Gift Giving Etiquette in Japan

Gift-giving is a major Japanese tradition. It’s not reserved for birthdays and other celebrations. Omiyage and temiyage are two prevalent types of gift-giving. Omiyage is the giving of souvenirs. I’m sure you’re thinking ‘but that’s just as common in the US and UK?’ Japanese tourists regularly buy souvenirs for friends, family and colleagues so there are souvenir shops everywhere in Japan. Unlike many souvenir stalls in the US and UK, they’re not just filled with junk, but thoughtful and eloquent gifts which are specific to the local area’s specialities and culture.

Temiyage are ‘thank-you’ gifts you take when you are visiting someone, such as a host family. While it’s not compulsory to bring such gifts, it’s always well appreciated, and it’s simply part of the culture. However, make sure you spend no more or less than ¥1000 and ¥5000 – it would be insulting to give a particularly cheap item, or to boast your wealth with something flashy! Keep it simple, the souvenir shops make it very easy!

5 quick tips on giving and accepting gifts in Japan:

  • When either giving or receiving a gift, you must give/take the item with both hands – it’s a sign of respect!
  • Modesty is a major part of Japanese culture and etiquette: you should humbly refuse the gift up to three times before accepting
  • It is rude to open a gift in front of a large group of people
  • It is also rude to give a gift to only one person in a large group
  • Exchanging gifts in a meeting should be left until the end. Otherwise, you appear to be rushing the meeting!

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