How to Exchange Gifts with the Japanese
The Japanese love to give gifts. This habit is not practiced only on special occasions, but it's widely accepted as giri - a social duty and obligation. Gift-giving is an accepted practice encountered everyday, from taking a little something to a neighbor to receiving an extra radish from the greengrocer. If you give someone a gift, you can be sure to receive one in return. And, if you want a gift, you must give one first.
For the Japanese, gift-giving at its finest is a token of appreciation, and at its worst, a competition. When you return a gift, yours must be better and more expensive. In turn, the gift you will receive will be better and more expensive than the one you gave. The value of the gifts increase successively.
Although this may seem extreme to Americans, the notion of gift-giving is not alien to us. We have all given or received gifts. The Japanese just integrate it into a part of their day-to-day life. Because gift-giving is such an important social aspect of Japanese life, it's important to be aware of some key factors. These pointers will guide you to know how and when to give and receive gifts.
Devalue the gift you give. The important thing is to act and seem humble. You don't want the recipient to think that you are arrogant or proud. Denigrate your gift as much as possible. It doesn't matter if the label on the box bears the symbol for Gucci. The Japanese value the appearance of a humble gift-giver who tries to shun away from praise.
Praise the gift you receive. Although praising may seem obvious, overpraising the gift is the key. It's also important to praise the fine taste of the gift-giver in making that particular choice for you. And don't forget to give a thousand and one thanks.
Don't open the gift unless you are urged to do so....