Temiyage: 6 Common Sense Tips to Choose

Giving gifts is one of the common Japanese customs. Japanese usually give gifts when visiting a Japanese home (You might want to read Visiting a Japanese Home: 14 Etiquette Tips), business clients or partners, apologizing to someone and etc. The gift can be a omiyage (お土産) or temiyage (手土産).

What are the differences between omiyage and temiyage?

Omiyage (お土産) is usually food, drinks or small items that you bought during travels or somewhere not close to the host’s house, something you buy when you are traveling or from your own country or place. For example, if the host lives in Kyoto and the gift was bought in Osaka, another country or tourist attractions in Kyoto (or something you bought during your travels in Kyoto), it is considered as a omiyage.

Temiyage (手土産) is usually food or drinks that are bought not far from the host’s house. For example, if the host lives in Kyoto and the food or drinks were bought in the same city (not from tourist attractions or what you buy during travels), it is considered as a temiyage. However, there are some Japanese common sense rules that you need to take note while choosing a temiyage.

How to choose a temiyage? What are the tips to follow?

It is important to understand Japanese’s common sense before buying a temiyage to show thoughtfulness and respect to the receiver. The following tips will teach you how to choose a temiyage.

1. Know the recipient’s preferences

It is better if you know the receiver’s preferences because everyone has different likings and some people might not eat sweets or has food allergies. 

If you do not know the preferences, use your sense to choose a temiyage that is suitable for the situation. If you have a good relationship with the receiver, you could buy a casual temiyage such as baked goods or cute-looking cookies. If you go to a formal meeting or party, you could consider choosing the seasonal items.

2. Do not buy from a convenience store or fast-food restaurant

Do not buy from convenience store or fast-food restaurants such as Mcdonalds, KFC and etc. unless you are really close friends and you know he/she really likes it, but generally not to teacher (sensei 先生) , people who are elder than you, business clients, business partners, or your boss.

3. Buy one or two extra pieces

If you buy cakes or dessert (okashi お菓子) to a home visit, you can count the number of people in the house including the receiver, the family members and yourself and the visitors.  For example, if there is a total of 10 person, you should get 1-2 pieces more just in case it is not enough.

If you bring a temiyage for a business meeting, you can roughly count the number of people who will attend or might be distributed to. It is recommended to buy a temiyage that contain a large number of items that has a long shelf life.

4. Avoid buying food that needs to be cut

Avoid buying food that needs to be cut. For example, a whole cake or whole fruit. It can cause inconvenience to the host especially if the receiver is your teacher (sensei 先生), people who are elder than you, your client, business partness or boss. It can be really inconsiderate and impolite to do so. However, if the receiver is your good friend and you know that he/she loves to have this particular food, you could buy it.

5. Spend the right amount of money depends on who the reciver is

Spending the right amount of money to buy a temiyage is very important. Spending too much might make the receiver to feel burdened whereas spending too little might make the receiver feel that you are not sincere enough.

Below is a short list that you could take reference:

someone who is very close to you: 2000 – 4000 yen

Clients or business partners: 4000 – 10000 yen (It is better to consider buying a temiyage that contains a large number of items so that it can be distributed among the departments)

Someone you need to apologize to: 3000 – 5000 yen

6. Wrap it

Lastly, remember to wrap it with either a nice paper bag or furoshiki (風呂敷) before you hand it to the receiver. Furoshiki is a Japanese traditional square piece of cloth that is used for gift wrapping or transporting things.

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