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Gifts giving a ‘special’ time for all Okinawans

Date Posted: 2004-12-09

Relationships are important to all Japanese people, including Okinawans.

Oseibo is the custom of giving gifts at the end of each year. The idea is to promote relationships for life.

It’s become a major industry, rivaling Christmas in the west as a time for stores to reap the profits. Oseibo customs encourage almost everyone to participate, including bosses and their subordinates, families and relatives, friends and neighbors, parents and children, businesses and customers. Oseibo calls for gift-giving, so merchandisers have stepped up to fill the needs.

High end department stores, neighborhood shops and supermarkets all engage in the highly competitive year-end business. Top Oseibo gifts include steaks, hams, cookies, towels, soap sets and awamori. Also popular are tea sets, some daily foods and practical home gifts.

Like business relationships, how much to spend on Oseibo gifts is a carefully calculated matter. A department store manager says important customers tend to warrant gifts in the ¥5,000~10,000 price range, with families and friends typically spending ¥3,000~5,000 on gifts for each other. For those very important people, whether they be bosses or family leaders, the custom soars to the ¥50,000~100,000 price range.

Department stores are trying some new techniques this year, offering healthy gift sets of herbs and herb teas, vinegars, lemon juices an massage equipment. Each store is pushing its own special items. Okinawa Mitsukoshi Department Store has linked with a famous European Hotel to sell original cakes, while Ryubo Department Store has Kyoto special cakes. San-A is pushing Okinawan brands, including special pork meats and seafood running up to ¥30,000 a set. Hokkaido crabs and lobster gift sets are more pricey yet, with prices running to ¥40,000. Company leaders acknowledge they’re creating the special items for the wealthy segment of the community.

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