Visit Home in Japan

When Japanese people go to visit the home of an acquaintance, they frequently take a gift, and the greeting that is commonly made when offering such a gift is also strange to foreign ears. We say, ” This is really an insignificant thing I offer you. ” When Americans hear these words for the first time, they often wonder why the visitor did not bring a more worthwhile gift.

Let us think about the reasons Japanese people say that their gift is insignificant. When someone does a Japanese person a favor, the recipient never forgets it and always feels as though he must do something to repay the kindness. Thus, he invariably mentions his gratitude the next time he meets the person who has done the favor for him with such words as “Thank you so much for your kindness the other day.” If such a greeting is neglected, the person is thought to be extremely ungrateful and rude. Beyond this greeting, the recipient also strives to do something in return for the favor that is equal in value.

With such customs prevailing, it is difficult for Japanese to take gifts to people, because it seems to indicate that something is expected in return in the future. Thus, they feel obliged to say that gift they have brought is of no value, and therefore there is no need for the person to whom they are offering it to feel any future obligation.