Japanese Business Etiquette Gifts

Written by lorraine j. floyd
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Japanese Business Etiquette Gifts
Chocolate is a delicious gift to present to associates and to clients. (chocolate image by dinostock from Fotolia.com)

Gift-giving is an important part of Japanese corporate culture.

Following a few guidelines, you can find the perfect gift and present it to your business contacts without offending your host.

Before your meeting, tell your business contact that you will be bringing a small gift. Present your gift with both hands. The recipient will most likely open the gift in private, so do not be offended if he does not unwrap the gift right away.

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Alcohol and Chocolate

Alcohol and chocolate are two good options to give to your Japanese business associates or clients. Before purchasing liquor as a gift, consider the recipient's religious beliefs or lifestyle, as he may not drink alcohol.

According to a 2007 estimate, £65 is de rigueur for a business gift. While you do not have to spend that much money, purchase top-quality products.

Remember to keep the recipients' job positions in mind. For example, the CEO of the company should receive a more expensive bottle of liquor than his assistants.

Try to avoid purchasing liquor or chocolate products native to Japan. You can present a gift reminiscent of your home country or state such as local wines or handmade chocolates from local businesses. Try to find a high-quality product representing your country or culture to "bridge the divide" between the two cultures.

If you did not pack gifts ahead of time, choose good quality Western products from stores in Japan.


Flowers are also a good option. However, choosing the flowers and their presentation can be a bit tricky.

Japanese people are generally superstitious. Even if the businessmen are not inclined to superstition, it is good etiquette to consider their culture and refrain from giving certain types of flowers.

Do not give a group of 4 or 9 flowers. Both numbers are considered unlucky in Japan, as 4 symbolises death. Make sure that there are an uneven number of flowers in the bouquet.

White flowers, such as lilies, lotus blossoms and camellias are associated with funerals. Avoid purchasing any gifts that depict or resemble white flowers, such as photo prints or white chocolate shaped like flowers.

Funeral notices are printed in red, so avoid presenting your client with any type of red flowers. For example, if you want to purchase roses, find pink or yellow roses.

Other Gift Ideas

Items such as cuff links or pen sets are also appropriate. Do not give a gift bearing the name of your company. Choose a product from a well-known brand or a product without an obvious logo.

Remember that red is a colour associated with funerals. Do not purchase a red pen or a pen that writes in red ink.

Consider where your meeting will take place. In some instances, you may be invited to a meal at the businessman's home. Take advantage of this situation to forge a good relationship with the associate and his family. Before visiting the house, ask your host about his family so that you have an idea of his spouse's and children's ages and careers. Choose your gift accordingly.

If you are meeting in a more casual setting, you can purchase more modest gifts. For example, cakes, cookies or cupcakes from a fancy bakery would be a good gift for all of the members of the family. You can also bring a beautiful arrangement of fresh fruit. The recipients may include the desserts as part of the meal or put it away to eat at another time.

Purchase small gifts for the children. Candy, small toys or quality Western beauty products are acceptable.

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