Japan Diaries Day 10 – Wedding Gifts & Phone Etiquette


Continuing my day-by-day diary of my month-long trip to Tokyo, Japan this past December. I spent Saturday with my Japanese friends from university, so Sunday we stayed at home ^^



I spent the whole afternoon and evening on Saturday at the reunion in Shinjuku with my university friends, so my fiancé and I slept in on Sunday. His parents were coming back from Hawaii that night, so it was our last day taking care of their house and the dogs. It was cold, so we spent the day at his parents’ house since it was warmer and we didn’t have to huddle around the small heater in his apartment. We watched TV, movies that we rented, and were just generally lazy.


Last day of babysitting these girls – photo by kei


That day a package came for us from my future mother-in-law’s childhood friend. It was an engagement/wedding gift of high-quality beef. The family friend is a butcher, and so these were particularly prime cuts of beef. They also included sweet breads and a monetary gift. I was very thankful to receive such a kind gift from people who have known my fiancé since he was born.


Engagement/wedding gift of meat and sweet breads – photo by kei

My formal Japanese was put to the test when we called them to thank them for the gift. They of course were surprised that my Japanese was high-level, but of course I always think it could improve. I also learned an important lesson: you must wait for the other person to hang up the phone first if they are higher in rank than you, or elderly. Hanging up a Japanese home phone receiver to end a call creates a loud noise on the other end, so you wait for the other party to hang up first as a sign of respect. If the other party is elderly, you avoid hanging up first so that they don’t have to listen to the loud clunk in their ears. I hadn’t known the reason behind this before.

It’s customary to return such a lavish gift in kind, so we arranged to have a melon and monetary gift sent in return. Honey dew melons (the green ones) are high quality and can be expensive in Japan. Not as expensive as those square watermelons, but they can be pricey. I’m not usually a person who does things right away, and I prefer to take my time (as you can maybe tell by the fact that I’m writing about December in April?). However, my fiancé likes to get things done right away, and it’s important in creating and maintaining good relationships to respond to gifts right away. It’s good to have him encouraging me to respond quickly, and maybe I’ll change my bad habit!

In Japan, it’s typical to only receive money for a wedding gift. There are no gift registries like in the US, and the amount of money that you give is set by your relationship to the bride and groom. For friends or colleagues, you usually give ¥30,000, while for family members it can be up to twice as much. It’s typical for friends and co-workers to attend weddings, but not significant others who do not know the bride or groom. There is also a distinct lack of dancing compared to American weddings. Since we aren’t having a wedding in Japan, we received a few gifts from his family and a few family friends.


Sweets – photo by kei


Japan has amazing food from many countries (see my diary about my trip to Yokohama), but I really enjoy dessert. The two dessert foods in Japan I am obsessed with are soft serve ice cream and parfaits. There is usually a seasonal flavor trend, and one of my favorites is the winter flavor of sweet potato. At Asakusa I had my first sweet potato soft cream in a cone, and after that I had to eat it nearly every day at Mini Stop (a convenience store chain). As far as ice cream parfaits, I pretty much ate them at any store I saw them in. It doesn’t help that my fiancé has a sweet tooth and encouraged my addiction by going out of his way to get soft cream!

What kind of gift-giving customs do you have for weddings or other events? Also, do you have a favorite dessert, Japanese or other?

Next Up: Japan Diaries Day 11 – Wedding Photoshoot Prep

Japan Diaries 2014

5 thoughts on “Japan Diaries Day 10 – Wedding Gifts & Phone Etiquette

  1. I am not familiar with wedding gift giving in Japan, but it depends on your relationship with the person getting married in Taiwan. If you are really good friends with him or her, you should give NT$3600 [about US$120].

    Japan definitely knows how to do sweets. My mother-in-law went to Hokkaido last month and brought back chocolate corn and dried strawberries covered with white chocolate. The latter was probably one of best things I have eaten in a long time.


    • I feel like giving money as a gift might be easier than giving gifts like in the US. There are registries in stores in the US, but then you have to pick an item that fits your budget. Sometimes this might be an item like kitchen utensils that are useful, but not that impressive. With the money, the couple can use it to pay off the wedding or to buy new items!

      Those sweets sound amazing! I feel like American sweets are too sweet, but Japanese and Chinese sweets are just right.


  2. Interesting about the hanging up first rule, I didn’t know that one. Couldn’t say I have a favorite dessert here, they are all so good and I love that they don’t use anywhere close to the the amount of sugar used in America.


    • I am also a big fan of the less sugar, less sweet part of desserts in Japan. They also use less sugar in Chinese desserts, so I like to buy cakes at Chinese bakeries in the US. My Asian friends have trouble eating American cakes because they are almost pure sugar. I wonder how I ate birthday cakes when I was little!

      Liked by 1 person

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