ochugen in business context

Top 10 Ochugen Gift Ideas for Businesses

Did you know that Japan has two major gift-giving traditions? Participating in these traditions as a business could contribute to growth and enhanced business relations! If this piques your interest, we’ve got you! One of the major traditions is ochugen and this article will tell you all about it. You might be wondering what kind of significance this holds in Japanese culture and how it is relevant to doing business in Japan. Keep reading to learn about ochugen in a business context and for some exciting gift ideas!

What is ochugen?

ochugen in business context

Ochugen vs. oseibo

Ochugen is a midyear present expressing your gratitude towards a business that has offered you some form of kindness or help. Although, you might also encounter the term oseibo when you’re reading about gift-giving traditions in Japan. While both are considered major gift-giving traditions in Japan, the main difference between them is the dates when they are given. Ochugen is typically given around July, the middle of the year. On the other hand, oseibo is given around late November to mid-December.

How is ochugen practiced in the modern business context in Japan?

Within a Japanese company, there is often a strong sense of hierarchy and seniority. (P.S. We have an article on Japanese management if you want more details on that topic!) To express their appreciation and gratitude, employees in higher positions often give gifts to those in lower positions. However, some Japanese companies may decide to give gifts in groups such as by team or department. 

For example, an early-stage startup wanting to celebrate ochugen with a limited budget might opt for a group gift instead of getting individual presents. The startup executives could consider allocating a budget for a team dinner with all the other employees. Doing so would foster not only a sense of appreciation for everybody’s hard work but also a sense of team bonding. 

But, who should you be giving gifts to? As mentioned earlier, ochugen is one’s way of expressing gratitude in the middle of the year. In the context of business, you can give gifts to anyone or any group that has made a positive impact on your operations.

  1. Employees: To express your gratitude for your business team, you can follow the earlier example of a startup owner initiating a team dinner as a group gift for ochugen! This could also be your opportunity to foster casual conversations which will strengthen team chemistry. Ultimately, this could lead to better collaboration among employees.
  2. Clients: It would mean a lot to your clients if you could show your appreciation for their support for your business. You can thank them for playing a significant role in your business journey and overall growth.
  3. Mentors: If you have any mentors or advisors who have supported and guided you, ochugen is one of the best times to let them know that you are grateful for their help.
  4. Business partners: Last but not least, exchanging gifts with business partners during ochugen could foster stronger business relations with one another. This can also increase mutual trust and respect.

Looking for more business partners in Japan? Check out our article on Chambers of Commerce in Japan!

Chambers of Commerce in Japan

How do I choose the right gift for ochugen?

To help you gain some ideas for the next ochugen, we’d like to provide you with some standard practices to take note of before buying or preparing a present. After that, we’ll get to the exciting part and give you some actual gift ideas for businesses!

What types of gifts are appropriate for ochugen in a business setting?

When giving ochugen gifts in a business context, you’ll want to consider giving practical gifts, seasonal gifts, personalized gifts, or others! Just make sure that your gift is not too expensive or too personal and that it exceeds your relationship as a business.

Giving a practical gift will provide your recipient with something that they can maximize by using regularly. You can first consider what their job responsibilities are and then think of an item that would help them accomplish their tasks. Seasonal gifts are also common. These could be fruits or seasonal decor. Some people also send gifts or souvenirs from their hometown after going back during summer. For ochugen which takes place in July, fruits like apricots, peaches, and watermelons are in season. So, you might want to consider getting these! Lastly, personalized gifts are a great way to express your thoughtfulness in preparing a gift that is unique to your recipient.

How can ochugen gifts reflect corporate values or brand identity?

Choosing ochugen gifts that reflect your business’s overall character can improve relationships and also spread the word about what your company stands for. Ochugen is a great chance to show off your brand’s values by giving gifts that match what your company believes in. By picking a gift that shows your company’s goals and ideas, you help key partners and clients understand how deeply you care about your business cause.

For example, a startup offering a digital newsletter on health and wellbeing would like to promote living an active lifestyle. During ochugen, they can extend this vision to their business partners by giving them healthy snack boxes.

What are the Dos and Don’ts for ochugen?

Ochugen happens every year from July 1 to 15. This means that it will be summer when you’re handing your gifts over. In a business context, it is best to make sure that you are delivering your gift during standard office hours. In Japan, this would typically be anytime from 9 am to 6 pm. Also, be sure to present your gift with both hands as this is a sign of respect. For some more tips, we’ve listed down some Dos and Don’ts to help you prepare!

