When you offer someone a present, what do you say? What are the nonverbal messages you’re sending when someone receives that unique gift you gave them? There are a million alternatives, but at the most basic level, you are saying: I appreciate you.
Present-giving in Japan is more on the message behind the gift than the gift itself, which is why a modest gift is frequently the best. Japanese customs and the tradition of gift giving might be highly ritualised and formal, but at its core, it’s a means to express someone how much you respect them and are grateful for their presence in your life. That gratitude blooms to its fullest during the Ochugen and Oseibo holidays, which occur in the middle and end of the year, respectively.
Ochugen and Oseibo are days that are explicitly established for gift giving, rather than gifts being an afterthought. Gifts, on the other hand, are only a means of expressing gratitude and showing someone you care. On Ochugen, which normally happens on July 15th, and Oseibo, which falls in mid-December (by the 20th), you express your feelings for someone. And there are numerous methods to turn your emotional feelings into physical objects. Here are some suggestions for Ochugen and Oseibo gifts.
During the hot summer months, it is customary in Japan to give gifts to those to whom you are close. Gift-giving is a symbol of connection that serves the purpose of keeping a positive and healthy relationship with one another. Giving a present is not only a habit in Japan, but it is also a ritual that has been passed down from generation to generation. In this article, I will discuss the fundamentals of Ochugen.
You may wonder if this is still a Japanese custom practised by young people. And the answer could be “not really.” However, it is still widespread in specific settings, and it will definitely earn you brownie points with your Japanese in-laws and elder Japanese acquaintances. You might possibly be on the receiving end of an Ochugen exchange, in which case you must absolutely return a gift!
Ochugen is a Japanese tradition in which people give gifts to those dear to them. As you may know, in Japan, the act of presenting a gift is more important than the gift itself.
In Japan, it is customary to deliver a gift to someone you owe money to in July and December. Ochugen is the July gift, and Oseibo is the December gift. When we wish to make a word more polite, we add a ‘O’ in front of it, therefore in this context, the ‘O’ is a prefix attached to Chugen, and it becomes Ochugen.
Oseibo, together with Chugen in the summer, is one of Japan’s two traditional gift-giving seasons. Oseibo arose from the practise of making offerings on the graves of ancestors, and people would distribute the materials required for this, such as sake, rice cakes, or cured salmon. The ritual evolved into more broad gift-giving over time.
Oseibo gifts are intended to convey gratitude to someone who has shown you compassion throughout the year. They could be given to clients, bosses, or important persons like your doctor or landlord. Traditionally, oseibo gifts are consumables such as food or home supplies such as soap.
For many Japanese, oseibo appears to have been supplanted by a recently acquired habit, the exchange of Christmas gifts. While oseibo is regarded as a civic obligation, Christmas gifts are regarded as a more individual statement. Christmas presents are typically given to family members or close friends rather than business associates. In a sense, marketers in Japan effectively altered the old idea of presenting a gift at the end of the year into something more modern and personal.
In December, you’ll witness lavish displays of Christmas decorations and Christmas-themed foods intended for gift-giving all over Japan. Simultaneously, there will be displays of classic oseibo goods such as beer, ham, sausages, premium cooking oils, and other fine packaged delicacies.
A Brief Look at the History
Before we get into the gift suggestions, it’s worth noting that some of these old Japanese traditions and customs are changing. Ochugen and Oseibo originated in the 1600s, during the commencement of the Edo Period, when it was considered a duty to present gifts to individuals to whom you were indebted, such as a boss or a general. This happened twice a year and, as previously said, became increasingly ritualised.
However, this approach has recently gone out of favour with the younger generation and in the broader culture because it feels forced and allows for bias. However, many people in Japan have turned it from a day where you give gifts out of obligation to one where you give gifts because you want to show someone that you care about them. It is not a debt. It’s all about love.
That spirit has always existed and is now being resurrected. There is joy beyond the routine. And that delight can take numerous forms—for example, let’s look at some present options.
Gift Ideas For Kids and Adults
So, what should you get as an Ochugen or Oseibo present? Remember that what the gifts express is more important than what they say. Having said that, here are some gift ideas that folks would like.
Sweets (for children)
Candy is a universal language, especially for youngsters, which is why it is one of the most popular Ochugen and Oseibo gifts. A large box of assorted candy is a typical present that any youngster or young at heart will love. Among the most popular are:
Sweets (for adults)
Obviously, sweets aren’t just for kids. Adults enjoy sweets as well, if my dental expenditures are any evidence. In Japanese culture, there are many exquisite delicacies that you might make as a gift, providing the gift of your own time and workmanship. Anmitsu is one among my favourites.
