Meaning of gifts in Japan - What can and cannot?

Japan has a rich culture, full of ancient stories and legends and many superstitions. One of the Japanese customs is deliver gifts (omiyage) on several occasions such as visiting a friend, thanking him and several others. As many Japanese people are superstitious, we’ve written a guide to let you know the meaning of things in gifts and what should avoid when gifting a Japanese.

Gifts with numbers

The Japanese are usually afraid of some numbers. So much so that some buildings do not have a lift with certain numbers. Avoid any gift that has the numbers 4, 9 and 43. See why:

  • Four - 4 - 四 - Your pronunciation SHI may sound like the word death (死) which is also shi;
  • Nine - 9 - 九 - The pronunciation KU it may sound like suffering, pain (苦) and even something dark (black - kuro);
  • 43 - The pronunciation shisan is similar to the birth of the dead shizan (死産);

Other suggestive numbers are 42 that indicates until death (死に - shini). 49 that looks like running over (敷く - shiku). The number 7 it is usually the lucky number, due to religious traditions in Buddhism. It is worth remembering that this superstition seems to be less important today, but it is still good to avoid.

Meaning of gifts in japan - what can and cannot?

Japanese gifts with animals

Japanese people like cute things. So sometimes you intend to give some stuffed animal or anything to an animal, see the meanings of animals present:

  • The butterflies they can mean joy and longevity, but it can indicate the soul of the living and the dead;
  • The carp it can mean good fortune and fidelity;
  • Herons they are perfect for weddings, as they mean longevity and good luck;
  • The swallows or a swallow's tail can represent good luck;
  • The turtles they can mean longevity, making them ideal for babies;

Meaning of gifts in japan - what can and cannot?

Meaning of colors in Japanese gifts

The colors have strong meanings in Japan, avoid even writing with a black pen on a gift card. O black it means death or bad luck. If you join black with red you are indicating sexuality. O red is used on headstones. Do not use red when signing cards, avoid even red Christmas cards, because funeral notices from Japan are red. However, gifts with red bow wrapped in white are good for weddings. These are the 2 colors you should avoid!

Good colors are the green which means eternity and good luck. Perfect to use on any gift card. O White means holiness and the purple means celebrations and decay, great for holidays. These 3 colors are perfect for signing gift cards and wrapping them.

The Orange symbolizes happiness and love. Yellow symbolizes courage, beauty and refinement, aristocracy and joy. O blue it is a soft color that represents everyday life, purity and cleanliness. It is also considered as a feminine color.

Meaning of gifts in japan - what can and cannot?

Other gifts you should avoid

Lilies, lotus flowers and camellias are associated with funerals. White flowers of any kind should be avoided. There is also a superstition that potted plants encourage disease. See more meanings of flowers by clicking here. 

Avoid things like scissors or knives because they can imply a break in their relationship or friendship with them. You don’t want to sever your friendship, do you? O mirror it should also be avoided because it may suggest breaking and breaking. If you’re dating, even worse! O comb that is pronounced kushi combines 2 hateful words that we have already seen in this article, death and suffering. Clocks they should also be avoided because it can indicate that time is up.

Do not give the same gifts to unequal individuals. Social class is important and prominent in Japan. If you give a businessman a bottle of wine, don’t give the boss the same.

Meaning of gifts in japan - what can and cannot?

Final tips for gifting someone

Always bring gifts from your region or abroad, the Japanese like it can even be food. Remember to keep the gift hidden, deliver it when you are alone and using both hands. The best time is at the end of your visit! Remembering that gifts are usually opened in private.

Other interesting products that you can give are imported bouquets, cognac, bourbon and high quality wines. Buy something that reflects the recipient’s interests and tastes. Gifts in pairs are considered lucky.

Styles and techniques of gift wrapping can mean something. O Pleat symbolizes joy. Combined colors as yin and yang they mean interconnected and interdependent forces in the natural world. asymmetry it is considered attractive in Japanese culture.

Meaning of gifts in japan - what can and cannot?

With thousands of years of culture, history and superstition, Japan is a country where things can mean more than you think. So it is always good to research more about the gift you want to give and the correct way to deliver it. Unfortunately we are not able to put all the tips and meanings in this article. If you want to add something important, we would like to see your comments and also your sharing. Thank you xD

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