Do’s for ochugen

  1. Budget
    • We recommend getting something of great quality, although not something too excessive in price. Here’s a general guideline on an average ochugen budget depending on the financial standing of your business.
    • If your business is financially capable and your gift recipient is a high-ranking executive, a budget exceeding JPY 20,000 is not out of the picture. Nevertheless, the price of your gift alone does not guarantee how much of a positive impact this can make on your business relationships.
Small or less established businessJPY 1,500~5,000
Medium-sized businessJPY 5,000~10,000
Large corporationJPY 10,000~20,000
  1. Personalize:
    • As mentioned earlier, personalizing your gifts will ensure that each gift you offer is unique to its recipient. This will play a big role in building trust and respect between each other as it fosters a sense of comradery.
  2. Be Punctual
    • Ochugen takes place in July, so it’s best to start doing your preparations a little earlier than that. Giving an ochugen gift too early may create the impression that you are rushing the gift-giving tradition. On the other hand, being late could be interpreted as overlooking the significance of the tradition.

Don’ts for ochugen

  1. Inappropriate items
    • Sharp objects and items in sets of four should be avoided when preparing an ochugen gift. This is because these carry negative or unlucky connotations in Japanese culture. You would also want to stay away from any items that are too personal and have no correlation to the business context.
  2. Overspending
    • It is important to be able to give a gift that is created with great quality. However, excessively expensive gifts might make your recipient feel indebted to you. A sense of obligation or discomfort from this might affect business relations as well.
  3. Opening gifts immediately
    • When you are on the receiving end, you should remember that gifts must be opened in private. Unless the gift-giver insists that you open it in front of them, it is best to wait until you are back in your office or home.

Other legal or ethical considerations related to ochugen in business

Giving gifts to politicians, public servants, and government officials may be considered bribery, so be careful when you’re deciding on who to give gifts to. Some companies may also implement certain policies on giving and receiving gifts. Such policies require transparency or reporting. If you ever feel unsure about giving a gift to a company, it is best to confirm their policies on this tradition first. We have an article on Japanese business culture if you think you want to learn about more key nuances!

Reciprocity is also a valuable principle to adhere to. Simply put, we recommend giving ochugen gifts to anyone who has previously given you a gift as well. Nevertheless, it is also important to keep in mind that you must give gifts with a mindset that does not expect anything in return.

Top 10 gift ideas for ochugen

choosing gift

Now, for the exciting part! If you’re having a hard time thinking of a unique gift, we’ve got your back! Here’s a brief list of some gift ideas that you can’t go wrong with. Remember, the financial value of your gift is not as important as the meaning and thoughtfulness that it holds!

ItemAverage Price Range JPY)Why it would make a nice ochugen gift
High-quality tea or coffee1,000~5,000High-quality tea or coffee is something your business partners can enjoy any time as a refreshment in their office or home.
Planner1,500~5,000If you’re gifting someone who appreciates more practical gifts, a planner is a great gift that they can put to use and maximize.
Paperweight1,500~5,000Paperweights are a stylish desk accessory to keep one’s most important documents in place.
Artisanal chocolates2,000~6,000Aside from being a treat to the eyes, artisanal chocolates can also serve as a snack when one needs a small sugar boost at work.
Business card holder2,000~7,000A business card holder would be most helpful for that partner who is constantly expanding their professional network.
Seasonal fruits2,000~10,000Watermelons, grapes, and other fruits in season during summer can serve as refreshing treats to beat the heat.
Sake or fine liquors2,000~10,000For more sophisticated business partners who like to collect and enjoy liquor, a bottle of sake would be much appreciated.
Customized sign pen3,000~10,000Customizing a sign pen with the initials or name of the recipient makes an elegant and unique present that can be used often in business.
Group dinnerDepends on group sizeA group dinner for your team is one way you can get everyone to warm up to each other and create a friendly work environment.
MoneyVariedReferring to our previously proposed budget guideline for ochugen, giving money offers the recipient their flexibility to decide what they would like to use it on. However, this is not suitable if your recipient is in a higher position than you as it can be taken negatively.

How can foreign businesses effectively participate in ochugen?

