The Etiquette of Gift Giving in Japan
How to Present Japanese Gifts
You would think the act of gift giving would be universal. You go out and choose something that you know the other person will like as a memento of an occasion or as a thank you. You give it to the recipient, who is happy and says thank you. Simple, yes?
However, the art of gift giving actually varies from culture to culture. Japanese gift giving is strictly bound by tradition, and you could actually offend someone if you don’t stick to the rules.
When receiving a gift, it is traditional to refuse it once or twice, and then accept it with great enthusiasm. If the gift is open, make sure you show gratitude specific to the item. If the gift is wrapped, you should wait until you get home to open it.
Traditional Japanese wrapping paper is called furoshiki, which translates as bath spread, and dates back to the Nara period, which was 1300 years ago. It is made from fabrics such as silk, cotton and nylon and decorated with traditional Japanese designs or shibori, the Japanese form of tie-dye. If you are giving a Japanese gift, you should consider using a traditional wrapping method to make it extra special.
Gift giving takes place during different holidays in Japan compared to the rest of the world. These holidays include Ochugen, which is July or August 15th, depending on which part of Japan you are in, and Oseibo, which is at the end of the year in December. Gifts given at these times of year go to those you feel have supported you through the year, and the value of the gift is directly proportional to the gratitude you feel.
When you give a gift, it should be presented and received with both hands. This is considered polite. Also, you must not make a fuss of giving a Japanese gift. Do it towards the end of a visit, subtly suggest that you are about to give the gift and show your modesty by pointing out the insufficiency of your gift. The phrase tsumaranai mono desu ga, which roughly translates to ‘it’s just a trifle’, is appropriate when giving a gift. This signifies that you believe the relationship is more important than the gift that you are giving.
You should give gifts often when in Japan. If you visit a house, take sweets or flowers, although make sure that you avoid giving gifts in fours or nines as these are unlucky in Japanese culture.
We have a fantastic selection of Japanese gifts and furoshiki available to buy in-store or online, all at excellent prices. Visit www.thejapaneseshop.co.uk to view the full range and order online for fast UK delivery.