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.
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.
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