As a foreign business, you might want to use ochugen as an opportunity for cultural exchange. In this section, we will tell you about how you can integrate your cultural practices with ochugen.

How can a foreign entrepreneur use ochugen to improve relations with colleagues?

Integrating your own culture with ochugen can be done in a variety of ways. You can consider sourcing your gift from a local artisan from your home country. Doing this will make a lasting impression on your recipient by displaying a sense of pride in your cultural identity. For example, a Filipino business owner based in Japan could gift a tote bag weaved by a certain tribe from the Philippines. 

Another way you can apply cultural practices in ochugen is by initiating a conversation where you can share a little about your culture. A good time to do this is the day that you are giving the gift. Upon handing it over, you can initiate a short and casual conversation where you can explain the meaning behind your gift. Group gifts in the form of dinner are also an ideal way to have such conversations, especially if your team consists mostly of people from different countries.

Ultimately, ochugen can go beyond being a gift-giving tradition. It is secondarily an opportunity to strengthen relations with colleagues and business partners. By integrating thoughtfulness in preparing a gift, you will surely be able to give a gift that will leave a positive impact on your recipient.

While promoting your own culture during ochugen is a suitable method to prepare and give gifts, do remember to still understand the essence of this tradition. This is a tradition to express your gratitude, so this should be the main intent when you are selecting a present to give.

How can ochugen help me scale my business in Japan?

If the concept of gift-giving wasn’t already thrilling enough, here are some benefits your business can gain from participating in ochugen! Afterward, we’ll share a little story of our founder, Tyson Batino, and his experience from the receiving perspective during ochugen.

Benefits of participating in ochugen gift-giving

1. Demonstrating cultural understanding and respect: Participating in Japanese customs and traditions showcases your respect and understanding of the culture. When working with Japanese business partners, doing this will show your commitment and sensitivity to their cultural practices.

2. Enhancing corporate image and network: Implementing thoughtfulness and gratitude for your key partners and clients creates a positive brand perception. This makes the receiver feel that you are genuinely grateful for their help and support. Through ochugen, a unique gift can also strengthen relationships in your business network. For a deeper guide on business networking in Japan, we highly recommend taking a look at our article on this topic!

Guide to Business Networking in Japan

3. Building trust and goodwill: Getting a personalized gift for a business partner deepens your connection with them. This is important in gaining trust which is especially important for long-term partnerships.

4. Differentiation from competitors: Integrating your cultural practices adds a hint of personal identity which could help you stand out from other business partners in your recipient’s network.

5. Reflecting corporate values: As we mentioned earlier, you can reflect your business philosophy and values further by giving a gift that aligns with your brand. This is a good show of your company’s ethics and commitment to what you stand for.

6. Long-term business benefits: Staying consistent by giving ochugen gifts each year is a small yet impactful step towards strong business relationships. Some long-term business benefits include enhanced loyalty, trust, and respect.

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Our founder’s experience

Tyson, our founder, has a landlord who is consistent with their yearly ochugen gifts. For the past 10 years, every renter of the office building has received a pack of 24 small cans of fruit juice from the landlord. Fruit juices make great ochugen gifts as the renters can drink these refreshments amidst the summer heat. Last season, Tyson received a tin of cookies for a change.

Our founder’s experience on the receiving end during ochugen is an interesting perspective that you could learn from if you’re thinking of being the giver soon! Although the landlord gave the same gift for 10 years, Tyson was always deeply appreciative of the gesture. Receiving the fruit juices created a positive and warm impression of the landlord and reminded Tyson that it was once again that season.

Final thoughts

To sum it all up, ochugen is a Japanese gift-giving tradition that takes place every year from July 1 to 15. In a business context, it is an opportunity to express one’s gratitude and appreciation for business partners, clients, and other key individuals. Some gift ideas you can consider giving are seasonal fruits, a team dinner, or a personalized office accessory. However, the monetary value of these gifts should not dictate your genuine appreciation for the receiver.

Giving ochugen gifts can help scale your business by strengthening important business relationships. Additionally, integrating thoughtfulness and even your own culture in gifts will contribute to enhanced trust between you and your partners. In the long run, staying consistent (just like Tyson’s landlord did!) with your participation in ochugen builds up a positive relationship that reminds people that you appreciate them.

Got some business partners in mind yet? Now that you know what ochugen is and how to participate, we hope that you’re looking forward to the next season of gift-giving!

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