Japanese gift giving explained

Why towels as gifts?

You need lots because most people use them once and wash, and it’s something where expensive ones are a nice bit of luxury that you probably wouldn’t treat yourself with without being showy (although expensive brand ones are also available)

Why sugar, green tea, seaweed, handkerchiefs, furikake rice seasoning for reihin funeral return gifts (礼品 れいひん) ?

My latest theory is that by giving someone something ordinary they need all the time you are saying that because successful people like them have all have everything they need already that is the only thing you could buy. They are also all things that you can get in any price range

Why do people send return presents after you attend a wedding or funeral?

Attending is considered an obligation rather than a personal choice, so you must be thanked/repaid


  1. DHH said,

    May 1, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I often wondered about that, ie receiving a gift after a Japanese wedding. I’ve had this catalogue from which to choose a gift from for years. I hope it’s not considered an insult… I wonder if it would be too late to choose one now.

  2. crella said,

    May 26, 2008 at 12:51 am

    The ones after a funeral are usually things that you either consume or use and throw away so that no reminder of the funeral remains. I’ve been surprised lately that even things like meat and china, bags, hats etc are included in funeral gift catalogues.

    DHH, many catalogues have a date by which you have to order something. If you don’t, you get a default gift, one that the couple picked out to be sent to those who forget to order. If you haven’t received a gift, and there is no date on the book, you might be able to still order (but usually there is a cut-off).

  3. alexcase said,

    May 27, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Thanks Crella, that makes perfect sense and totally clears up the “tea as presents” mystery.

    We didn’t have to choose a default present for our wedding this month, so I wonder if that part of it is dying out

  4. crella said,

    June 11, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Gee, I don’t know. Could the default be pre-set by the catalogue company in some instances? I remember getting one catalogue with a pre-printed card in it telling us that if we didn’t choose by such-and-such a date, we’d get Gift X, with a photo of it, so I assume it was up to the company. That is the only one we’ve ever gotten of those, though so I don’t know…..

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