Unveiling Japan’s Gift-Giving Taboos: A Guide To Polite Etiquette

Gifts Not to Give in Japan: A Guide to Polite Etiquette

When visiting Japan, it’s important to be mindful of local customs and etiquette, especially when giving gifts. Certain gifts may be considered失礼 (失礼, impolite) or even taboo in Japanese culture. Here’s a guide to help you avoid any faux pas:

  • Gifts with Negative Connotations: Avoid gifts that symbolize death or mourning, such as black items, chrysanthemums (except for funerals), or gifts that cut or pierce, like knives or scissors.

  • Sharp Objects: Knives and other sharp objects are generally not considered appropriate gifts as they can be seen as threatening.

  • Footwear: Shoes, socks, and sandals are considered personal items and should not be gifted unless specifically requested.

  • Gifts of Food or Drink: While food and drink can be thoughtful gifts, be aware of any dietary restrictions or allergies. Also, avoid giving raw fish or meat, as these may be perceived as unhygienic.

  • Alcohol: Alcohol is not typically given as a gift unless it’s a special occasion, such as a wedding or anniversary.

  • Gift Wrapping: The presentation of a gift is just as important as the gift itself. Avoid wrapping gifts in black or white paper, as these colors are associated with funerals and mourning.

  • Gifts with Your Name or Logo: While it’s common to personalize gifts in Western cultures, it’s not customary in Japan. Avoid gifts that prominently display your name or company logo.

  • Gifts that are Too Expensive: Giving extravagant gifts can be seen as ostentatious or putting the recipient in an uncomfortable position. Choose gifts that are modest and within the realm of what the recipient might expect to receive.


  • Can I give cash as a gift in Japan? Yes, cash is a common gift, especially for weddings or other special occasions. However, it should be presented in a formal envelope.

  • What are some appropriate gifts to give in Japan? Traditional Japanese gifts, such as teacups, fans, or calligraphy sets, are always appreciated. Other thoughtful options include items related to the person’s hobbies or interests.

Giving gifts in Japan is a gesture of respect and appreciation. By being mindful of the customs and etiquette surrounding gift-giving, you can ensure that your gifts are received with gratitude and without causing any offense. Remember, it’s the thought that counts, and a thoughtful gift, no matter how modest, is always appreciated in Japanese culture.

gifts not to give in japan

gifts not to give in japan

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