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The Art of Giving Corporate Gifts in Japan

A lot of people have looked at Japan for effective corporate strategies. As it works its way towards higher corporate profits, Japan restructures the art of giving corporate gifts. And Japan continues to shine along with its delightful corporate gifts.

Jerry Carpos

A lot of people have looked at Japan for effective corporate strategies. As it works its way towards higher corporate profits, Japan restructures the art of giving corporate gifts. And Japan continues to shine along with its delightful corporate gifts.

Gifts, which do not necessarily be of high value, will not be considered a bribe or insulting. For senior Japanese executives however, the gifts should be higher quality with increasing rank. This etiquette is important to observe and failure to do so will cause offense.

Gifts should be wrapped, but the paper should neither be too bright nor white. Be especially wary of white, which symbolizes death – and never give things in sets of four, because the word for four, “shi”, closely resembles the word for death. This probably rules out golf balls, unfortunately. The Japanese can be very superstitious about this.

Both hands must always be used to present a gift, or even a business card.

You cannot simply turn up with a gift unexpectedly, except on occasions where it will be obvious you are giving something, such as a first meeting. Instead, you should let drop some kind of subtle hint that you would like to present a small token of respect or memento in the near future.

When the gift is for a group, make sure that all are assembled before making the presentation – and bear in mind that it is considered extremely rude to present a gift to only one recipient. It must either be presented to the whole group, or a gift given to each individual member.

The gift itself should be downplayed as much as possible. This is usual in all Asian cultures. The friendship should be allowed to come to the forefront rather than the material object which is symbolic of it.

Gifts displaying company logo as well as monetary gifts are taboo in Japan.

The end of a visit is the best time to present your gift. Business gifts are presented at mid-year, i.e. on the first day of January, on the 15th of July, and at the end of the year.

It is not difficult to choose a gift for a Japanese person, although as has been mentioned, if multiple gifts are to be made, a strict ranking of worth is essential according to company position. Gifts which include products that are not unavailable in the local market as well as extremely expensive ones are always welcome in Japan. Pens are highly appropriate as gifts for Japanese colleagues, because the pen is a symbol of knowledge. It is also easy to pack.

Gift giving in the Pacific rim is not as formal and ritual-bound as it is in Japan, but here, too, the importance of the gift should be downplayed and in addition it is considered polite to show slight reluctance in accepting a gift.

Giving of corporate gifts to officials, which is a bit problematic in China, was banned during the communist regime. Gift-giving is enjoying a popular resurgence, but to avoid giving the impression that it is a bribe, the following guidelines should be observed: corporate gift should not be very expensive, should be personalized by adding the company logo, and should be presented to a group rather than to a single person.

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