Japan is rich in traditions that define its custom and culture. With their lengthy history, the Japanese celebrate many holidays throughout the year where gift giving and proper etiquette is required. Here are 5 Japanese holidays when locals and foreigners exchange gifts, as well as unique gift ideas for each one.
January 1- New Year (Shogatsu)
Shogatsu is the most important Japanese holiday. Although the event itself is on January 1, many businesses stay closed through January 3. Japanese use that period to celebrate the many firsts of the year, including the first sunrise (Hatsuhinode), first visit to the temple (Hatsumode)and the first calligraphy written (Kakizome).
If you are celebrating the New Year in Japan, consider these rituals for your gift giving. A great idea is a new Japanese calligraphy set for his or her Kakizome. You will find many retailers that offer calligraphy sets, such as Barnes and Nobel and Michaels. However, for an authentic Japanese one, the Art of Calligraphy is a good bet.
March 14- White Day
In Japan, Valentine’s Day practices reverse. Women give chocolate to their men. A month later, another holiday called White Day honors women who then receive gifts from their significant other.
Although it is tradition for all to give white and dark chocolate, making your gift stand out is not as difficult as you might think. Customize your chocolate wrappers, telling the story of your relationship or detailing her favorite things. Many online chocolate stores offer such service. With a little imagination, your creativity will have no boundaries. Add that special final touch to your gift as well as a unique way to express your feelings. She would surely be more than pleased.
April 29 – May 5- Golden Week
Golden week is a special week with four national holidays: Showa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day. It is one of Japan’s three busiest holiday seasons, along with the New Year celebrations and the Odon Festival. The Golden Week ends with Children’s Day, a day to plan for the Japan future through the younger generation.
In many places, hanging samurai dolls is a symbol of power and strength. To help show your respect for the young man of the family you are buying a gift for, a samurai costume should be perfect. If you know an adult who is still a kid at heart, buy him a samurai sword or, better yet, kit online for him to build his own. Just search Amazon or eBay.
Photo credit: trumpleteaser via Flickr cc
Usually in August, the Obon Festival takes place on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. This festival is the last of the three most important Japanese holidays. It commemorates the country’s heritage and the ancestors. During Obon, the Japanese believe that the spirits of their ancestors come to visit them. It is common to celebrate life by hanging lanterns outdoor and by offering gifts, flowers, and food.
If you are in Japan, you can surprise everyone by placing your gift inside a lantern to make it a double gift and delight to the family. If you live overseas and want to send gifts to Japan for the Obon Festival, you could always rely on international gifting services like GiftBasketsOverseas or 1-World Global Gifts. You want to choose one that will ensure that your package arrives safely and in time for the festivities. Be sure to check the repertory of the Better Business Bureau.
Photo credit: Fabian Reus via Flickr cc
July 7- Star Festival (Tanabata)
Tanabata is a Japanese holiday originating from China. Tanabata means “Evening of the Seventh”. It is, arguably, Japan’s star festival. It celebrates the meeting of the two deities, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who normally live separated by the Milky Way. The dates vary by regions, but the first festivities begin the second week of July. Since this holiday is one for star-crossed lovers, a telescope is the ideal gift for your loved one; one that you can use to gaze at the stars together and enjoy a romantic evening. Another idea is to take your loved one for a moonlight picnic or to a planetarium.
All Japanese holidays are rich with tradition regardless of what the purpose of that celebration. Gift -giving is an important part of celebrating with Japanese. It is always to give a gift of love, something useful and meaningful instead of focusing on price. Think about what the holiday is about, know what could offend someone, and use the examples above as a guide to navigate swiftly through a Japanese holiday.
About the author
Adam Riemer is a business owner, experienced traveler. He writes on behalf of GiftBasketsOverseas.com, a culturally conscious gifting service.