Japan has two major gift giving seasons each year: O-chugen in the summertime and o-seibo at the year end. The term O-chugen refers to both the season and the gifts delivered. People send items like foods or daily-use articles to their superiors, customers, relatives, and others as tokens of thanks. The season boosts the sales of many department stores and other retailers, although it can sometimes present headaches for those obligated to purchase a wide array of gifts. “O-chugen sales” are seen as a good indicator of the year’s economy. O-chugen is a custom unique to Japan, developed as hybrid of an old Chinese practice and the Japanese o-bon season, when families and relatives gather to pray for the wellbeing of their deceased ancestors. When O-chugen first emerged in Japan, most of the gifts exchanged were rice, noodles, and other foods, since such gifts were expected to be served to ancestors on a tray (o-bon in Japanese) and then shared by the family members and relatives. Today, however, people send a much broader range gifts, including beer, other beverages, and soap. Merchandise coupons are particularly popular contemporary gifts.
Updated : 23 June, 2017