Meaning of gifts in Japan - What can and can't be given?

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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 like visiting a friend, thanking him or her and many others. As many Japanese people are superstitious, we have written a guide for you to know the meaning of things in the present and what you should avoid when gifting a Japanese.

gifts with numbers

The Japanese are often afraid of some numbers. So much so that some buildings do not have an elevator with certain numbers. Avoid any gift that has the numbers 4, 9 and 43 on it. Here's why:

  • Four - 4 - 四 - Its pronunciation SHI can sound like the word morte (死) which is also shi;
  • Nove - 9 - 九 - The pronunciation KU can sound like suffering, pain (苦) and also something dark (black - kuro);
  • 43 - The pronunciation shisan is similar to the birth of stillborn shizan (死産);

Other suggestive numbers are 42 which indicates even death (死に - shini). 49 which looks like run 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 nowadays, but it is still good to avoid.

Meaning of gifts in Japan - what can and cannot?

Japanese gifts with animals

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

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

Meaning of gifts in Japan - what can and cannot?

Meaning of colors in Japanese gifts

Colors have strong meanings in Japan, avoid even writing with black pen on a gift card. O black means death or bad luck. If you combine black with red you are indicating sexuality. O red is used on tombstones. Don't use red color when signing cards, avoid even red Christmas cards, because Japan's funeral notices are red. However, gifts with a red bow wrapped in white are good for weddings. These are the 2 colors you should avoid!

Good colors are green which means eternity and good luck. Perfect to use on any gift card. O white means holiness and the purple stands for 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?

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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 a relationship or friendship with them. You don't want to sever your friendship do you? O mirror should also be avoided as it can suggest breakage and breakage. If you're dating, even worse! O comb that is pronounced kushi combines 2 hateful words we've already seen in this article, death and suffering. Clocks should also be avoided because it can indicate that time is up.

Don't give the same gifts to unequal individuals. Social class is important and prominent in Japan. If you give a bottle of wine to a businessman, 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 that, it can even be food. Remember to leave 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 you can give away 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.

Gift wrapping styles and techniques can have meaning. O pleat symbolizes joy. Colors matched like yin and yang they mean interconnected and interdependent forces of the natural world. asymmetry 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. That's why it's always good to research more about the gift you want to give and the correct way to deliver it. Unfortunately, we can't put all the tips and meanings in this article. If you want to add something important, we'd love to see your comments as well as your sharing. Thank you xD

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