What kind of gift do I give my host family?

Gift-giving is an especially meaningful part of Japanese society. Nearly every major train station is lined with gift shops, and entire floors in mega-department stores display only gifts. Business people send gifts to their bosses twice a year, a tradition called Ochugen Oseibo. They do this in late summer and during the New Year holiday.

When visiting a Japanese home, offer a gift to show your appreciation. If you are staying with a host family, bring something from your home country to present to your host family.

Offering a small gift is not only highly appropriate; it’s also a great way to share some of the good little things in your life. To keep this custom from becoming a financial burden, select a few small gifts suggestive of your home country to give as occasions arise. Consider small unbreakable items like a regional picture book, non-perishable candy, stationery, coffee beans, pins, perfume, or cosmetics.

You may want to bring a special gift for your host family. You may even want to bring ingredients for your favorite meal (or at least the recipe) and offer to cook for your host family once or twice during your stay.

NOTE: Measurements in Japan are metric, so for ease of use, convert the measures in your recipe to metric. Here’s a metric converter. Also, Japanese homes may not have ovens, or the oven may be very small.

Be sure to wrap all gifts. Presentation in Japan is often almost as important as the gift itself.