Anmitsu is described as “a Japanese wagashi dessert with agar agar jelly, fruits, mochi, red bean paste, green tea ice cream, and a generous drizzle of delicious black sugar syrup.” As a result, there are a variety of tastes and flavours, as well as textures, flowing throughout. This alternates between ice cream, jello, and fruit salad, with the tea flavours blending with the fruit to produce a summary flavour in your mouth.
Art and Creativity
Art is always a good gift, especially art from the culture in which Ochugen and Oseibo were born. Japan has outstanding representational and nonrepresentational art traditions, as well as some of the most intriguing landscape approaches in human history. Needless to say, the poetry tradition is world-renowned and cherished, most notably in the styles of Basho and Issa. Any presents commemorating this tradition are greatly welcomed.
You might also assist individuals in creating their own art. Japanese ink painting is becoming more popular, and it is an evolutionary step up from adult colouring books, which are now popular.
Ochugen and Oseibo Gift Exchange
Remember that the hierarchy that once defined Ochugen and Oseibo no longer exists. You have the freedom to give gifts to everyone who means anything to you, not simply those to whom you owe something. These celebrations have taken on a new, more profound significance.
This implies you can give gifts to anyone on the planet as a way of reaching out to someone who is beyond the physical reach of your outstretched arms. Setting up an online gift exchange, similar to a Secret Santa, is one method to accomplish this while saving time and money.
This allows you to exchange gifts anonymously while ensuring that everyone receives a gift they will enjoy. Gifts can be sent all over the world. You have the ability to both surprise and be astonished. It’s a simple approach to stay organised and ensure that everyone knows how much they are appreciated on special occasions.
In terms of Japanese gifting etiquette, it is critical to adhere to the following customs:
- Giving and receiving gifts with both hands is a symbol of respect.
- When given a gift, one should politely decline it up to three times before taking it.
- It is considered impolite to give a gift to only one individual in a large group.
- It is also considered impolite to open a present in front of a large gathering of people.
- Giving a present at the start of any meeting or contact is said to be a technique of hastening the proceedings. Gifts should always be given at the conclusion.
Numbers are associated with one superstitious quirk in Japan. Giving a gift in pairs is considered exceedingly lucky, however giving four or nine of anything is considered unlucky and should be avoided.
It is customary to present money as a wedding gift, which should be in an odd number. If an even amount of money is provided, it is seen to be readily divided between the couple, giving rise to the superstition that the couple will split.
The Art is in the Giving
In Japan, it’s not only the thought that matters. It should come as no surprise that a country with so many delightful tiny details, such as Japan, pays close attention not only to the gift itself, but also to its presentation. In fact, the value of the gift is sometimes less important than the presentation and thinking that went into it. The Japanese think that gift wrapping carries unique meaning. Everything from the state of your relationship to the delicate shades of your emotions can be communicated through gift wrapping. Every element, from the colour of the wrapping paper to the materials utilised, has its own importance. These colourful phrases are the first thing that the recipient notices about a gift – even before they open it.
Also, be cautious when blending colours because they may express secret signals that you are unaware of. For example, while black by alone is appropriate for sympathy presents, when combined with red, it takes on a sexual connotation, making it unsuitable for business gifts. Avoid using loud, flamboyant colours as well; they may raise some eyebrows.
Another notable occasion for Japanese people to offer gifts is Omiyage, a tradition in which travellers bring back gifts for friends, family, and coworkers.
This dates back to the Edo period, when a select few would travel on pilgrimages and return with mementos for the peasants who couldn’t go. As a result of this habit, many ‘Omiyage’ stores in Japan specialise in tourist and souvenir items.
On Valentine’s Day, it is also fairly customary for women to give men sweets. The day was first observed in Japan in 1936 and has since become a tradition in which women give chocolates to all of their male friends and coworkers, with their favourite receiving the best and most chocolate.
Unpopular males aren’t as fortunate, receiving only a small portion of the cheapest chocolate. On March 14, known as a ‘white day,’ men are required to return a present worth at least three times its monetary value. This is frequently jewellery. If a male does not return the present, it is interpreted as an indication that he believes himself superior to his female buddy.
Finally, there is the O-kaeshi tradition, which is just a thank-you present. These are frequently given at weddings or celebrations and should be half the price of the original gift.
Gifts are not only a way for the Japanese to express gratitude; they are also a statement of respect, generosity, and goodwill between people. Gift exchange is prevalent for common occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, and housewarmings.
Ochugen and Oseibo may not come as a surprise. For millennia, they have occurred on a yearly basis. However, this emphasises the need of expressing yourself to others. By exchanging gifts with friends and loved ones all across the world, you break free from the routine and ritualised. You remind yourself that we exist and that our lives are filled with joy and meaning because of others around us. We give love and receive happiness in exchange.
Know more about Japan here.