Culture of Giving a Gift: “Ochugen” and “Oseibo”
In Japan at midsummer, gifts are exchanged between companies or individuals. These gifts are called “ochugen.” This practice traces back to the custom of sharing with relatives and neighbors one’s offerings to the souls of family ancestors during “bon” (the Buddhist souls’ day festival). Nowadays, however, it is secularized and has lost its religious meaning. The one exchanged in the middle of December is called “oseibo.”
Gifts are not sentimental expressions but now seasonal tokens of gratitude. Typically, companies will give gifts to their clients, but not vice versa. Nowadays this practice is seen less and less but employees would give gifts to their company president and immediate superiors.
The number of gifts a person receives reflects directly on how important the person’s social status is and housewives used to order gifts for themselves to impress their neighbors, but not nowadays.