To the Japanese, gift giving is a way of communicating respect, friendship, and appreciation. When meeting with a Japanese colleague or visitor for the first time, always be prepared for the gift giving ritual that has been deeply rooted in the Japanese culture for centuries.
The following are some guidelines to keep in mind when doing business with the Japanese:
* Gifts need not be extravagant, although expensive gifts are not viewed as a bribe.
* When meeting with a group of Japanese professionals, be sure to give higher quality gifts to those with more senior rank within the company.
* Always wrap the gifts you present, but remember to avoid white and brightly colored wrapping paper. White symbolizes death and bright colors are too flashy.
* Never surprise the Japanese recipient with your gift. Subtly alert the recipient that you would like to present a small memento.
* When presenting a group gift, be sure to allow time for the entire group to gather before making the presentation. When meeting with a group of Japanese colleagues, either present a group gift or a gift to each individual within the organization.
It is considered extremely rude to present a gift to one individual in a group, without giving gifts to the rest of the ensemble.
* Downplay the importance of the gift. This is common in the Asian culture. It conveys the message that the relationship is more important than the gift
* Always present the gift with two hands. This is also true with presenting business cards.
* Avoid giving gifts in sets of four. The word "four" in Japanese is "shi," which is also associated with the word for death.
* Gifts are normally exchanged at the end of the visit.
* Avoid giving monetary gifts or gifts displaying company logos.
* Be certain that gifts are of unquestionable quality.
* Business gifts should be given at midyear (July 15) and at year-end (January 1).
* Products that are difficult to obtain in Japan. This could be something not sold in Japan, or something that is extremely expensive.
* Gifts that reflect the recipient's interests and tastes.
* Pens are highly appropriate gifts for Japanese colleagues. First, the pen is a symbol of knowledge in the Japanese culture. Second, a pen is a lightweight gift that is easy to pack and carry when traveling abroad.