Moving-in Gift Giving in Japan

Some Places Around the World Welcome a New Neighbor with a Gift

Things are a bit different in Japan.  There is no welcome wagon or welcoming committee to greet the newcomer. When you first move into a house or apartment, you should bring gifts to your surrounding neighbors.

This is a way to introduce yourself, make friends and let them know a little bit about yourself.  It need not break your bank account. Small kitchen towels or tins of cookies, gift wrapped, are available in most department stores.

An expensive item, as an introductory gift, would be overkill.  It may make your neighbors feel indebted to you.

The custom may vary from one Prefecture to another so, it is best to get advice from someone in the vicinity before making any gift purchases.

Photo credit: Mike Lynch

My First Move was into an Apartment

The location was out in the countryside and the tenants all working class people with young children. During the few days spent unpacking and getting settled, I noticed, everyone around me had hectic work schedules.  They would come and go, all hours of the day and night.

Not knowing what would be an appropriate gift, I asked a friend what I should buy.  Small boxes of laundry soap was the solution.  With conflicting work schedules, it was impossible for me to deliver the gifts at a reasonable hour.  So, I placed my name and apartment number on each package and placed them at each neighbor’s door.

Following the local customs worked well for me.  Eventually, we all got to know each other and became good friends.

Such good friends that, in the ten years I lived in that apartment, I never once locked the door.

Moving on to the 21st Century

People are busy these days.  The world economy has many families, working multiple jobs, just to make ends meet.

Neighbors, are lucky if they even get to see the people who live right next door.

Recently, a woman moved-in to the house next to my office.  I had long forgotten about the gift giving custom.

Last night, she reminded me.

 

Photo: Mike Lynch

It was dark outside as I closed and locked the shutter.  As I walked out the gate, the neighbor called me and handed me something. It was a small package.  A Hikkoshi Aisatsu (moving-in present) which I thought was some candy.  I thanked her, put it in my jacket pocket and walked home.

This morning, I remembered and told the wife I got some candy last night from the new neighbor.  When I took it out of my pocket and gave it to the wife she laughed.

Apparently, the new neighbor did her research before buying the gift.  It is a set of lapel pins, for husband and wife !

Read more

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About the author

Michael Lynch
Mike is a freelance photographer and writer who has been living in Okinawa, Japan for over 30 years.
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2 Comments

  • What a cute and thoughtful present.

    I’ve moved house many times in various countries, but I’ve never given or received presents. We did get gifts from our neighbours when our baby was born though. When we lived in an apartment block we used to take food round to the neighbours sometimes.

  • Lucy,
    The welcoming tradition was popular, many places I’ve moved to in the USA. But, Japan is the only place I’ve lived where the new guy on the block gives gifts to the neighbors.