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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)?

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    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
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 16:45
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    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
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 16:47
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    @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
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 17:25
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    Indeed. And i pointed out that question in my question as a reference.
    – Geeo
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 17:26
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    @MarkMayo - "interacting with other cultures" Let's call Andrew Grimm. He seems to the specialist when it comes to interacting with Japanese Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 18:23

2 Answers 2

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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.

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    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
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 2:02
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    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). Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 2:44
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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.

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