The Art Of Gift-Giving In Japanese Business: A Guide To Making A Positive Impression


Japanese Gift Culture: A Guide to Gifting in Business

In Japanese culture, gift-giving is an integral part of social and business interactions. It’s a way to express gratitude, respect, and strengthen relationships. Understanding the nuances of this custom can help you avoid cultural faux pas and make a positive impression on your Japanese business counterparts.

Choosing the Right Gift

  • Consider the occasion and recipient’s position. Different occasions call for different gifts. For example, a small token of appreciation for a meeting could be appropriate, while a more substantial gift might be suitable for a celebration or milestone. The recipient’s position within the company should also be considered when selecting a gift.

  • Opt for practical or consumable gifts. Japanese business etiquette favors practical or consumable gifts that can be enjoyed or used right away. Examples include high-quality food items, gift certificates to reputable restaurants, or office supplies.

  • Avoid personal or overly extravagant gifts. While it’s tempting to give something unique or memorable, personal gifts can be seen as an invasion of privacy in Japanese culture. Similarly, extravagant gifts can be perceived as ostentatious and uncomfortable.

Presentation Matters

  • Wrap your gift carefully. The presentation of the gift is just as important as the gift itself. Use high-quality wrapping paper and consider adding a decorative ribbon or ornament.

  • Include a gift card. A small gift card with a heartfelt message can add a personal touch to your gift. Write your message in Japanese if possible, or have it translated by a professional.

  • Present the gift with both hands. When presenting your gift, use both hands to show respect. Hold the gift with the wrapping paper facing the recipient and bow slightly.

Navigating Potential Pitfalls

  • Be aware of unlucky numbers. Certain numbers are considered unlucky in Japanese culture, such as the number 4, which is associated with death. Avoid gifts with these numbers or avoid giving gifts in sets of these numbers.

  • Don’t give sharp objects. Sharp objects, such as knives or scissors, are considered taboo as they symbolize cutting ties.

  • Don’t regift. Regifting is generally frowned upon in Japanese culture, as it can be seen as disrespectful.


  • Is it okay to refuse a gift? It’s considered impolite to refuse a gift outright. However, if you feel uncomfortable accepting it, you can politely decline by saying something like, “This is too kind of you. I’m so grateful, but I’m afraid I can’t accept it.”

  • What if I don’t know what to give? If you’re unsure about what to give, it’s always safe to opt for a gift certificate to a reputable store or restaurant.


Mastering the art of gift-giving in Japanese business is essential for forging strong relationships. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your gifts are well-received and that you make a positive impression on your Japanese counterparts. Remember, it’s not just about the gift itself, but the thoughtfulness and respect you convey through the gesture.

gift at business dinner japanese

gift at business dinner japanese

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