding ceremony function itself. It may be crockeries, personal or household items. Recently, people use to issue catalogues of gift shops from which guests are requested to select their item which is comfortable for the guests as they will be satisfied with what they are receiving as return gifts.

Funeral ceremonies also have somewhat the same Okaeshi rules, but the gifts will be dispatched after the funeral function to everyone who has given a monetary fund during the ceremony.

Those who receive gifts from family or friends for a newborn child should return some return gifts at least one month after the baby’s birth.

The best choice of Okaeshi will be some eatable items like sweets, drinks etc. Okaeshi gift items could be seen in some gift shops in special corners.

A letter of thanks, a mail expressing gratitude, a ‘Thank you’ card or a word of gratitude is inevitable depending on the occasion you are receiving a gift in Japan.

Housewarming: It is a usual custom in all places over the world for the guests invited to the housewarming functions should bring some gifts for the host. In Japan also, the custom is not different. People prefer buying household items or items related to daily use as Housewarming gifts. Food items, flowers, beverages etc. are also gifted as gifts during this occasion.

Moving to a new house/ apartment: There is a custom in Japan to give some gift to the new neighbours when one moves to a new place. It is considered a part of the Japanese tradition from ancient days. It is to introduce yourselves to the new neighbourhood, and requesting them to keep good relation while you are living there. Ancient Japanese tradition is to meet the new neighbours with cooked soba(hikkoshi soba) or other homemade food items. Some household items like soaps, tea etc. are some best choices for this gift.

Before moving from the old apartment or house, it is customary to tell the present neighbours to express your gratitude towards them, preferably with some small offering.

Otoshidama: New year monetary gift for kids

Otoshidama is the monetary gifts given to kids during the New year time. Parents and relatives give Otoshidama in special envelopes during the New year. It may be any amount starting from 1000 yens. These will be enclosed in special envelopes.

Omimai: For people met with misfortune

Omimai is the gifts given to a person when he is facing some misfortune or sickness. Gifts like flower bundles, fruits or other items are also bought to sick or hospitalized with the wish to get well soon. Close relatives and acquaintances of the person will offer money during this time.

If someone has undergone any misfortunes like loss of house, natural calamities, robbery etc., the close relatives or very close friends may offer some amount as a helping hand to them. This amount has also to be given back once the person has overcome the situation.

Okaeshi should be given for such offerings once the person is discharged from the hospital.

Omiyage: Omiyage is a very common word that we can hear and see everywhere in Japan. Japanese tourist spots have lots of shops selling souvenirs. Giving souvenirs to people associated with daily life is one of the Japanese travel manners. Suveniors are usually some special confectionaries of the place. These should be given to your friends, family and colleagues with whom you are usually associated with.

Senbetsu: Those going on pilgrimage to the great shrines of Japan were offered a monetary support by the close relations in the ancient society. These gifts are thanked by giving some souvenirs or other special items from the pilgrim spots once the person came back.

Other monetary gift giving occasions: The special life events like childbirth, wedding, and school admission are the events when Japanese offer monetary gist. Funeral ceremonies are also occasions for offering some monetary fund tot eh family. All these gifts are given in special envelopes designed for each occasion. Read about this here.