Culture

Giving gifts in Japan


You plan to go to Japan and you are wondering which kind of gifts you should bring for your Japanese friends, host family, or colleagues? Here are some tips to help you with Japanese gift giving etiquette.

Japan Gift Giving Customs

Giving gift is a very important part in Japanese culture. Of course, Japanese people exchange gifts on birthday, but also on many other occasions, such as when they go on a trip. Indeed, even if they travel around Japan, they will come back with souvenirs, generally local sweets, for their family, coworkers, and friends. It is extremely important not to forget anyone. So if you plan to visit Japan, here are some particular gifts that would be most appreciated.

Souvenirs to take to Japan

Japanese people love sweets. Generally, chocolate, jam, maple syrup, or cakes from your home country are always a success. Tea (English tea, not green tea!) and alcohol such as whiskey are also a great idea. However, be careful with the fact that Japanese people are not used to eat flavor-intense food, so avoid bringing food with a strong taste.

For other kind of products, things like soap, cosmetics of famous brands, mugs or T-shirts with the name of your hometown are generally appreciated. If possible, try to bring a gift of a brand that cannot be found in Japan.

Since Japanese children love mascots, it would be a good idea to give them a stuffed toy of a famous character in your country. Moreover, Japanese little boys are often collecting model aircraft or model trains, so a model aircraft of a plane of your home country would be a great idea.

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Some tips:


(1) Don’t give a gift that is too cheap or too expensive (between $10 and $30 is enough). There is a "giving something in return" culture in Japan, and a gift that is too expensive may be embarrassing for the person since he or she can not reciprocate with a gift of similar value.

(2) Since Japanese houses tend to be small, avoid gifts that are too big.

(3) In Japan, the presentation of the gift is as important as the gift itself, so wrap your gift carefully (or let the shop do it) and carry it in a special bag.

(4) In Japanese culture, it is common to not open a gift right away after receiving it, so don’t be offended by it.

(5) Finally, always be modest about your gift. When offering it, you should say the following: “tsumaranai mono desu ga...”(つまらないものですが...), which means “this is a trivial/small thing”… even if you don’t think so!

Now that you know about the dos and don’ts of Japanese gift giving, you should be able to bring the perfect souvenir from your home country!