Jun 30, 2017

Omiyage: To Give or Not to Give?

Pictures, videos, and souvenirs—

These are just some of the things that remind us about that trip we’ve planned for days, weeks, months, or even for years. It helps us recreate those wonderful memories as vividly as it could in our minds. We post those pictures and videos on our social media to share the positive vibe it has brought to us.

Souvenirs or Omiyage is given to the people we are close with to express that we have not forgotten them during our vacation.

But, do we really "need"to?


In Western culture, Omiyage might be a little different from just purchasing a souvenir.

OMIYAGE is defined as a gift you have bought on your trip intended for co-workers, friends, and family, while a SOUVENIR is usually for oneself.

In the Philippines, we also have our own version of omiyage which is called “pasalubong,” hence; it is not a NEW custom I need to adopt. However, most of my friends in Japan are from Western countries that’s why I got curious on how they view this tradition.

I asked my Japanese friends and foreign friends if they like giving omiyage or they feel obligated to do so.

From Japanese’s perspective:

• Most of my Japanese friends said that they don’t feel they need to buy omiyage for their colleagues. They like giving and receiving it.

• Others said that they give omiyage because their co-workers also do the same when they go on a holiday.

• However, some of them feel the “need” to purchase omiyage because it is how they can convey their “thanks” to their co-workers, who have been working very hard, while they are relaxing on their vacation.

From a foreigner’s perspective:

• Surprisingly, many of my foreign friends said that they also like giving omiyage since they get some “holiday snacks” from people at work.

• Some stated that they only buy omiyage if they feel they want to or just share it with people they are close with or co-workers they like.

• While others didn’t feel buying souvenirs for co-workers is a must, one had mentioned that it is a “cultural obligation.” Even if you don’t think you are obligated, you just do it because it’s just how the things go in this country. Like what they say, “Do as the Romans do.”


Offer the things you can afford and make sure to leave something behind for yourself. That’s why when I’m broke from traveling; simple, I don’t force myself to purchase omiyage. Also, I don’t work in an office in Japan, so I’m not pressured to get some Tokyo Banana for my co-workers xD

If I still have a budget for it, I grab a box of cookies with cute designs and put it in a fancy gift bag, giving it to my friends and some of my colleagues.

I bought them from my Kanazawa trip!

I do understand that there are some situations that can’t be helped. Let’s face it, no matter how small a gift is, just the thought of someone buying something for you triggers a good feeling, hence, if you don’t receive those holiday trinkets while the others do, it stings a bit. As a result, to avoid office drama, we offer omiyage to all of our co-workers.

How about you? What do you think about this custom?



Exploring the Land of the Rising Sun with my bad Japanese!