Kaori Nomura

25 August 2018

Business Gift Giving Practices in Japan: Ochuugen and Oseibo

There are two major gift giving practices in Japan: Ochuugen and Oseibo. This Japanese custom of sending gifts to clients or bosses at the middle of the year and at the end of the year is to express our appreciation for their kindness and support during the year.

“お中元 Ochuugen” is a summer gift giving custom in the middle of the year. Chuugen means 15th of July in the old calendar. This time of the year is also called “お盆 Obon” which is a period of welcoming the ancestors’ souls, and to give food or gifts to the ancestors and people who helped us a lot. Even though it is a Buddhist custom, this tradition is commonly spread in business situations.

Likewise, “お歳暮 Oseibo” is an end-of-year gift giving custom. This custom originates from the gift giving tradition of welcoming the ancestor’s soul during New Year. Ochuugen and Oseibo have the same meaning and purpose, just occurring in different seasons.

When Is Ochuugen and Oseibo?

“お中元 Ochuugen”  

関東 Kanto Region : early July to 15th of July
関西 Kansai Region : late July to 15th of August
※In Kansai region, O-bon is in August.

If you miss the timing, you can send the gifts as “暑中お見舞い Shochuu omimai” (a summer greeting) until 7th of August. After that, send as “残暑見舞い Zansho omimai” (a late summer greeting).

“お歳暮 Oseibo”

関東 Kanto Region : early December to 31st of December
関西 Kansai Region : 13th of December to 31st of December

Ideally, the gifts are sent until 20th of December. If you missed the timing, send as “お年賀 Onenga” (a New Year greeting) or “寒中お見舞い Kanchuu omimai” (a winter greeting).


Who Should You Send Ochuugen or Oseibo to?

Do not send Ochuugen or Oseibo to politicians, public servants or public school teachers, because it could be against the Public Officers Election Act and National Civil Service Law.

 The gifts should be sent to your clients or bosses who have ongoing relationships with you. It is rude if you send Ochuugen or Oseibo just once. If you want to send just once, put “御礼 onrei” (Thank you gift) on Noshi (Japanese gift wrapping paper) instead of Ochuugen or Oseibo.

What Items Are Gifted?

Generally, the cost for Ochuugen or Oseibo gifts is 3000 yen to 5000 yen. Seasonal gifts are appreciated, such as jelly or mizu-youkan for summer and food for a New Year celebration. Many stores sell beautifully packaged Ochuugen and Oseibo gifts that can be conveniently ordered online and delivered to recipients. The gifts are wrapped with Japanese wrapping paper called “熨斗紙 Noshi-gami” on the top layer of the gift.

How to Send the Gift

You can bring the gift to the company in person or have the gifts delivered. If you use a carrier service or a Japanese postal service, you have to enclose a message card, or send a post card/letter separately by mail. You have to mention that you sent what, when, from where in the letter and arrange so that the letter arrives a couple days before the gift arrives. See a sample letter below.

A sample letter to your client:

拝啓 師走の候、貴社におかれましては、ますますご清祥のこととお慶び申し上げます。







※If you enclose the message in the gift, omit the part of (○○デパートより~)

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