When visiting a home in Japan, presenting a housewarming gift can either make or break your relationship with the recipient. As with most countries around the world, Japan has traditions and customs concerning gift giving. To be appreciated in a culture, it is important to honour those customs as to not offend the receiving party.
When to Give
Each time you are hosted or entertained by a Japanese person or family, it is always expected that you bring a housewarming gift. In Japanese culture, the giver hands the gift the recipient at the end of the evening. This is opposite of the traditions in the United States, where a housewarming gift is usually given as soon as you enter the home.
A bottle of wine or Sake, the Japanese liquor, is a traditional housewarming gift in Japan. Items such as tea or coffee are also appreciated, especially if you are enjoying dinner at the recipient's home. Any food items should be of quality. Sets of tea towels or fine soaps are appropriate for a housewarming as well, as are flowers in the appropriate colours.
Numbers are very symbolic in Japan, so when giving gifts, sets should not be in even numbers and especially in the numbers four and nine. The number four represents death and the number nine symbolises suffering. Most full sets of an item should be numbered at five. Additionally, do not give white or yellow chrysanthemums as they are considered funeral flowers.
Gift wrap should not be in the colours white or black. The store where the item was purchased is more of a status symbol than the actual gift itself, so gifts should feature the store label and wrapping. When giving the gift, the presenter should use both hands to hold the gift and bow as they hand the gift to the recipient. You may make a humble comment, such as "This isn't a big gift," or "This is just a box of tea."
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