Japanese Gift Giving Etiquette October 28 2015
If you are working with Japanese business people, have Japanese friends or are planning on visiting Japan, it is a good idea to be conscious of Japanese gift giving etiquette. Here are a few Japanese gift giving do's and don'ts and some gifts which are generally appreciated in Japanese culture.
Gift giving in Japan is deeply entrenched in tradition and is an important part of Japanese business protocol. The ritual of gift giving holds more importance than the actual value of the gift. Gifts are not only given at social occasions, but also when fulfilling social obligations. People give gifts when they are indebted to others, in both family and business.
Business Gift Giving
Gift Giving in Japan is an integral part of Japanese business etiquette. Companies can spend quite a lot of money on gifts for their clients and business associates.
- It's a good idea to take a range of different gifts if you visit Japan on business. That way if you are presented with a gift you will be able to reciprocate.
- It is customary to offer a gift at the end of a first meeting, and gifts will continue to be part of your business interactions. Go prepared to your first meeting with a good quality gift that is wrapped beautifully but is not too extravagant. Not giving an appropriate gift could ruin a business relationship.
- If you're taking a gift from your home country, it well not go down well if it has been made somewhere else. All of our gifts in the Bits of Australia online store are made in Australia so when you order our gifts you won't be in danger of making this mistake!
Australian Made Ben Vincent Silk Scarf
- Don't go for items that hold your company logo. It could be viewed as a promotional item and you could come across as being stingy. Local food specialties from your country or region will also be appreciated.
- It is common for the recipient of the gift to comment that the gift you are presenting, even if it is extravagant, is "tsumaranai mon" ("an uninteresting or dull item"). This statement is used to express the message that, "Our relationship is more important than this trivial thing."
- If you have a gift for an individual make sure you present it to that person in private.
- If you are presenting a gift to a group of people, make sure they are all present when you give them the gift.
- It is correct Japanese etiquette to present and receive gifts with both hands and a slight bow.
- Before accepting a gift it is polite to refuse at least once or twice.
- Gifts are exchanged among colleagues on July 15 and January 1 to commemorate midyear and the year's end respectively.
- It is a mistake to give the same gift to two or more Japanese of unequal rank. People will also take offense if you are with a group of people and give a gift to one person, but fail to give one to the others who are present.
At Bits of Australia we have a vast range of Corporate Gifts which are ideal for these important gift giving occasions and enable you to respect the rules of Japanese gift-giving etiquette (e.g. choosing appropriate gifts for business associates of different rank within the same organization).
Sydney Travel Pad Australian River Red Gum Pen
Limited Edition Galah Print Australian Bottlebrush Wrapped Soap
Personal Gift Giving
- Allow your Japanese counterpart to initiate the gift giving. Present a gift in a modest fashion, saying, "This is just a small token," or "This is an insignificant gift."
- Do not give anyone a gift unless you have one for everyone.
- For Weddings, it is customary to give the couple money as a gift. Money should be given in an envelope and the number of dollar notes should be an odd number as superstition implies that the couple may split up if the money can be evenly divided in two.
- For new babies, the parents give gifts commemorating the child's birth to their family and friends.
- Gifts are opened in private, because if the gift turns out to be a bad choice, “loss of face” will result. Also, if several gifts are presented to people of different status, opening them in private prevents any possible comparisons.
- If you are invited to a Japanese home, you should take flowers (an odd number), cakes or confectionary.
- If you receive a gift, make sure you reciprocate. After receiving a gift, the Japanese send a "thank you" gift called an "O-kaeshi". The value of this gift usually equals half the value of the original gift.
- Gifts in pairs are considered lucky. Here are a couple of ideal Australian-made gifts which come as a set of two.
Australian Sterling Silver Earrings Australian Flag Coasters
Important Gift Giving Holidays in Japan
The two most popular gift giving occasions in Japan are Ochugen which falls during the middle of the year (15 July) and Oseibo which falls at the end of the year (between 20th December and 1st January). Oseibo gifts are normally sent out by the 20th of December.).
Ochugen started out as an offering to families who had a death in the first half of the year and still takes place two weeks before Obon, the Japanese Buddhist holiday for honouring the dead and commemorating one's ancestors. Nowadays, gifts are given as a gesture of gratitude to the people who are close to them or people they have important relationships with such as bosses, coworkers, parents and other relatives.
Oseibo is more widely observed and began from the custom of placing offerings on ancestors graves. Oseibo gifts are typically given to friends, colleagues, teachers, clients or customers, and to anyone you feel indebted to. The recipient can determine the value of the relationship by the monetary value of the gift. Gifts commonly given for Ochugen and Oseibo range from department store items to food and alcohol.
It is very important to remember that in Japanese culture the presentation and thought put into choosing the gift is more important than the value of the gift. There are many customs and rules related to the wrapping of the gift that play an important role in the Japanese gift giving. Red symbolizes life and vitality, so red gift wrap is ideal for a gift for fortunate occasions like birthdays. Red and white wrapping is used more for weddings.
The safest gift-wrapping paper colours are pastel colours like pink and yellow. Bad gift wrap colours include black and red together as they represent sexuality. Bright colours can come across as a bit too flashy. If you choose a combination of colours make sure you check their meaning first as they could express an unintended intention if you aren't careful.
At Bits of Australia we offer a gift wrapping service for $4. We use brown craft paper and ribbons. Available ribbon colours are red, blue, silver and white. Just let us know in the comments section at check out if you have a particular ribbon colour preference.
- foreign, prestigious name-brand items
- imported scotch, cognac, bourbon, brandy or fine wines (top-quality brands only)
- gourmet foodstuffs, fresh fruit
- electronic toys (if children are on your gift-list)
- cuff links
Bush tucker glass Cufflinks
- pen and pencil sets
- something that reflects the interests and tastes of the recipient
- a simple commemorative photograph (i.e. taken from a gathering that the recipient attended)
- if someone who has helped you personally or you have developed a particularly strong relationship with them the gift should be more specific to the person’s tastes – for example, jewellery, a scarf or a set of tea towels for a woman, or a small desk accessory or cufflinks for a man.
Australian Sterling Silver Pendant
Gifts to Avoid
- Don't give lilies, lotus blossoms, or camellias as they are associated with funerals. White flowers of any kind should also be avoided.
- Giving four or nine of anything is considered bad luck.
- Red Christmas cards are best avoided as funeral notices are traditionally printed in this colour.
To learn more about business and personal gift giving etiquette in Japan we recommend visiting giftypedia.com.
If you are looking for the perfect gift for your Japanese friend or colleague we have lots of wonderful gift ideas in our vibrant online gift shop at bitsofaustralia.com.au.