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How do we return a koden gift? 2011/10/28 01:21
We recieved a ''koden'', monetary gift (intended for flowers) from my Mother in laws family in Japan.
However we are not having a funeral or service per her wishes and would like to return the generous gift. How do we do so without offending them?
by karenkay (guest)  

Re: How do we return a koden gift? 2011/10/28 09:58
Have your spouse explain the situation and ask her what she would like you to do with it.
by . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do we return a koden gift? 2011/10/28 11:03
Generally, you return a small inexpensive gift valued a half or less the koden amount to every family who gave a koden. However, in this case I presume you are in US and the koden came from only one family in Japan. I would send a thank you note and/or send something seasonal through OCS Service, if you can afford.
or when your spouse goes back home, have her take a small gift.
by amazinga (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do we return a koden gift? 2011/10/28 11:57
My deepest sympathies.

I agree with amazinga.

"Koden" gift is meant to cover the funeral/flowers and also a way to express condolences. So... I would avoid "returning" it. Some thank-you card with some small gift from where you are would be nice and appreciated (the gift can be sent now or handed in person later maybe).
by AK rate this post as useful

Thank you for your response 2011/11/1 01:08
Thank you for your responses. Yes, we are in the US and the family that sent the gift is in Japan. It is a significant amount of money and if we keep it , we feel as though we are profiting from Mother's death. Her Japanese Family have been very generous with her for her whole life and while we appreciate their generosity, we don't feel like we should keep the gift. Thank you all for your time.
by karenkay (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do we return a koden gift? 2011/11/1 07:44
I understand. Still, I hope you do not "return" the money. It is their way of properly expressing their condolences, if they have the money returned they would feel as if their grieving process interrupted... The custom concerning monetary gifts in Japan is to give in return something (goods, food, etc.) worth about half the amount. I hope you can somehow meet in between and somehow either arrange to send something over or bring something over if you visit Japan not too far in the future. Best wishes.
by AK (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do we return a koden gift? 2011/11/1 12:12

Long story short, AK is right. If you or your husband can write Japanese, do a Google search on the set of keywords 香典辞退 送ってきた

Nowadays, it is becoming common to annouce the refusal of monatary gift money. These annoucenments are done when announcing the death. In these cases, if you hold a funeral and someone happens to bring money, you can politely refuse it at the reception before ever accepting it.

However, what would you do if someone sent the money by postal mail and such, meaning that the money has already left the sender's posession?

The websites answer that the proper thing to do is to, as usual, accept it and send back an item worth have the amount (this gift is called koden-gaeshi) along with a letter of appreciation.

So you can use half of the monatary gift to prepare a nice (and not-so-flashy-looking) gift in return, and you can use the rest for something that the deceased would have liked. For example, if you decide to make a donation to some organization that the deseased would have loved, you can write about that in the letter to the sender.

Also, I'm not sure if it is your mother or your mother-in-law who was deceased. If it was the former, you can let your husband contact your mother-in-law first to see what she thinks about it. That is the proper way to do this.

On a related note, white towels or linen are also among the common valuable koden-gaeshi.

May she rest in peace.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do we return a koden gift? 2011/11/2 00:23
Thank you AK and Uco,
I am still struggling with this matter. The gift was for 2000. us dollars and that's a lot of money to think of a gift worth half of that to send back. We just feel as though we are taking advantage of their generosity.
Would it really offend them to send back 1400. and donate the remaining to Hospice or use it for the cremation?
by karenkay (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do we return a koden gift? 2011/11/2 11:13

Thank you for the detailed explanation, which I was unable to write up :)


From the tone you write, I was starting to think it must be in the thousand dollar range, it IS a lot of money. The amount is in line with the grief and condolences they feel for the the deceased, and maybe meant to express their thoughts for you for being unable to be there with you.

I still suggest that you don't return the money as it is. I think it would be perfectly alright to use part of it to pay for the cremation and to donate to the hospice or donate to a worthy cause that the deceased would have liked, and you can write to them to say that the money was spent that way, for good causes - very much appreciated - and maybe send them something worth 500 - 700 dollars or so. Just the idea of "returning" the gift of money is the part that simply might not sit well...
by AK (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do we return a koden gift? 2011/11/2 12:11

First of all, using the money for cremation and donation is the most normal thing you can do. No problem at all about it.

Secondly, do forgive me for asking a personal question but you say this is your mother-in-law's family. What has your husband done about it? Or can you read Japanese? There are loads of Japanese information right there on the internet for you to see, and there are even Q&A forums in Japanese where more knowledgable people might be able to help you.

I did a quick internet search and found websites suggesting koden-gaeshi worth about 1000 USD. Gift certificates and catalogs would be a typical choice if you were in Japan. Since you are abroad I wonder if you can get contact with your local Japanese society.

Anyway, I hope to hear what your husband is saying. I have to say that this conversation doesn't really seem to be getting anywhere.

by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 2011/11/2 21:10
I have to say, Karenkay, it sounds as though you're only approaching this from your own cultural perspective. Many people have explained the significance of this gesture to you, but you seem disinterested in anything but an American perspective. You cannot think of it that way. Yes, it is a lot of money, but they wouldn't have sent it if they didn't feel it was an appropriate gesture.

If you are so uncomfortable keeping it, and feel it is "profiting" off the death of your mother-in-law, why not send the return gift and then donate the other half to a charity she would have supported? That seems to be the best solution, I don't understand why you seem so intent on sending it back, knowing what it means.

This is confusing. I don't want to be accusatory but are you trying to prove something?
by T (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How do we return a koden gift? 2011/11/3 08:57
Thank you AK, Uco and T,

You have each been very helpful. We appreciate your direct responses. My husband was raised in the US and has been thinking as I do, (he does not use the computer and that's why I am writing and neither of us read or write Japanese), however after reading your responses we are both convicted by what T said that perhaps we are not wanting to think a different way.
AK has helped us realize why they may have sent such a large amount. That makes sense to us as we know they loved their sister very much.
Again, thank you each for your help and we will probably try to figure out how to send a smaller gift and grateful thank you note.
by karenkay (guest) rate this post as useful

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