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Gift-Giving in Japan


(Note: This transcript has been edited for readability.)

"There's certain times of the year, certain holidays where it's not a guaranteed thing, but most people will give gifts. But, throughout the year, just randomly, it's called 'omiyage,' which is basically when you go traveling anywhere, you buy little—usually it's sweets, candy, things like that nature, and then you just come back and give it to your friends. It's almost a little bit expected. If you have a day business trip somewhere, and you come back without something, the office is kind of like, 'What, what happened; where's our sweets?' Again, it's not expected; no one would ever say anything—honestly, they wouldn't—but it is very common.

"And it happened to me a lot. At first, I'd be getting all these things because they went on a trip and thought of me. And then of course, I did feel bad, because I didn't have anything to give back. But I did remember next time, when I'd go on a trip, I'd bring something back for them. But of course, Japanese, even if it's their birthday or a traditional holiday where gifts are given, [they'll say,] 'Oh, no, no, no, I won't take this, no, I can't,' and then obviously you offer again, and then 'Okay,' and they'll humbly take it, but I always get the 'No, no, no, no, no.'"

A service member discusses gift-giving in Japan.