Visiting Japan: Gift Giving Customs

by jenjenk on September 6, 2011

Unfortunately, I’m not off to Japan, but I am going to Hawaii to attend my cousin’s destination wedding.  A couple of my uncles, aunts, and cousins will be flying in from Japan! I’m so excited since I don’t get to see them very often.

When you visit someone in Japan [business, homestay, etc], it is customary to bring some sort of gift [omiyage] for your host. My friends and I all agree that the hardest part of going to Japan is trying to gather up all your gifts for every single member of your family, packing it up within all the weight restrictions, and trying to figure out how you’re going to fit your clothes into your suitcase. It’s great being on the receiving end, not so great when you have to figure out what to give.

Something from your hometown is always nice [like See's Candy from Southern California].  I rely on food items because that’s what I like the most.  I have friends who buy big ticket items for their family – jewelry, handbags, clothes, electronics, and the like.  I’m the poor relation so I make sure that I keep it on the cheap.  As you can see from my photo above, I tend to stick with whatever I can find at Trader Joe’s…and some sort of nuts [my cousins love pistachios].

I always wonder what types of LIGHT and SMALL items people could give as gifts to their hosts?  Do you bring an “omiyage”? I know a lot of my food blogger friends will bake stuff up & bring that along as gifts. What do you bring with you??

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Lan September 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm

i tend to bring a gift, take them out to dinner and then afterwards, send a gift. my friend wandering chopsticks came to visit me last year.. she brought me a cookbook, made me dinner and then 6 months later, sent me a homemade gift (i like to crochet, she sewed me the cutest crochet hook set to keep all my hooks in order). i’ve taken on that habit as well.

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jenjenk September 8, 2011 at 5:36 am

Uhhh…LAN, you can totally be my guest ANYTIME!!! :)

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Nancy@acommunaltable September 6, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Love this post – something that I struggle with from time to time. Things I have brought -
unusual seasonings (for those who like to cook!) along with a recipe or two using said seasoning, Candy, nuts, (we def. think alike!) a kitchen “gadget” that I have discovered (one time I took flexible bench scrapers to a couple of friends (I know, odd!) but they both baked and didn’t have them – they loved them!!! Beautiful notecards or notepads (for my friends that love that stuff), pretty scarves, coffee and/or tea!!

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jenjenk September 8, 2011 at 5:36 am

See!! You are so creative with your gift giving Nancy!!! Rachael gave me a granny fork once and I LOVE it to death!!!!

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Christy @ Technosyncratic September 7, 2011 at 9:03 am

I’m always flummoxed by when/how to give gifts in these kinds of situations. I never really know when it’s appropriate or expected, or what would be a good gift option. When I lived in SF I always fell back on Ghiradelli chocolate, but that has a nasty tendency to melt! =P

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jenjenk September 8, 2011 at 5:35 am

My cousins LOVE ghiradelli chocs!!!! That another winner for me!!

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Julia September 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm

My step mom is Japanese and ALWAYS brings me back random Japanese kitchen gadgets. I have some egg molds sitting in a drawer right now, waiting for me to use them, which I really should get around to doing… I usually bake something. I ask the host their flavor preferences and go from there.

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jenjenk September 8, 2011 at 5:34 am

Egg molds? Totally intrigued… Please share more!!!!

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Castle Rock Shutters September 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm

P-I-S-T-A-C-H-I-O-S!!! im all set for the day!

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Cathy Sweeney September 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Apologies if this is a duplicate comment.

I haven’t had the experience of going someplace like Japan and bringing gifts for hosts and family. But I think your idea of food gifts is very good. Most people love to get special food treats. You’ve got me craving peanut butter cups now.

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jenjenk September 8, 2011 at 5:30 am

I am ALWAYS craving PB cups!!!

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Arti September 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Its Indian tradition too!
Normally in India, when a younger person visits an elderly persons home, the elder gives him some gift usually money!!
Namaste from India, have a fabulous day:)

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Brooke @ Food Woolf September 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm

I like that you go the Trader Joe’s route! I’m getting ready to go home to MA and am doing something of a Finnish Omayage. :) I went by Heath Ceramics and was pleasantly surprised that there were lots of gifts there for under $20! Who knew!

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Emme Rogers September 18, 2011 at 4:49 am

I’ve had Japanese Homestay Students before, including one young boy that was very homesick. My cat, Fuzzywiggle Furrypants Roo, was his confidante and security blanket. When he got home, he sent her an entire gift box of different Japanese cat treats. It was very sweet.

~ Emme

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