Japanese Gifting Etiquette: Learn about the Gift Giving Ritual

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When to Give Gifts

In Japan, where traditional customs do not usually include the celebration of birthdays or Christmas, there has been a noteworthy surge in popularity for these festivities, primarily influenced by Western culture. Notably, the younger Japanese generations are increasingly embracing and partaking in these joyous occasions.

In Japan’s traditional customs, there are two primary gift-giving events each year: Ochugen and Oseibo.

During the summer season, when the year is at its midpoint, the tradition of ‘Ochugen’ takes place, where gifts are bestowed upon others as a heartfelt gesture of appreciation. Conversely, in December, ‘Oseibo’ unfolds as a symbolic expression of indebtedness, with gifts typically revolving around delectable food or alcoholic delights. These offerings are bestowed upon family, close companions, and colleagues, in accordance with the profound Japanese tradition of Giri, embodying a sense of duty and obligation.


Following specific customs is essential when it comes to Japanese gift-giving etiquette.

  • It is crucial to provide and receive presents with both hands; a gesture of reverence.
  • When receiving a gift, it is proper to politely decline the present up to three times before ultimately accepting.
  • It is considered impolite to present a gift to just one individual when in a gathering of numerous individuals.
  • It is also considered impolite if someone opens a present in the presence of a sizable crowd.
  • Offering a gift right at the commencement of any meeting or encounter is considered to be a means of expediting the proceedings. Gifts should be presented exclusively towards the conclusion.
  • In Japan, there exists a fascinating superstition surrounding numbers. It is believed that presenting gifts in pairs brings immense fortune, while the act of offering four or nine of anything is deemed unlucky and should be carefully avoided.

    Giving money as a wedding gift is a popular tradition, but it is believed that it should be given in an odd number. If an even amount of money is presented, it is considered to be easily divisible between the couple, which leads to superstition about potential separation.


    The art of gift presentation extends beyond the contents; aside from bows, ribbons, and exquisite wrapping paper, it is customary to present gifts in reusable fabrics.

    In Japan, there exists a traditional practice called Furoshiki, which initially referred to bath spreads utilized in ancient times to envelop clothing. Throughout the years, this technique has evolved into a fascinating method of wrapping and concealing presents.

    The presentation of a gift relies heavily on the chosen color, as it holds equal significance. Opting for pastel shades is highly recommended, as red is often linked to funerals or sexuality, while vibrant colors are considered overly flashy.

    Other Occasions

    Omiyage, a cherished tradition in Japan, involves the act of travelers bringing back heartfelt gifts for their loved ones, friends, and colleagues.

    During the Edo era, an era known for its rich history, a fortunate handful of individuals embarked on sacred pilgrimages, returning with delightful keepsakes for the villagers who yearned to experience the journey themselves. This cherished tradition birthed a multitude of enchanting ‘Omiyage’ boutiques scattered across Japan, each dedicated to offering an array of captivating mementos tailored for tourists and souvenir enthusiasts alike.

    On Valentine’s Day, there is a delightful tradition where women pleasantly surprise men with chocolates. Originating in Japan back in 1936, this custom has evolved over time. Women generously distribute chocolates to their male friends and colleagues, reserving the finest and most delectable ones for their favorite recipients.

    Unfortunate fellows of lesser popularity find themselves less fortunate in receiving only a meager portion of the most affordable chocolate. However, on the auspicious day of March 14, commonly referred to as the ‘day of reciprocity’, men are anticipated to present a gift of value at least three times greater in return. Frequently, this gesture manifests in the form of exquisite jewelry. Failure to reciprocate this gift would be perceived as a sign of arrogance, suggesting that the male perceives himself superior to his female companion.

    Finally, let us delve into the age-old custom of O-kaeshi, a delightful gesture to express gratitude. This cherished tradition is often observed during weddings and celebratory gatherings, where it is customary for the O-kaeshi gift to be of half the value of the initial present.

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