Holiday Traditions of Sending Gifts to Japan
Japan is the only culture in which giving and receiving gifts have a crucial meaning. The giving of gifts in Japan is so much more meaningful than it is in the West. It is a form of social communication with a set of intricate rules all its own. In Japan, gift giving is an art form that represents respect, gratitude, and friendship. The ceremony of giving the gift is itself terribly important. A gift should always be presented in a gift box or beautifully wrapped in quality paper. The safest gift-wrapping choices are pastel-colored papers, without bows because the symbolism, not only the gift, is something that matters. Gifts shouldn't be expensive - the art is in the giving, not the gift itself. With that said, many people may feel embarrassed if offered very expensive gifts, and may feel bad about accepting them.
When selecting a gift for a Japanese recipient you should study the local gift-giving customs carefully so you do not find yourself in an awkward situation. There exist several gift taboos in Japan. Do not offer gifts in numbers of four or nine; those numbers are considered unlucky. The best option is to offer an uneven number of items, unless you offer a pair, which is said to bring luck. Try to avoid the color red in your gift, as it's associated with funerals. Such flowers as lilies, lotus blossoms, and camellias are also associated with funerals. White flowers of any kind should be avoided as well. In addition, there is also a superstition that potted plants embolden sickness, avoid them. Sharp objects like knives, scissors, and letter openers symbolize 'severing a relationship, and are not good gifts.' Finally, don't give the same gift to socially unequal people. The social rank in Japan is very important and prominent, and you need to be aware of the status of the people with whom you are associating in order to make appropriate gift decisions.
Products with foreign, prestigious name-brands are the most welcome gifts, especially in the business sphere. Gourmet gifts and Fruits are also good choices; you can't lose when you present them on any personal or formal occasion. Wine Gifts and Spirits with imported high-quality cognac, brandy or wine are perfect for men as business gifts or for such holidays and events as New Year's, Coming of Age Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas, Father's Day, a wedding, or a birthday. Chocolate is the most popular gift in Japan and it is sure to be appreciated by any Japanese recipient on Valentine's Day, White Day, Christmas, Father's Day, Children's Day, Mother's Day, and other holidays. When choosing a gift for a woman to celebrate White Day, Mother's Day, or a birthday, don't hesitate to give a beautifully decorated Flower arrangement or Flower Basket (remember the tips given earlier about flowers) as these are also popular gifts alongside chocolate.
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Most Celebrated National Holidays
March 20 or around - Vernal Equinox
(Shunbun no Hi)
This national holiday was established in Japan in 1948 as a day for the admiration of nature and the love of living creatures. During this holiday, many people visit the graves of their ancestors to clean the area and bring flowers.
Gift Suggestions for Vernal Equinox
July/August 13-15 - Obon
Obon is a Buddhist holiday for commemorating ancestors. The Japanese believe that on this day the spirits of their ancestors come to visit their relatives. People hang lanterns in front of their houses to guide spirits, perform special Obon dances, visit graveyards, and make food offerings at house altars and temples.
May 3 - Constitution Memorial Day
May 4 - Greenery Day
(Midori no Hi)
May 5 - Children's Day
(Kodomo no Hi)
Children's Day has been celebrated in Japan since the middle of the 20th century in honor of children. Kodomo no hi was originally the day that Japanese families would pray for the health, strength, and future well-being of their sons. The main symbol of the holiday is a kite in the shape of a carp; these are hung at homes and are thought to bring children success and drive away evil spirits.
May 2nd Sunday - Mother's Day
(Haha no Hi)
Mother's Day was introduced to Japan after World War II. It's an annual holiday that recognizes mothers and motherhood. Flowers (especially carnations and roses) are the most popular gifts for Mother's Day, along with cute crafts that Japanese children make for their mothers. Loving children also help out with household chores to show their respect and gratitude.
June 3rd Sunday - Father's Day
(Chichi no Hi)
The tradition of celebrating Father's Day in Japan was picked up from America in the 1950s along with the American way of celebrating it. The holiday has quickly gained popularity among the younger generation and is now annually observed. Generally, children present their fathers with flowers, chocolates, or other gifts.
July 3rd Monday - Marine Day
(Umi no Hi)
September 3rd Monday - Respect-for-the-aged Day
(Keiro no Hi)
September 23 or around - Autumn Equinox
(Shubun no Hi)
On Shūbun no Hi people pay tribute to their deceased relatives. Many Japanese people visit the graves of their late family members, clean the grave sites, and bring offerings of food, incense, and flowers.
November 3 - Culture Day
(Bunka no Hi)
November 23 - Labour/Thanksgiving Day
(Kinro Kansha no Hi)
Labour Thanksgiving Day in Japan is a national holiday when people express their gratitude to one another for the work done throughout the past year. The holiday is widely celebrated all around the country and accompanied by various events held by the government.
December 23 - The Emperor's Birthday
December 25 - Christmas Day
Christmas was introduced to Japan by American culture in the 20th century. It quickly gained popularity among the younger generation, and they have also adopted the American way of celebrating the holiday. But unlike in other countries, Christmas in Japan is in the first place a day for lovers; it is considered a perfect opportunity for them to spend a romantic time together visiting luxury restaurants or hotels and to exchange gifts.
January 1 - New Year's Day
New Year's Day is one of the most important national holidays in Japan. People start to prepare for this day well in advance. They clean and decorate their houses and cook special dishes. There's also a tradition of visiting a temple during Shogatsu. The most popular temples attract several million people during the three days off. Another very popular custom is the sending of New Year's cards, which are specially marked to be delivered on January 1.
Gift Suggestions for New Year's Day
, Corporate Gifts
, Cookies Gifts
, Fruit Baskets
, Gourmet Gift Baskets
, SPA Gifts
, Sweet Gourmet Gifts
, Tea Coffee Gifts
, Wine Gift Baskets
February 11 - National Foundation Day
(Kenkoku Kinen no Hi)
February 14 - Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day was imported to Japan in 1958. This holiday is devoted to men and was initially thought of as an opportunity to let Japanese women, who are very shy by nature, express their feelings to men (not only lovers but also co-workers, male relatives, and friends). Giving gifts, chocolates, is a typical way of celebrating Valentine's Day in Japan since chocolate is the most popular gift in the country. Men are supposed to return the attention received on Valentine's Day one month later on White Day, a holiday invented in Japan.
March 3 - Doll's Festival
March 14 - White Day
White Day originated in Japan as a continuation of Valentine's Day. As opposed to Valentine's Day, White Day is dedicated to women. Men who received chocolates or gifts on Valentine's Day are supposed to return the favor to the women they love and respect on March 14.
January 2nd Monday - Coming of Age Day
(Seijin no Hi)
Coming of Age Day is a Japanese national holiday celebrated by those who are turning 20 during the upcoming year, as this is the age considered to be the beginning of adulthood in Japan. Holiday ceremonies, many of which serve alcoholic drinks, the privilege of adults, are held all around the country.