The tradition of gift money

Japan is a country famous for gifts.  People give gifts on many occasions, and I’ve received gifts from students so many times I’ve lost count.  Usually, it’s food.  But with the birth of my daughter, I’ve received baby-themed gifts.  I like receiving gifts like this.  On the other hand, there’s gift money.

Gift money is given to new parents by family and relatives.  This is also done at New Year’s.  Family gives gift money to children.  However, by my definition, the Japanese gift money tradition is not really a gift.  My wife and I have received gift money from her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  It’s been quite helpful for paying for many baby related things, including clothes, supplies, and paying for the birth itself.  Now that she’s home and the gift giving has died down, her family is expecting something in return.  What they now expect is for us to use half of the gift money to buy them gifts.  That’s right, they give us money to buy them gifts after we’ve already used the money during the most financially difficult time we’ve ever had.  This is something that both my wife and I really dislike about Japan’s gift tradition.  While we appreciate their generosity, as the money did help us a lot, it seems inconceivable from my cultural background that we are now required to buy expensive gifts for everyone that gave us money.  Sure, it seems like it’s returning the favour as a thank you.  But we’re in the middle of a difficult time financially, and we need to be able to save as much as possible for the coming months.  Raising a child is expensive, and the last thing we need is to spend money on gifts for family.  Maybe I sound ungrateful to some of my Japanese readers, but you have to understand the situation of new parents.

Here’s the most irritating thing.  They want the gifts as soon as possible.  They want it immediately.  If we don’t give gifts in return, they won’t say anything to us, but they will complain a lot to my wife’s parents.  We don’t want her parents to have to deal with angry relatives that want gifts from a couple of new parents who can’t really afford to give them gifts.  It seems like it’s more important for my in-laws to get gifts than for us to have financial security.

Thank you very much, Japanese gift money tradition.  You sure know how to screw over new parents.  End of rant.



Filed under Culture

11 responses to “The tradition of gift money

  1. Went through a similar experience recently when my wife’s parents visited from Japan. Lots of gift money from various family members and relatives. We spent half the trip trying to find worthy gifts to give back to them in return!

  2. Man….a lot of hurt feelings and ridiculous behavior has been witnessed by me regarding that “gift money”

    If I could I’d just pass on the whole excruciating ordeal!

    • Absolutely. My wife decided after that to just say no more gift money, just send gifts. I’m not annoyed at my wife’s relatives, it’s more the tradition that irritates me. This is one tradition I think we could do without in Japan.

  3. What a headache! As if you have nothing better to do when you’re settling into life with a baby, even without the financial considerations. And to complain if they don’t get things! It seems a bit ungracious! A thank you letter and a photo seems appropriate to me.

    • I think so, too. We are getting photos taken, but they’ll be for immediate family only. The extended family will get digital photos taken with a cell phone, I think.

  4. Argghh, wouldn’t it be easier to give just half the amount and not expect something? Anyway I’m sure what goes around comes around when their kids have kids.

    • It would be easier, wouldn’t it? I was thinking that very thing. Why give money and expect half of it in return in the form of a gift? Just give half the amount and buy yourself something with the rest.

  5. ~kat

    Was this something that was sprung on you after the gift was given? Yeah, I think I’d have to put my foot down and say no more money. It is SO expensive having a new baby not to mention exhausting. Everything is focused on settling into a new ever changing routine. Who needs the extra hassle?? Tradition or not, it’s insensitive. Sorry Jay Dee:(

  6. Pingback: 2012 in Review | Jay Dee in Japan

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