Gift Giving Etiquette in Japan

Gift giving is an intricate part of Etiquette in Japan, both in social and business settings. This can be uncomfortable for outsiders who are unfamiliar with the complicated social customs surrounding gift-giving in Japan. There are several gift-giving seasons, but it is also customary for visitors to offer their hosts gifts. When visiting Japan, it is a great idea to come prepared with a few different gifts, so if you are presented with a gift, you can return the favor. Looking for more info? Email us!

The following is a basic guide designed to help you navigate the often complicated gift-giving rituals:

Gift Giving in a Social Setting

It is customary to bring along a gift when you are invited for dinner or a special event. When giving a gift to a friend, it is polite to say “Tsumaranai mono desu ga.”, which translates as “this is boring but…,” and is used to show modesty. Be careful not to give gifts featuring the number 4 or 9, which are considered unlucky.

Gift giving

Keep in mind, the focus in Japanese culture is on the act of gift-giving, not the gift itself. Gifts representing places or prestigious brands are popular. Consider giving gifts such as pen and pencil sets, bottles of wine, imported cognac, or chocolate.

Gift Giving in Business Setting

Japanese culture is a complicated maze of traditions. The business culture in Japan can be extremely confusing, and the gift-giving aspect is no different. For example, a Japanese person will say “maybe.” Also, it is polite to reject a gift twice before accepting it. All these rules of etiquette in Japan become extremely puzzling for an outsider.

In a business setting, it is quite common to give gifts, and these are never seen as bribes, even if the gifts are extravagant. Gifts should be wrapped in neutral wrapping paper and presented with both hands towards the end of a meeting. Gifts are typically opened in private.

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