Gift Culture in Japan
In Japan, the original concept of gift
came from expressions of gratitude
toward nature which is bassed on Shinto believe.
The gratitude toward gods is based on recognizing the fact that human life is sustained only by harvesting new life from nature.
Growing crops and harvesting were considered as a collaborative work between nature (Shinto gods) and human. So Japanese ancestors gifted newly harvested crop to gods as expressions of gratitude.
This concept of gift giving morphed into more traditional gift giving among society to express gratitude toward each other.The traditional gift giving required (and expected) in person visit to recipients and physically handing gifts.Recipients of such gift did not open the gift immediately, rather, they placed the gift in front of home shrine (most of traditional Japanese homes had a small home shrine to respect ancestors) as part of respects.
As Japanese society became much mobile and people begin to live in different areas of Japan, physically visiting others to express gratitude became difficult and mailing gifts become acceptable social norm.
Traditionally Japanese people give gifts twice a year, once in July (Ochugen) and one more time in December (Oseibo) to express gratitude towards others. Even today, many department stores have special sales events during these months targeted for gift giving.
In 1960s, department store catalog sales start to emerge. Mail order via paper catalog provided by the department stores made it possible for customers to send gift catalogs to recipients and have them select desirable gifts.This allowed customers to avoid visit to department stores and still able to send various specialty gifts from the department stores.
Enhancement of the home delivery service network in 1980s further accelerated sending gifts via mail.
However, this methods had inherent problems.
Recipients ended up having many of similar gifts at the end of gift giving seasons.Many families received multiple popular gifts such as seaweeds and cooking oil (in decorative cans). These popular gift products flooded their kitchens!
The mail order catalog gifts were welcome changes.
The mail order catalog gifts allowed recipients to select their desirable gift from the list of goods within the price range selected by the gift giver. It was ideal as a gift for ceremonial occasions in addition to summer gifts and year-end gifts.Chilled and frozen home delivery service started in 1987 allowed customers to send perishable goods as a gift and became very popular in 1990s.
This methods still faced a new problem.
For mail order catalog gift services to work, one must have street address of recipients. Furthermore, change in social culture made it difficult to disclose physical street addresses.
This led to development of social gift.
The social gift service allows customers to send gifts via e-mails or SNS.The system allows customers to send gifts without knowledge of street address.Recipients can still select desirable gift items from the list just like typical catalog gift service.
As use of SNS spreads among people around 2013, the social gift became extremely popular.In addition to traditional seasonal gift giving, many corporations are incorporating social gift services within corporate benefits and additional services to their clients.
It is expected to be 250 billion yen market in 2023.
Change in Online Social Gift Markets
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