Immaculately wrapped gifts are the norm in Japan
Anytime a Japanese person goes abroad, he or she will go armed with a long shopping list – not of things for themselves but those for their loved ones, friends, work colleagues, bosses, people in their hobby group. The list is sometimes longer than their arms, if you know what I mean.
In some ways the Japanese have perfected the art of giving gifts. If you have ever been to a Japanese department store, just as you are being asked to make a purchase the person on the cash register will always ask you, “Is this item for yourself or a present for someone?” In the case of the latter, it means that the store assistant will meticulously wrap the item and even ask you if you would like “a free ribbon” to go with it. Have you encountered such service anywhere else in the world?
In addition to incorporating the times of year that people in the West traditionally give gifts – Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Christmas Day, etc. – there are two times of year that gifts are traditionally given in Japan. “O-seibo” (year-end gift) and “O-chugen” (mid-year gift) are given as a form of greeting. Recipients will generally be people who have helped you out recently, such as work colleagues or relatives.
At these times of year department stores will often set up whole sections of their stores dedicated to promoting these gifts. The items on sale are usually something functional but a bit “luxurious” – something that you would not usually buy yourself. Sets of luxury branded towels or $100 melons are just some of the things on offer.
Too pretty to eat?
Although it is generally older people who still send such presents, it is perhaps because they know the value of keeping good relations.