the gift giving grinch

Had a fabulous day today that involved driving 30 minutes to the department store here (apparently it's not a 'real' department store whatever that is but it certainly looks like one to me) that is the one and only place around here to buy thank you gifts. Really doesn't matter what you buy just as long as it comes in the department store's blue and white wrapping paper and fancy paper carry bag.

I was there trying to buy thank you gifts for the people who gave us congratulations money for Meg starting school. That's right, they give us money and then we buy them a gift. Crazy huh?

It's all so ritualised, too.

You get a set amount of money depending on whether the person doing the giving has the same surname as you, is your immediate neighbour or just a neighbour.

Then you take half the money you received and use it to buy a thank you gift (from the non-department store store.)

The gift is traditionally towels. More specifically, a set of two hand towels.

So, I headed off to the store thinking this would be a pretty simple shopping expedition- I knew what to buy, where to buy it and how much to spend- what could be simpler, right?


The return gift towel section (yup there is a whole section) doesn't sell towel sets. You have to choose your towels and have them boxed up into sets. And there are sooo many towels to choose from. Seriously. Floral? Striped? Plain? Embellished with ribbons? Glitter? Embroidery? Th choice is yours. And they come in every colour of the rainbow as well.

I'm overwhelmed by the choice and panicky about making a mistake. Is there some kind of towel language I should know about? Are solemn colours for illness money return gifts? Cute characters for birth money return gifts? Do you give towels representing what you're returning (from a 6 year old girl so something colourful and fun?) or who you're giving to (older couples so something elegant?)

Does it really matter?

I call K.

I am sure K is going to say "it doesn't matter, go with whatever." I am sure of that as that is his answer to most of my social protocol dilemmas.

He's often wrong.

Why do I still want to ask his opinion then? To halve the responsibility!

It doesn't matter in the end anyway as he doesn't answer his phone. (As an aside, who else would love a device that gave husbands a small [safe of course] electric shock if he didn't answer his phone after ooooh seventeen or so rings? Seriously. I'd pay good money for one of those!)

Anyway, after another 10 minutes wandering through the aisles of towel splendiferousness, getting ever more towelled out and calling K another three times I threw in the towel (ha ha!) and went for a tasteful, elegant yet sprinkled with cute flowers set of one blue and one white towel for each neighbour.

Took them to the register, wrote Meg's name down for the saleswoman to print off a special paper covering for the blue and white wrapped be-paperbagged boxed and folded just so towels. Phew.

From the time I handed my purchases to the assistant till the time I received everything was a full 15 minutes.

15 minutes of my life I'll never get back.

And we still have to go around the neighbourhood and deliver them.


Wouldn't it be nice if everyone who gave us money only gave us half from the very beginning and then said 'don't worry about the returnee gift.' I wouldn't have to go through this ridiculous towel circus and they would avoid getting - yet another set of- overpriced and over fancy towels.

Bah humbug. I'm such a gift grinch.

8 件のコメント:

Melanie さんのコメント...

Hahaha....I think the same way, just give us half of that and then I don`t have give you anything and you don`t have to get something that you dont really care for.

Gaijin Wife さんのコメント...

I want hub to get a new phone with built in GPS and function that txts me everytime he goes over pachinko threshold - that or the electric shock thing. That only stopped giving shocks when in close proximity to flower shop perhaps :)

Nay さんのコメント...

I don't think I will ever really understand the whole custom of gift giving in Japan. I really don't see the point in having to return the gifts... it's just a big waste of time to me!! I mean, seriously, my MIL has a whole cupboard of those type towels - still in their packaging!!

j. さんのコメント...

yes yes YES!

if receiving a gift was so much trouble, i'd almost rather just get a "congratulations" in person and call it a day! or just give me half the amount of money and it can actually be a GIFT, you know where you simply receive and no one has to give anything back.

i know it's the whole idea that you are connected to people and once you receive a gift, you are forever entwined in the whole circle of giving and receiving, yada yada yada. but, doesn't the obligatory giving back kind of cheapen the sentiment of the original gift? a little bit?

Semsavblanc さんのコメント...

Sounds insane!
And the thing about the husband answering the phone? My husband has three numbers and I can never get him to answer one! Also insane! I try not to get angry but usually fail. Like you, I would like his help with deciding on purchases, like do we need more cherry tomatoes, how many eggs do we have left or does he need more of his yoghurt?

Lisa さんのコメント...

Now I'm really interested in these towels. Before my first trip to Japan I read (somewhere online) that towels were a common gift item. I never found that again.

Anyway, I gave one friend's wife a set of Martha Stewart day-of-the-week towels. So this is really a thing? What do you do with all of those towels?! I hope she thought I was down with the Japanese traditions.

thefukases さんのコメント...

Melanie- let's start a revolution! We could make little half size money envelopes so the givee knew it was half the money....

GW- you need the anshin keitai for primary school kids. Think DH would notice if you switched? Not sure they do automatic beating hearts though.... ;P

Nay- yup the towel conspiracy! And just wait till baby arrives- then you get to do it all for yourself. Now, are you going for flowers or butterflies? Yellow? Pink? ;P

j.- yeah, on a not-buying-towels day I understand the reasoning behind the endless circle of giving. But when I'm directly involved my commitment to the wa is sorely tested...

semsavblanc- me too! personal mobile, work mobile and office phone. I have been known to try one and two and resort to three- which he hates as it's sooo embarrassing to be called to the phone and find your wife has called work- well pick up one of the other phones when I call then!!

Lisa- I'm sure your friend loved the days of the week towels. Certainly a talking point as I've never seen them here. I think different gifts go with different occasions. For example- travelling you usually bring back something edible, friend's kid starting school/ kinder a cute hankie/ face towel/ pencil set, hostess gift- store bought fancy cakes, return gift = towels. No idea why as like Nay said- most people have a wardrobe full of them!

medea さんのコメント...

I saw that you are looking for some books. I have some to send off too, could you send me your address please? They're mostly cheesy mysteries an romances.