Thursday, December 23, 2004


There’s a wonderful end-of-year gift giving custom in Japan, which is called Oseibo. More details here. The oseibo is supposed to convey a message: “Thank you for everything you did for me (us) this year,” and considered as something more formal than Christmas gifts. That means you don’t want to send anything too cheap if you want to keep good relationship with the person. The gift represents the degree of your gratitude.

Yeah, I’m being a little sarcastic. I had a long day today because of this oseibo custom.

My mom called me up at 7:55 am and said “Can you do me a favor?!” I worked hard last night at the Izakaya and went to sleep very late, so I wasn’t ready for a conversation at 7:55 am. I don’t remember most of the conversation, but when I was fully awake, I found a memo in my handwriting (in Japanese, of course): “Oseibo. Crabs. To my sister’s father-in law,” and his mailing address and phone No followed.

Still being sleepy, I made a big mistake. I forgot that today was a national holiday (Emperor’s Birthday) and decided to go to a department store right away. A national holiday on the 23rd of December, one day before Christmas eve. You can imagine all the families in this city rushed to the mall for Christmas presents and the department store for oseibo (we have one mall and one department store in this city )--- trying to take care of both on the same day. Even in this underpopulated city, all the places were crowded like hell. The population is small here, and so are stores, thus they get crowded anyway.

Unfortunately, at the department store, I found that the good, expensive crabs were already gone. Now would it be OK to send my sister’s husband's father some cheaper crabs? What could be the safe price range that doesn’t jeopardize our relationship with he and his family? Or Should I give up crabs and send them something else, like expensive meat? Oh, but what if they don’t like meat…? So I had to call my mom for an advice.

After considering all the possible risks, she and I finally agreed to go for some less expensive crabs. Then there was a long line of people waiting to be attended. While I was in line, at least 2 people cut in in front of me. When I filled in the order slip, I misspelled the recipient’s name. (Ahhhh!!) All the sudden I felt so embarrassed about my poor handwriting, too. The idea of the recipient judging us by this gift put so much pressure on me. If I knew the recipient very well, I could have felt more at ease. But I’ve met him only 2 times before… at my sister’s engagement and wedding.

Choosing a formal gift for someone you don’t know well is so stressful, isn’t it?

Then, after coming back, I remembered that I don’t have to work in the daytime tomorrow. I could have gone shopping tomorrow, a regular Friday, instead of today, and avoided the long waiting line….

posted by obachan, 12/23/2004 10:03:00 PM


It’s such a shame that this kind of giftgiving tends to be considered as a duty you have to fulfill. Actually, many Japanese companies now ban the oseibo-giving among employees to “abolish empty formalities (and brown-nosing also.)”
commented by Blogger obachan, 12/26/2004 10:20 AM  
After having lived in Japan for 10 years, it is nice to see one obachan (you are REALLY an exception)who isn't angry, impolite, uncouth, spiteful, psychotic and all-around foul like 99.9% of obachans I've met here in Japan. Please come to Osaka and give a lecture on the finer points of obachan-ness. Japan really needs it.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 4/07/2006 9:00 PM  

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