Gift-Giving Customs in Japan That Would Surprise You!


In every country, gift-giving is a symbol of affection and care between two people. We gift in order to appreciate our loved ones and it signifies closeness in that relationship. Every country has certain customs and traditions in gift-giving that they follow and adhere to. Those customs are passed down from generation to generation, family to family and are followed even today despite the shortcomings of today’s time. The customs range from peculiar ones on one end to entirely fascinating ones on the other end! Let’s take a look at these!

Japan has mastered the art of gifting by being the most prolific gift giving country!

Japanese people focus more on the ritual of gift-giving than on the gift itself.

One of the standard rules that they follow is to refuse the gift thrice before finally accepting it. After receiving a gift, they send a “thank you” gift which is known as “O-Kaeshi” in their language.

“Ochugen” is known as the mid-year gifting tradition. Since, the gifting tradition begun on the 15th of July so the Japanese send a gift to their colleagues at work as a token of gratitude. They focus a lot on the way they wrap their gifts, they wrap it with the best paper and then attach a “Noshi” which is a piece of paper used for writing your name to send it to the receiver of the “Ochugen”.  Also,gifts shouldn’t be opened in front of the giver, it is considered impolite.


“Oseibo” is similar to “Ochugen” but the timings for both are different. While, “Ochugen” is the mid year gifting tradition, “Oseibo” is the end of the year gifting   tradition. It begins on the 20th of December and any edible item or beverage is considered as a great gift to present.

An “Oseibo” is different from a Christmas gift because an “Oseibo” is presented to the colleagues or to someone in one’s life who has made a significant impact, or who has helped in some way. While, the Christmas presents are given to the close friends or family out of love and care.


A gift-giving tradition known as “Otoshidama” is in the beginning of January from 1st to the 3rd where every adult gives a certain amount of money to their children as a gift. The money should only be in the form of banknotes and not in coins. The bank notes should be folded thrice and then placed in colourful envelopes that are specially for “Otoshidama” .



“Omiyage” is the souvenir  presented to one’s friends or relatives when one returns from a foreign trip. It signifies that one remembered the person on their trip. It is also recommended that when a foreigner visits a Japanese local then they should ideally bring something from their home country as a present.


Things to keep in mind:

Gifts in set of four are avoided because it is considered an unlucky omen because the Japanese word for four is pronounced the same as for death.

Lilies, camellias, and lotus blossoms should not be given as they are associated with funerals. It is also said that potted plants encourage sickness, in their culture.

Red cards should not be given, as funeral notices are printed in this colour.

Fascinating, isn’t this?


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