I was evaluating doing CouchSurfing during my next trip in Japan and this question: What does a CouchSurfing host expect from their guests? makes me want to ask if there is a sort of "etiquette" I should respect if being hosted in Japan with regard to the "presents".

In general, should I bring something or would this would make my host feel uncomfortable?

If it's OK to bring something from my own country (which happens to be Italy) is there something I should NOT bring - that a Japanese would find inappropriate (except the most obvious things)?

  • 1
    It would be cool if the stackexchange platform would force a comment, or an upvote to an already existing comment, when downvoting a question or an answer :-)
    – Geeo
    Apr 29 '13 at 16:45
  • 1
    Yeah, it's come up on meta.SO a few times, but without result :/ At least it looks like one of the downvotes has been reversed.
    – Mark Mayo
    Apr 29 '13 at 16:47
  • 1
    @MarcelC. that question is about behaviour - do you need a gift, do they take you around town, how does it all work. this is about what type of gift is good or bad. The questions are not duplicates.
    – Mark Mayo
    Apr 29 '13 at 17:25
  • 1
    Indeed. And i pointed out that question in my question as a reference.
    – Geeo
    Apr 29 '13 at 17:26
  • 1
    @MarkMayo - "interacting with other cultures" Let's call Andrew Grimm. He seems to the specialist when it comes to interacting with Japanese Apr 29 '13 at 18:23

So, if you're just joining them for dinner, you're NOT expected to bring a plate.

However, even for a situation like that it's often expected to bring a wrapped gift for your hosts, so certainly if couchsurfing I'd consider bringing something.

Ideally, gifts that can't be purchased in Japan would be a nice idea, and it'd be very special if from your home country (or city even!). If you know there are several people or a family, a gift for each one is even better.

In terms of price, err on the inexpensive side - you don't want them to feel that they owe you something as a result.

If you haven't got something from your country and just want to pick something up in Japan, consider fruit or food, cakes, or candy as easy but acceptable gifts.

*Things to avoid:

This will vary to some degree, but ask around and you'll be told - don't bring lillies, blossoms or lotus plants - sometimes associated with funerals. Potted plants are associated with sickness taking root. The numbers 4 and 9 are to be avoided (eg number of flowers).

Always offer the gift with two hands, and if you receive one in return, it's common to protest a couple of times before graciously accepting.

Source: The internet, and three years of Japanese language and culture study.

  • 3
    Yes, can confirm 100%. Specially bakery that has varying levels of crunchy/softness are always liked. You can bring something that is generally available in Japan too (let's say Panettone) if the one from your home town is a special one.
    – uncovery
    Apr 30 '13 at 2:02
  • 1
    It is to note in general, that plants (especially potted with soil) are import-prohibited items when entering Japan anyway. I agree with having the gift wrapped, to be inexpensive and to bring something from your country or town. As someone who lives and works in Japan, I have found that gifts from the location you have travelled to / come from are always welcomed by both families and in company scenarios. Otherwise though, a gift in general is usually well received in Japan regardless of it's content (unless it is as from your avoid list or is otherwise obscene). Feb 20 '17 at 2:44

I brought a bunch of balloons for the children ages 6-8. They played with the balloons for days. After I got back i put together a photo album and mailed it to the family.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.