Giving gifts to people from different cultures can be a confusing practice and Japan is no exception to this.
There are a selection of unwritten rules related to giving and receiving gifts in Japan and following these can help to make good relationships with your Japanese friends, business colleagues or guests as well as show your appreciation for any hospitality that they have provided for you.
- Consider preparing a gift for important people you are expecting to meet if you are visiting Japan or inviting Japanese guests to your home.
- Prepare a selection of different gifts so that if you are unexpectedly given a gift, you will have something to give back in return.
- Wrap all gifts with suitable wrapping paper before giving to the recipient.
- Carry your wrapped gift in a separate bag so that you can be more discreet with carrying it around before you give it.
- Use both hands to present the gift. Similarly, use two hands to receive any gift you might be given.
- Give a gift in private if you are only giving to a single individual.
- Be modest about your gift. The act of giving the gift is much more important than the actual gift so you can convey this by saying “Tsumaranai mono desu ga” which means “This is just a small thing…”
- Refuse to accept a gift once or twice if you are offered one. Even though you should accept it eventually, it is polite to pretend that it is too much to receive.
- Surprise anyone by giving a gift at an inappropriate time such as when many other people are around.
- Rush when opening your gift if you open in front of others. Appreciate the wrapping that someone did for the gift.
- Use black red or white wrapping paper as it symbolises death. Go for something subtle and not too bright.
- Give your gift immediately. Wait until the end of the visit or until the atmosphere is more comfortable before you give your gift.
- Give a gift that is “Made is Japan” as it may appear as an inappropriate choice.
- Something from your home country is always a good idea to give as a gift to Japanese people. English tea, Scotch whiskey, shortbread biscuits, jam and conserves and any other suitable gift that you may not be able to puchase in Japan are all good ideas.
- It is recommended to give consumable items as they can be shared with friends or colleagues etc, and are also not likely to take up lots of space in a Japanese house.
- Anything with a brand name is always appreciated, especially if it is has a close connection with your home country or city. For example Harrods or Cath Kidston etc.
GIVING JAPANESE GIFTS TO NON-JAPANESE PEOPLE
As Japanese culture has a focus on giving and receiving gifts, you will find many different types of gift shops in Japan all selling a wide variety of traditional items.
If you are looking for a gift for a non-Japanese friend, why not treat them to a Japanese gift?