Giving Gifts Japanese Style


Presenting a gift is a very common occurrence in Japan. I will list the most common times to give a gift: 

 Cake a common gift

When visiting a friend or family member, it is usual to take a small present, such as a cake or candy. When going to a friends home for dinner it was not a custom to take wine or beer, but with wine becoming more fashionable, this would be a good present. 

The 7-5-3 festival see  the starting or graduating school, promotion at work, recovering from sickness, becoming an adult, getting married and the birth of a baby are all times when it is appropriate to give a gift, usually in the form of cash. The amounts do vary, depending on the event, but on average 5.000 Yen should be o.k. for most events, except marriage, where the amount is around 20,000 Yen. I know some Japanese people, who must attend 5 or 6 weddings in the spring or early summer usually colleagues weddings, but it is still expensive for them to attend so many weddings in one season. 


Other typical times to give gifts are Ochugen and Oseibo. The Ochugen (summer) gifts are given as a form of greeting and to express good wishes for the hot summer to come. Oseibo (end-of-year) gifts are given to show appreciation for everything someone has done for you over the past year. This is also a popular custom between companies. You should take note of this if you wish to do business in Japan. 


Summer and winter gifts are sold in most supermarkets and department stores, before the season begins. The prices range from around 1.500 Yen to over 10.000 yen. The type of gifts varies also, coffee, towels, bed linen, beef, whole fresh fish, and so on. 


Many gifts go unopened or unwanted, resulting in the non-perishable gifts being stored away in a closet and forgotten about, or passed on to someone else as a gift.  Another important gift giving time is during the New Year holidays. Otoshidama- small gifts of money given to children by parents and family members.  This can be a fairly expensive season as the average amount given, is from 2.000 Yen to roughly 5.000 Yen per child. 5.000 Yen or more is often given to children of high school age. Therefore, if your various relatives have hoards of children you will be seriously out of pocket. But as luck would have it the birth rate is on a steady downward spiral, so that this particular custom is becoming less expensive as the years pass. 


Giving birthday presents has gained popularity over the last several years, especially with younger parents giving a present to their children and, of course, with young lovers. 

Christmas is another event that is gaining in popularity with shops pushing consumers to purchase Christmas presents, but again it is the younger parents and couples who tend to buy presents during this season. 

 Valentines Day

Valentines Day must be one of the worst forms of commercialization, of a Western event in Japan. It is women who give men presents (usually chocolates) on this day. This often entails the woman having to buy chocolates for all her male work mates. Often known as giri chocolates or gifts (duty chocolates, etc.). It is quite possible for a man to receive many gifts of chocolates, without one single romantic feeling behind any of them. 


White Day -(March 14th) is perhaps the most inane of all the gift giving times in Japan.

This time the man must buy a small present (usually candies or cookies) to all the females

that gave him a gift on Valentines Day. There is as much genuine feeling attached to this as is the case on Valentines day. 


The culprits for popularizing these two holidays are of course the various businesses who make and sell the products for these occasions. A completely meaningless event in Japan that ends up costing the consumer a lot of money.  I would like to make one final observation on gift giving in Japan. Wedding Anniversaries are not popular times to give ones spouse a present. Many companies have tried to push this idea, especially onto husbands, with such TV commercials as "Sweet Ten year diamond ring", a very famous diamond company started showing this commercial several years ago. At one time I asked quite many Japanese married men if they would buy their wife a "sweet ten year diamond ring". They all, without exception said a firm "no". This particular ring had 10 diamonds, looking like at least one carat per diamond, maybe it would take ten years for the average husband to pay for it! 

 Sweet Ten!?

Engagement rings have become popular presents to give to ones fiancé, often replacing the more Japanese way, of the man giving his future wife a large money present, to spend on their future home. For many young women in Japan, vanity has replaced sensibility.

One last thought, if as a gaijin you marry a Japanese, then you should be aware of all the different occasions you may be expected to spend money on gifts, Japan is not a country for a miser to live in!!



 This page was last automatically updated on 01/03/13 05:16:00


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