The Japanese Way of Gift-Presenting
The Japanese love presenting gifts on various occasions, such as child bearing, birthday, marriage, visiting a patient, moving, festivals…the list goes on. “Miyage” written in Japanese as “gift”, referring to specialties in various locations. Presenting gifts partially reflects Japanese group consciousness, in the way affections can be assured, experience shared and good wishes conveyed.
In Japanese gift presenting, the value of the gift is not as important as its time, the occasion and the ways of presenting it for they are carrying much weight of the presenter. Also, packing is much valued by the Japanese as showing respect to the recipient. In contrast, the Chinese probably regard the gift itself as more valuable.
In Japan, in a farewell meeting, the Japanese host presented glamorous gifts to three of us. When we opened the gorgeous packing, only a plain handkerchief appeared, however, given the timing, occasion and packing, the gifts actually carried enough weight and generosity to the guests.
Gift-presenting is normally accompanied by the Japanese way of depreciation—”It’s a mere trifle”, although in may be worth a lot in their minds. In some way, this is very much like the Chinese, but nothing like westerners, such as Australians. When we were in Australia, people gave us presents, and they didn’t mind revealing the values of the gifts and the time they spent on them, just to show their sincerity.
Unlike Chinese, who will always present something in pairs, the Japanese prefer odd numbers. Nevertheless, there is something in common between Japanese and Chinese, such as avoiding the same character “梨”(li), which means “departing” in Chinese and “nothing” in Japanese respectively; “四”(si/shi)is homonymic to “死”(si/shi), literally means “death” both in Chinese and Japanese, and so on.
In short, the Japanese gift-presenting culture is deeply rooted in its unique soil, and distinguishingly different from both Chinese and western cultures.