GIFT GIVING IN JAPAN*
- Gift Giving Etiquette
BUSINESS GIFT GIVING
/ PERSONAL GIFT GIVING
Gift-giving is an important part of Japanese
business protocol. Moreover, gifts are exchanged among colleagues on July 15
and January 1 to commemorate midyear and the year's end respectively.
It is a good policy to bring an assortment of
gifts for your trip. This way, if you are unexpectedly presented with a
gift, you will be able to reciprocate.
The emphasis in Japanese business culture is on
the ritual of gift-giving, rather than the gift itself. For this reason, you
may receive a gift that seems too modest, or conversely, extravagant. An
expensive gift will not be perceived as a bribe.
A wrapped gift is often carried inside a
shopping bag to avoid ostentation and minimize any hint that a gift is about
to be presented.
The best time to present a gift is toward the
end of your visit. You can discreetly approach the recipient, indicating
that you have a small gift. Avoid giving a gift early in a relationship or
at any conspicuous moment.
A gift for an individual should be given in
private. If you are presenting a gift to a group of people, have all of the
intended recipients assembled.
Present gifts with both hands.
It is customary to comment that the gift you are
presenting, even if it is extravagant, is ““tsumaranai mon” [“an
uninteresting or dull thing”]. This statement is meant to convey, “Our
relationship is more important than this trivial item.”
It is a mistake to give the same gift to two or
more Japanese of unequal rank. People will also take offense if you are in
the presence of a group of people and give a gift to one person, but fail to
give one to the others who are present.
Gifts are opened in private, because if the gift
turns out to be a poor choice, “loss of face” will result. Also, if several
gifts are presented to people of different status, opening them privately
prevents any possible comparisons.
Before accepting a gift, it is polite to
modestly refuse at least once or twice before finally accepting.
Ensure that your gifts are wrapped. It's safest
to leave this task to a store or hotel gift-wrapping service.
The safest gift-wrapping choices are
pastel-coloured papers, without bows. Avoid wrapping a gift with brightly
covered papers or bows.
If you are invited to a Japanese home, bring
flowers [an uneven number], cakes or candy.
If you receive a gift, be sure to reciprocate.
Gifts in pairs are considered lucky.
foreign, prestigious name-brand items
imported scotch, cognac, bourbon, brandy or fine
wines [top-quality brands only]
gourmet foodstuffs, fresh fruit
electronic toys [if children are on your
pen and pencil sets
something that reflects the interests and tastes
of the recipient
a simple commemorative photograph [i.e.,taken
from a gathering that the recipient attended]
GIFTS TO AVOID
Lilies, lotus blossoms, and camellias are
associated with funerals. White flowers of any kind should be avoided. There
is also a superstition that potted plants encourage sickness.
Giving four or nine of anything is considered
Red Christmas cards should be avoided, since
funeral notices are customarily printed in this colour.
*Lafayette De Mente, Boye. Japan Business
Etiquette - Gift Giving. Executive Planet. 04 Aug. 2004
Above: The flag of