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PhilJ
11-09-2003, 12:52 AM
Since I will be traveling for the first time ever to Japan on business, can anyone suggest (a) if I should bring a gift for my contacts there, and (b) if so, what is appropriate?

If it is not appropriate, what can I do to show proper respect to my hosts?

*Phil

Nick Simpson
11-09-2003, 06:32 AM
To the best of my knowledge, good whiskey (not bourbon) is always well received, either scots or irish as it tends to be expensive there.

Adrian Smith
11-09-2003, 05:51 PM
Since I will be traveling for the first time ever to Japan on business, can anyone suggest (a) if I should bring a gift for my contacts there, and (b) if so, what is appropriate?

If it is not appropriate, what can I do to show proper respect to my hosts?

*Phil
Phil: Nick is right on the money. A good bottle of scotch will go a long way. Pick up some single malt in duty free on your way through the airport. In case you don't know, make sure it's wrapped (if possible) and don't expect your host to open it in front of you. He or she will probably take it, thank you, then not mention it again.

-Adrian

Nick Simpson
11-09-2003, 06:02 PM
Hey, if there's one thing I know, it's my alcoholic beverages ;)

PhilJ
11-09-2003, 07:19 PM
...then I extend in both arms, and bow my head...? What would be proper to say that it is a gift for them, and what do I say when they refuse? :)

*Phil

PhilJ
11-09-2003, 09:57 PM
Something occurred to me, and someone tell me if this is 'arrogant'.

Wouldn't someone get sick of getting a gift like scotch, simply because it's a popular gift?

Or is that too assuming?

Adrian Smith
11-11-2003, 07:56 PM
A gift would never be refused, no matter how horrible it might be. That would shame the giver, which any good nihon-jin would want to avoid.

Present the gift to the receiver holding it in both hands, bow your head slightly, wait for them to take it, and don't mention it again. :)

-Adrian

Kensho Furuya
11-12-2003, 09:28 AM
Customs and attitudes in Japan are changing rapidly nowadays, if this is your first time to Japan, I wouldn't worry too much about expensive gifts. If you are meeting someone who is going to take you around and do a lot for you or a relative or teacher, maybe a gift of scotch or cognac may be appropriate. But it is very expensive because Japanese are not happy with Johnny Walker, approx. $20.00, as they were 20-30 years ago but like very expensive "name" brands-these can easily cost up to $500.00 a bottle and more. Also, you are limited to how many bottles you can buy in the Duty Free Shop. For causual acquaintainces, you can keep a small number of boxes of chocolates to pass out. Nice writing pens are also ok. For ladies, nice scarfs are good - not too expensive and also light and easy to carry around. These are less expensive for you and don't take up too much room in your suitcase. If you are meeting younger people, souvenir t-shirts with the name of your city or sports t-shirts with a name of a famous team on it is nice. Medium fits most Japanese nowadays. I think nowadays, they don't expect you to spend too much money. In Japan, gift-giving is a complex art and ritual. You must always think about the situation and the person you are presenting it to. Too much makes you pretentious, too little makes you ungrateful. . . . . Even Japanese themselves have trouble with this all of the time. Nowadays, the custom is "simple" and "practical" is better. As a further example, if you are visiting a family, a set of nice bath soaps or nice small hand towels are appreciated. Sometimes, a gift for the child of the family is perfectly fine. If you know they smoke, Zippo lighters are sometimes a nice gift and not too expensive and easy to haul around in your suitcase. If you do give small gifts, more than price, make sure you pick something that comes in a nice box or is nicely wrapped and "pretty." If you do have to give alcohol, Japanese today all love wine. A nice bottle of a red or white wine is always welcome and very appreciated. This is not as expensive as brandy, and nowadays a more fashionable gift. Btw, young people also like things like souvenir gifts from "Disney" or "Winnie the Pooh," or with their names on it - don't ask me why! Hope this helps you out - and have a good trip!

PhilJ
11-12-2003, 05:34 PM
Thanks everyone. I'd like to respond to your comment, Kensho...

Specifically, I will be meeting some business contacts, two higher-up on the corporate chain. They will be contacts (all male) for us as we work in the future. I don't know their ages.

I'd like to get something that reflects more than a moment's thought, but don't want to be insulting at the same time. I guess I'm looking for an 'onegaeshimasu' that I can wrap up. :)

*Phil

Kensho Furuya
11-13-2003, 07:18 AM
Hello again. For business associates, I would avoid brandy or cognac but go for a nice bottle of red or white wine. It is quite inexpensive here, but very costly in Japan. Also, drinking wine is very fasionable and "trendy" as they say in Japan nowadays. Make sure that both people you are visiting are getting the same thing of equal value or one person will lose face if he feels he is getting something lesser than his associate. Wine is something they like to drink nowadays and they do not know the price. Brandies and cognacs, whiskies, etc. they know the price and name immediately. I know this all sounds very superficial and it is a custom which is gradually going out the door in modern Japan today by younger people. If you feel that this is not enough, a extra box of chocolates for the office workers or staff is always appreciated.

If you have a budget, a nice, quiet, tasteful, subdued Hugo Boss necktie is very, very welcome, but this gets pricey. Very nice men's white hankerchefs are very nice. This is not too ostentatious and always practical. They should be a brand name like Brooks Brothers. . . . . This should be your last choice, I should like to comment. A nice box of chocolates is always nice for your business associates - it is something they can take home to the wife and family. Very good chocolates are expensive in Japan and they enjoy them. If they are younger generation business associates, ground coffee is sometimes good - Blue Mountain Jade is always appreciated but this again is pricey at about $37.00 a pound. Although coffee drinking is very popular by younger people, some older generation members still prefer tea. Do not buy them tea! Big mistake! The tea you get here is never as good as what they drink normally in Japan.

As I mentioned, gift giving in Japan is a very complex ritual and requires a great deal of thought. It is better if you know the background of the people you are meeting - single or family man, their age, etc. to get a better idea of what they might like. Even for Japanese it is very difficult and nowadays younger generations rather ignore this custom as outdated and impractical. The last VIP I entertained from Japan last year, bought 20 Hugo Boss neckties for his people at $150.00 a shot as simple souvenirs of his trip to Los Angeles. . . . . . This is impossible for most people like us here.

If you are still not sure, please ask me again and I will think about it more for you. The more I know, the better I can help you. Hope this helps!

Kensho Furuya
11-13-2003, 07:43 AM
Just one more hint. You can buy wine at the Duty Free Shop, they have a nice selection there although you will find that you don't save much money. I worry that if you buy it on your own, you may have to pay a customs tax or tariff. Also, buy a nice, decorative, shopping bag - the one with the looped string handle at the top. You can find these in a gift shop or Sav-on or somewhere. Don't wrap the wine bottles (do you know how hard and messy that is?) but put them in the bag when you go to meet your guests. This is quite fasionable in Japan - to have them presented in such a bag. Hope this helps too!