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Appropriate gifts 2009/3/9 01:01
In a recent discussion on what to get a Japanese friend as a gift, one of my friends suggested that maybe they'd like an obi to go with a new kimono they had. I was dubious about this because I don't know enough about Japanese clothing to even begin to find an appropriate obi for the kimono (I know enough to know I could make an error in matching between the obi and kimono - even if I did know enough, it just doesn't seem like a good idea to me, clothing is very personal).

Another friend agreed with me and then added that buying a kimono or anything kimono-related would be seen as 'romantic' because kimono gifts are only ever given by suitors to girls they love and want to marry, so it would be inappropriate anyway for a girl to give another girl a kimono gift.

This is something I hadn't heard before. And I can't find anyone else who says this. Is it true?

At the moment, I've settled for some laverbread, which is a native seaweed used in cooking in my country, which just happens to be extremely closely related to nori. And I'm padding that out a bit with a small fruit basket, because I heard she like melons (and it'll be summer when we all get together).

Does this gift sound okay between friends that aren't too close but which aren't as formal as business colleagues, strangers or casual acquaintances?

Because my curiosity was piqued by the conversation, is it true that kimono gifts are only romantic?
by Gelert  

. 2009/3/9 16:33
It's not true that kimono gifts are only romantic, but most kimono and obi are overly expensive. As far as I know, in any country, an expensive gift is given to imply very special relationships, be it romantic, business or inheritance.

I don't really know what a laverbread is, but it's always safe and appreciated when you give gifts from home. Also, not many Japanese give gifts in baskets, so it's a real treat when someone does it.

The other thing would be the budget. I don't know what the occasion is, but something too expensive for the occasion can only be a burden. For example, a melon in Japan can cost a fortune.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

Response 2009/3/10 05:35
The occasion is her birthday. She went away to stay with her family for several weeks, so she'll spend her birthday in Japan, and we just wanted to acknowledge her birthday when she gets back. We also want to make her feel welcome. She has no family here, and we know shefs been feeling quite alone, so we want her to know that while we're no substitute for her family, she's not alone either - and we're hoping that acknowledging her birthday, even if it's late will be a way to do that.

We're certainly not planning on going overboard on gifts - even in Britain, that's an embarrassing thing to do to a person (and yourself, as the giver). In work, every team tends to acknowledge each otherfs birthdays with cards and some simple gifts. The boss tends to use birthdays as an excuse to set up a working lunch at a restaurant as a team treat, as well. So we wonft be treating her any differently to any other member of the teamc except for the lateness, she comes back to work two weeks after her actual birthday.

A small, home-made fruit basket won't be too expensive for a British person to put together (which is why I was contemplating it - my salary isn't wonderful, and it's something I could afford to do). But I suppose, if the cost of fruit is different between countries, then she may feel uncomfortable because of how much it would cost in Japan?

I don't really know how birthdays are celebrated in Japan - would she feel obligated to respond to birthday gifts? Burdening her would defeat the point – wefre trying to relax her.

On the laverbread subject, it is a type of seaweed found in Britain. It's used in native recipes, especially Welsh cooking. It's very closely related to nori, and can be used in similar ways.

Clothing isnft a normal gift between colleagues in Britain, itfs too personal, and the point is to make her feel part of the team, not single her out for special treatment – so the obi idea really did make me feel uncomfortable. I just didn't want to accidentally cross any gift-giving boundaries and end up making her feel obligated to do something when we simply want to make her feel as though she is a part of our team. Simple, non-expensive gifts would therefore be fine?

Thank you so much for the response you've given. It's helped a lot.
by Gelert rate this post as useful

... 2009/3/10 07:58
So you all are in UK, I assume.

Kimono and obi are expensive and quite "personal," as Uco noted, and another thing - if she lives in the UK, she probably would never have a chance to wear kimono, and even back in Japan, she might not be the type to wear it at all :) For one, I don't own a kimono, for example...

Actually, I think simply treating her to a lunch, or giving a card and "simple gifts" as you would with any other team member is THE way to make her feel welcome - giving her any special treatment just because she is Japanese might embarrass her and might not make her feel as "part of the team" there. If she lives in the UK, what fruit costs in Japan should not matter - if she is not familiar with "fruit basket," she will learn that as a delightful British custom. That and laverbread as a local specialty sounds fine to me.

From a Japanese woman who used to live in the UK :)
by AK rate this post as useful

Do it your way! 2009/3/10 08:45
If you're celebrating her birthday in the U.K., do it U.K. style! Any girl would expect and love it. Don't worry about Japanese perspectives on obligation or timing or what not. Have a great time!
by Uco, got a basket in Japan and loved it (guest) rate this post as useful

Thanks 2009/3/11 03:28
Thanks for this. This is what I was thinking, but I was feeling a little outvoted - and having a sinking feeling people were going to go overboard and make things uncomfortable for her. You've given me the confidence to go with my gut instinct, so I'll try and make everyone keep it simple and normal for our team.

Thanks very much for the responses!
by Gelert rate this post as useful

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