School Blog

Today's Phrase

Gift Giving

On what occasions do you give a gift to someone? Birthdays, weddings, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas? In Japan, we frequently give and receive gifts. Let me talk a bit about our customs here.


How to open gifts

I think most people take special care wrapping gifts. The difference, I think, is how people open gifts. In Japan, gift recipients are expected to appreciate the wrapping paper, boxes, etc. In fact, gift wrapping is considered an important part of gifts. I remember feeling shocked when I saw on TV someone ripping wrapping paper off a gift. It just might be the person’s way of showing appreciation – feeling too excited to be patient. But, in Japan, it’s probably safe to open your gift in the politest fashion.


Weddings and funerals

At weddings, we typically give money as gifts. There are special envelopes for holding the money, and these days, you can easily find well-designed envelopes in bright, festive colors.

For funerals, on the hand, money is given as well but flashy items are avoided, and black and white are used as these colors signify grief in Japan.

In addition, clean bills are used for weddings to indicate the gift givers have been looking forward to present the gift for a long time whereas people didn’t have time to prepare for a funeral gift (since it was so unexpected).


Get well gifts

It’s also common to bring a gift when visiting someone in the hospital, but there are certain things that are considered inappropriate. One such item is a potted plant. Unlike a bouquet of flowers, the word “plant taking roots” sounds the same as “staying in bed.” Camellia flowers are also considered bad luck because when they fall, they fall from the neck of the flower.


There are other gift giving occasions. Some are seasonal – summer and year end. It’s very common to give gifts when returning from travel as souvenirs. It would be useful to know these customs when dealing with Japanese people.


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