Giving Gifts

Buying souvenirs

Gift giving is a common part of Japanese culture. Different types of gifts are given on different occasions as outlined below. Much attention is given to the wrapping of presents. If not nicely packed, the present should at least be handed over in a bag, preferably a bag by the shop the present was purchased at. Gifts in sets of four are usually avoided because it is considered an unlucky number (the Japanese word for four is pronounced the same as the word for "death"). When handing over a present, both the gift giver and recipient use both hands.

Omiyage and Temiyage

Omiyage are souvenirs brought home from a trip while temiyage are thank-you gifts you bring when you visit someone. Japanese tourists tend to buy lots of souvenirs for their friends, relatives and co-workers. Consequently, tourist spots and airports feature many souvenir shops specializing in local foods and products.

When foreign visitors meet friends or a host family in Japan, it is not imperative for them to bring gifts, but it is a nice gesture that is appreciated. Recommended gifts items include food, drinks or other products from your home country. In general, they should be neither to cheap nor too expensive - typically between 1000 and 5000 yen. Note that there are restrictions on bringing certain types of food and plant products into Japan.

Ochugen and Oseibo

Twice a year, in June and December, it is common for co-workers, friends and relatives to exchange gifts. The gifts are called Ochugen and Oseibo respectively. On average, they are worth about 5000 yen and may be food, alcohol, household items or something similar. The gift giving seasons coincide with company employees receiving a special bonus in addition to their monthly salaries.

Birthday and Christmas

Gift giving on birthdays and Christmas is not originally a Japanese tradition. Due to the strong influence from the West, however, some families and friends exchange gifts also on these occasions.

A package of canned juice, a typical oseibo gift

Last updated: February 18, 2015
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