Receiving A Gift In Japan

It’s New Years Day here in Japan.

My husband’s aunt and uncle always create calendar cards that are beautiful and feature everyone’s birthdays. She even has my parents, brothers, and relatives’ birthdays included. (A couple years ago she asked for their information).

We finally remembered when our anniversary was thanks to her including it on her calendar.  She is a very sweet woman. Each photo of flowers she took herself from 2016. It is a hobby she puts great effort into.

One thing I have noticed is when you receive gifts like that in Japan (maybe this is true anywhere), you must take them out and look through them carefully, admiring the work and heart that went into it.  You don’t just go “Thanks” and toss it in your bag.

Whenever I receive a gift in Japan, I will admire it for a few minutes after opening it and ask questions about the material and how they got it. It makes a big impression and seems pretty expected.

I’m now so accustomed to this “gift-giving” manner than when I go back to the States and others don’t do it, I find myself a little taken aback.  The nerve!

A lot of my western friends seem used to getting a pile of presents on Christmas that they toss in a pile without admiring the thought or effort of giving the gift. It’s just “Oh, thanks. I wanted this” — tosses into a pile and moves onto the next.

No, I want you to admire that polka-dotted necktie your Aunt Flora bought you (that you secretly hate and get every year from her). Admire it, darn you!

A few years ago I went to Mt. Fuji and bought a key chain with a little red school children’s backpack on it. I gave it as a gift to a single western mother’s daughter because it looked just like her elementary school back pack.

Her reaction to the present? She rolled her eyes and tossed it on the table, saying, “That’s all?” I was shocked both by her lack of manners and to see an eight year old sneer like that.

Her mother looked humiliated by her daughter’s manner and scolded her, saying, “You say thank you.”

But the damage was done. The muttered snorted and gave a “Yeah… thanks.” You could tell she thought my present lame and saw no value in receiving a “lame” gift.

What did she expect?  I wasn’t going to buy here a video game console, and after that attitude I wasn’t going to buy her crap.

Her mother understood the graveness of what her daughter had done, but no matter what she said the daughter learned no lesson from her lack of manners. She didn’t understand that if you don’t take the time to appreciate that awful polka-dot necktie your aunt flora gives, or that stupid keychain your mother’s friend gives you, you won’t get the truly amazing gifts that life has to offer.

Just because I didn’t get here the gift she wanted that time, doesn’t meant the gifts I might have given after wouldn’t have been exactly what she wanted. However, after her reaction to the keychain I refused to give her anything else again.

Of course, she probably never understood the price. After all, you can’t see ‘the gifts you might have received’.  Nowadays I take the time to treasure each gift I receive regardless of whether it is what I wanted.

That someone took the time to give me something at all is something worth treasuring.

6 thoughts on “Receiving A Gift In Japan

  1. It’s hard to instill gratitude in children if they had been let away taking things for granted for a long time. I think the calendar your husband’s aunt made is really awesome. I remember taking a great care of each wrapper when I opened my wedding presents. When one of my sisters was getting married, I made sure to wrap the present in an expensive wrapper in her favourite colour and then matching it with a nice ribbon. I was horrified when she simply crumpled all the wrappers of her presents and tossed them away. I don’t know. Perhaps not many people appreciate the wrappers, they are only concerned with what’s inside the box. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could’t agree more. That’s so sad that she just tossed it aside like that. When I receive presents that are wrapped beautifully and clearly with great care, I open them carefully. I admired the work and, if it’s really nice, I take pictures first.

      Those small acts of appreciation and acknowledgement for effort can make a huge impact. Now my friends often wrap my gifts beautifully because they know it’ll be appreciated.

      I think it’s just manners. It’s a pity how few people understand such a simple thing.

      Even if it’s just wrappers, you put great thought into her feelings.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cultural upbringing is a funny thing. One gets used to how one learned to do things growing up. However, in a world full of throwaway goods and a time when some are privileged to afford so much, it is getting more difficult to appreciate the little mundane things we are offered. How thoughtful of your husband’s aunt to spend so much time hand creating a gift and how equally wonderful that you appreciate her efforts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely true.

      Kids where I came from get saturated in gifts and I think it causes them not to appreciate the act of “giving”.

      They only sort through all the gifts for the “best” ones. I confess as a child I was guilty of some of this too.

      My cousins always got a ton of gifts for Christmas. On Christmas Eve they could open one present before Christmas.

      I remember them tossing aside wrapped gifts, searching for “the thing they really wanted”.

      “Oh, grandma’s gift. Probably she knitted something. Boring,” one of my cousins sighed, rolling her eyes as she tossed the box casually over her shoulder.

      “Open your aunt Marsha’s gift,” their mother would say and they’d groan. Marsha never sent anything cool.

      That could wait for Christmas.

      Where was the new X Box? They wanted to open the “cool” stuff.

      Looking back, I think that caused my cousins and I to be spoiled in our early years.

      Liked by 1 person

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