Giving Etiquette

Here in Japan gift giving is a mysterious activity governed by seriously adhered to rules. I've been doing some catching up today as I prepare for a round of gift giving, card sending and correspondence.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a set of towels for my mother-in-law as she's just moved. I thought towels would be a nice housewarming gift. Since the wrapping is seen as more important than the gift I was a bit perplexed as to how to wrap the gift appropriately. There's a fair bit of leeway here since it's family but still I wanted to demonstrate some effort had been made. I came up with this furoshiki idea. I don't think I have followed one of the prescribed folding techniques and my furoshiki is a bit oversize but still it looks cute. I hemmed all the edges with a decorative stitch.

Also on the topic of gift giving. Those in Japan will know the trepidation one feels when dealing with funerals. It's looking grim for a friend's dad so I want to be prepared. It's a complicated business. We are likely to hear the news while my husband is out so I got him to help me.

In Japan the grievers give a sum of money to pay their respects to the family (the minimum is probably $100). A special envelope is used. Luckily I had the envelope already (black and white, I hope that's right). My friend Mrs T had told me to give old money (not crisp new bills) and use an old nearly run out pen to write.

Again luckily I have instructions from a Japanese culture course I took several years ago. My husband had to read the instructions as his mother would normally have taken care of these matters. He didn't know what to do. Careful folding and special writing.

I have the black formal suit already. I got this shortly after I got married based on the advice of another wife here. It was GREAT advice. Funerals obviously come up on short notice. If you are tall like me and rotund you haven't got a chance of finding the gear in your size. I ordered mine from Nissen. It has been a great investment. It's saved a lot of stress and I have never had to feel like I'm letting the family down by being dressed inappropriately.

The envelope with the 'bow' pointing upwards.

Our instructions - very handy!
See the folding instructions? Complicated.

Phew, luckily my remaining correspondence was birthday cards, letters and Valentines Day cards. All your standard western formats!


  1. $100!! Don't think we have ever given that much it is usually $30 to $50 here depending on how close we are to the person. Family we would perhaps give more.

    Thanks for reminding me about the funeral suit I have a black suit and would choose to wear that in a pinch but GMIL is getting weaker and weaker at the moment and I should have a look at Nissen.

  2. Oh thanks, I'll get some money back out. My husband is clueless in this regard.

    I think Nissen is good for the gear. My suit is very nice.

  3. Yep, it is usually about 5000 yen around here. You don't have to give as much for a funeral as there is insurance money to pay for the cost, not like a wedding. My DH says maybe up to 10,000 if you were close or feel really generous.

  4. Gosh so lucky I posted about this. I would have been seriously out of pocket. It's not a close friend but someone I see everyday and who has been involved in our kindergarten life. I have met her parents too so ... 3000 or 5000 will be enough.


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