View Full Version : Gift-giving

Charlie Kondek
6th February 2003, 19:00
Hey, all. Can you help me? I'm still trying to wrap my mind about the Japanese practice of gift-giving. I'm worried about overdoing it. When is it appropriate to give gifts, and what should be given? The social situation I keep encountering is when a visiting sensei or sempai who has come for a time to the U.S. practices with our kendo club and then goes back to Japan after, say, a year.

Joseph Svinth
7th February 2003, 00:41
Most of 'em seem to like old Scotch or new cocobolo whackers from Seidokai.


Budoka 34
7th February 2003, 11:43

Great question!

I had a nonmartial artist friend(the daughter of my neighbor), who has lived and taught in Japan for over a decade, give my wife and I several gifts when she found out about my obsession with things Japanese(I have a collection of Japanese items on display in my livingroom). One gift was a traditional womans obi! She returned to Japan before I could thank her or her children(they left the gifts in a box on my porch).
What would be the best response?

Do I send her and her children gifts?
Do I wait for them to return?
Do I just e-mail a thank you?

I would really like to thank her appropriatly.:confused:

If anyone can help, thanks in advance.


Charlie Kondek
7th February 2003, 13:38
Hey, me and Budoka34 need help!

Thanks, Joe, I knew booze was a good one, but when? Also, it seems that Japanese give each other things that they don't necessarily go out and *buy* but that they think the other person might just like to have. Your thoughts?

Joseph Svinth
10th February 2003, 01:40
Historically, we've handed the stuff to the guy on the way out the door. If it's a really good bottle, you might want to do this early, though, in hopes that he'll share.

As for the gift dropped off as the guest goes to the airport, that's the idea -- the recipient can't return it. Now you're in debt (or, at least, their giri debt is reduced).

The problem is that it's sort of like potlatch. That is, if you go there, then you're supposed to treat them even better.

You see some of this when Nisei get together for lunch: They fight for 15 minutes about who is going to pay, and yet if you pay attention, you'll notice that it is mostly ritual, as usually you know whose turn it is walking in. Don't try this with Scandinavians, though. While they are invariably sincere when they offer to pay, as soon as you say, "Oh no, I insist," they'll hand you the bill and leave.

Charlie Kondek
10th February 2003, 15:25
Thank you. Now, what if it's not an "at the airport" situation? Like, if it's someone in your area, do you give sensei a gift every year?

At the last seminar, I saw somebody hand the uber-sensei a bottle in a brown paper bag and exchange a few words.

11th February 2003, 00:26
The traditional way is to give presents at particular time such as:

New Year money presents for kids, Oseibo, Ochugen (an end of year or summer thank you present). Then there are Okaeshi presents given to people that attended a wake or funeral. We pay heavily to go to weddings and receive presents when we leave.

The traditional way is to have it professionaly wrapped (no naked money).
Another tradition is "not" to open presents in front of the giver. But nowadays people sometimes like to open them. If you are not Japanese they would "want" you to open them.

You get so many presents you can some times "hand them on" to others. My Doctor friends have a home liquor warehouses from grateful patients. I never go short of a bottle of whisky from a doctor who's patients seem to be introducing him to alcoholism. Some other unwanted hand-me-downs are Japanese cakes that do not keep for long.

Then we have all the new presents like chocolate given to men on Valentines day. White chocolate or cookies given on White Day (one month after valentines), birthday presents, Christmas cakes..... the list is endless

So are the rubbish piles of all that elaborate wrapping. Damn they even giftwrap the food we buy. My rubbish/trash is six times what it was when it was in the west and i have to seperate it for collection. As I write the wife just put unburnables out on today a national holiday.

When they arrive they "bring something" They even bring something from people that couldnt make it.

When they leave they have to buy something for "everybody". Work, friends, family..... all those that knew you were going and perhaps gave you a money present to go with (Osembetsu). The secret is dont tell em you are going. Otherwise the entire holiday wil be spend buying presents to take back.

I have been fortunate enough to taste some really disgusting things that they claim to be a traditional delicacy of the area they went to. In return I now make a point of buying things like Durian Candy (a very very stinky fruit crossed between banana and garlic) There are even "No Durian" signs in Asian hotels. A picture of the fruit with a red cross over it. Just love to see the faces when they taste it!

Everyone in Japan is well pleased to receive anything at anytime. If they feel they you have overdone it you will get something back.

A senior teacher I know only buys thing for the very young and the older ones. He says the others can look after themselves.

The thing is they are abroad and really dont expect much. So if you give something they will appreciate it.

If you take them out don't even discuss who pays. Arrange it before and just push them out the door when its finished. They will ask but just say its settled. Thats the treatment you will get if you come over here.

Should you say thankyou......? Of course. why not do it with a present?

Hyakutake Colin


11th February 2003, 05:54
Hey, what's wrong with durians?

You know what we locals say, "tastes like heaven but smells like hell."

Well, I know what to get for Mr Hyaku for a gift...;)

11th February 2003, 08:30
Originally posted by KhawMengLee
Hey, what's wrong with durians?

You know what we locals say, "tastes like heaven but smells like hell."

Well, I know what to get for Mr Hyaku for a gift...;)

I just love em. Many a time I have sat on the beach up on Perhentian Besut island digging into one with my fingers, :rolleyes: mmmm

But sadly a lot of Japanese put even the best things from another country in their mouth as if its going to poison them anyway.

Still have bad memories of a charcoal roasted turkey I spent hours carefully preparing. Every one turned their noses up at it like it was a piece of sh?t

Hyakutake Colin

Charlie Kondek
11th February 2003, 16:26
Thank you, this is most helpful. I asked one of my Japanese friends when we should get something for the senseis of our kendo club, and he said he would arrange it, and we would give it to them next time they visited our dojo.

So, what are some good gifts besides booze? I don't think Americans have many cute, gift-like foods like the Japanese do, besides chocolate and coffee. Another Japanese friend told me Japanese like t-shirts or baseball caps that show where they've been - ala, a Detroit Tiger's t-shirt if you went to Detroit. One time, when a friend came who was mentoring the kendo club a lot, I gave him and his family a nice photo album "from all of us" when he left. He game me a whole bunch of Japanese paraphanelia, including tenegui (always appreciated) and some other cool stuff. Another friend we gave a t-shirt and a Japanese-English Bible. He gave us t-shirtss.

Meng, I love your sig.

11th February 2003, 17:18
Hyaku: Make sure you e-mail me the next time you come over to Malaysia. Heh, looks like we have the same tastes as far as good food is concerned. Ah! but I'll be in Bath from March onwards working... anyways, if you come anytime soon please drop us a line.

Charlie: Thanks dude! Pleased to please.

Joseph Svinth
14th February 2003, 02:14
Got any local specialties? If so, then give 'em something they can't get back home.

Charlie Kondek
14th February 2003, 14:15
Local specialties. Hmmmm. Oh! I know! Brots and beer!

Joseph Svinth
15th February 2003, 18:50
Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of fancy apples, but of course most of the good ones already go to Japan, with the culls being sold here.