Delicate Customs: The Meaning of Japanese Gifts - JAPAN CRAZE Magazine vol.35 -

Already half of the year has passed. 

In Japan, during July and August, there is a custom of giving gifts to those who have taken care of us in the first half of the year. In July, this practice is called "Ochugen," while in August, it is known as "Syochu-mimai" or "Zansyo-mimai," depending on whether it's a midsummer greeting or a late-summer greeting. The names and meanings of the gift-giving occasions change accordingly.


What is "Ochugen"? ~ Midsummer and Late-Summer Greetings ~

The roots of "Ochugen" are said to trace back to ancient Chinese Taoism. In China, there was a custom of celebrating the 15th day of the 1st month, the 7th month, and the 10th month. The 15th day of the 7th month, known as "Zhongyuan", is a time to celebrate the safe passage of the first half of the year and to honor ancestors.

In Japanese Buddhism, there is a ceremony called "Obon," which also takes place during the summer months and involves welcoming ancestral spirits into the home for offerings. Over time, these two cultural practices merged, leading to the tradition of checking on relatives and acquaintances, exchanging gifts, and eventually giving rise to the present-day custom of "Ochugen."


For a typical "Ochugen" gift, it's customary to place a "noshi" (decorative gift wrap) on top of the gift box that's already wrapped in gift wrapping paper. 

 "Syochu-mimai" and "Zansyo-mimai" are summer greetings sent during the hottest period of the year. They are expressions of concern for the health and well-being of those who are not often seen or who have provided assistance. These greetings convey a wish for them to stay healthy and vibrant during this challenging summer season.


A Communication Method Infused with Compassion Through Gift-Giving

In Japan, gift-giving occurs on various occasions, such as ceremonial events like weddings, funerals, and seasonal celebrations, as well as during specific times like the "Ochugen" in July, expressing gratitude, apology, greetings, or requests at significant milestones. The act of giving a gift is not driven by seeking something in return.

However, as part of reciprocation, etiquette, or simply as an extension of gratitude, it's not uncommon for the recipient of a gift to later offer a new gift to the original giver, creating a cycle of giving and receiving. 

When it comes to formal gift-giving, there are several etiquettes and rules to consider, including the type of gift and the method of wrapping. In terms of gift types, some common options include confectionery, alcoholic beverages, and even cash.

Gift wrapping methods, although they may appear outdated in today's context of heightened environmental concerns and resource importance, typically involve using pristine, unwrinkled paper to wrap the gift. After wrapping, additional decorative elements are added. These may include a decorative paper called "Noshi" and decorative cords known as "Mizuhiki," which are tied around the package in combinations of red and white or black and white.

The decorations and embellishments on the box or bag, just like the contents within, hold their own significance in terms of etiquette, emotions, and symbolism. These wrapping adornments are essential items because they carry a deeper layer of meaning, reflecting the sentiments and cultural values behind the gesture.


The gift on the right features a "noshi" decoration, while the left showcases a traditional envelope called "Shugi-bukuro," which is adorned with "mizuhiki" cords to encase monetary gifts.

Unfortunately, j-Grab Mall does not currently offer services for adding "noshi" or "mizuhiki" decorations. However, we do provide a wide range of products that are perfect for gifting and have a long shelf life.


The Moist and Rich Flavor That Captivates Chocolate Lovers

Il Fait Jour, a confectionery shop in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture, creates a chocolate steamed cake that indulges in the luxurious use of 60% couverture chocolate, resulting in a velvety-smooth melt with a rich cocoa aroma.

Il Fait Jour Chocolate Baked & Steamed Sweets allow you to fully savor a decadent experience that feels like indulging in raw chocolate itself.

Il Fait Jour Orange Chocolate Baked & Steamed Sweets, finely chopped homemade orange peel in syrup is kneaded into the batter, providing a refreshing flavor and adding a delightful texture of orange peel as an accent.

In collaboration with Okutama's Ozawa Sake Brewery, the Il Fait Jour Sake Flavor Chocolate Baked & Steamed Sweets features sake lees from sake production, lending a subtle essence of sake to this sophisticated chocolate cake with a subtle hint of Japanese sake aroma, perfect for adults.


When chilled in the refrigerator, it offers a moist texture, and when warmed, it transforms into a delicacy reminiscent of freshly baked goodness.

Each unit of this product is individually packaged, allowing for hygienic distribution among colleagues at the workplace or multiple friends. Furthermore, it has passed a shelf life test of 90 days at 30°C, making it an ideal choice for gifting purposes as well.

The stylish packaging is visually appealing and captures one's attention.

Experience the Authentic Flavors of the Shop in Your Own Home with Traditional Japanese Confections

KAMAAGE Warabi Mochi Specialty Cup Kinako from Ohtani-do allows you to recreate the unique flavors of  Kamaage warabi mochi, a traditional Japanese confection, right in the comfort of your own home, even if you're miles away from Japan.

The warabi powder, which is a key ingredient, is harvested and milled from the company's very own warabi fields. The topping of roasted soybean flour (kinako) is made using carefully roasted domestically sourced soybeans. Presented in cute and compact cup containers, these bite-sized treats are not only perfect for enjoying a moment to yourself at home, but they also make great souvenirs, gifts, or thoughtful gestures.

With an impressive shelf life of 210 days, these treats can be stored for an extended period.


How about a gift for families with children or those seeking a healthy breakfast?

Hap Bee Bee Pancake Mix Tokyo Caffe JAPAN is a delightful, fluffy, and chewy pancake mix made with subtly sweet natural ingredients. It's not only suitable for traditional dessert pancakes but can also be enjoyed as a healthy pancake option every day.

It can also be used as a weaning food for infants and toddlers.


Hap Bee Bee Pancake Ultra Mix JAPAN was developed as a weaning food for infants. With a focus on high-quality ingredients, it's a health-conscious powder that can be given to children with confidence. It's designed to be easily cooked on a frying pan and offers a natural flavor that can be enjoyed every day.

It can be stored at room temperature. Shelf life is 1 year (from date of manufacture).

All of these are trans-fat-free powdered mixes blended with Hokkaido-produced buttermilk, with no artificial flavors or coloring added. They use aluminum-free leavening agents to create deliciously fluffy and moist pancakes with a soft and chewy texture. Additionally, various wrappings are available, making them a perfect gift for families with young children or health-conscious individuals.

How did you like it? Why not express your gratitude to those who help you in your daily life, such as family, friends, bosses, and colleagues, by gifting them with the hospitality-wrapped products from j-Grab Mall?

📣Announcement for Summer SALE 2023

Thank you very much for your continued support of j-Grab MALL. With heartfelt appreciation, we are holding a limited-time Summer SALE. Get popular Japanese brand products at great discounts with our special coupon!



JAPAN CRAZE Store Manager
Naoko Saito
Japan craze magazine