Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gifts for ceremonial occasions

   When you are invited to a Japanese style wedding reception, or you have to attend a funeral for a deceased family member of your Japanese friend or colleague, do you know what to prepare or pay attention to? If you don’t, this article might prove to be useful.

At a wedding reception

   It’s common in Japan that a wedding reception party is held after a marriage ceremony. In Kochi more guests are invited to the party than in other prefectures. It’s normal to hand money as congratulatory wedding gift to the persons at the reception desk of the party.

   So how much money do you have to pay? If you are a friend or coworker of the bridal couple, 20,000 or 30,000 yen is recommended. On the other hand, you should ask other friends or coworkers who are also invited to the same party beforehand about how much money they’re preparing for the gift of money. It’s safest to match that amount in your gift.

   The money you hand over to the front desk must be put in a wedding money gift envelope (shūgibukuro). There is a variety of special envelopes for congratulatory gifts of money. They are sold in almost all supermarkets and convenience stores. Which envelope you should choose depends on the amount of money you put in it. Often the instructions on the wrapping will have a suggested amount one should put in it. If you put 20,000 or 30,000 yen in the envelope, you might use an envelope such as the one pictured on the upper right.  Last but not least, don’t forget to use new bills with no creases!

   A long and thin string tying the shūgibukuro envelope is called mizuhiki. An envelope with musubikiri, a type of mizuhiki which ties the loopholes together, must be chosen for wedding parties. Another type of knot is the hanamusubi which has loose loopholes and is auspicious for occasions such as births that are considered fortuitous if they occur many times.

   There is another tradition which is to encase the money inside the envelope with another smaller envelope. Almost all shūgibukuro envelopes sold in supermarkets and convenience stores include this small envelope. The money must be inserted with the heads side to the front and to the open end of the envelope. Chinese numerals representing the amount of money you put in must be written on the front side (See the picture on the right).

   The small envelope with your name and address written on the back must be put around the center of the shūgibukuro envelope with its back side facing up. Finally, fold the shūgibukuro envelope along the fold marks and keep the lower flap over the upper flap (See the picture on the left).

   Furthermore, the shūgibukuro envelope has to be wrapped up and carried with a special cloth called fukusa. The flap of the fukusa in happy occasions should open to the right and its color should be red or purple. At the reception desk you should take out the envelope from the fukusa, turn the envelope to the receiver’s side with the front-side up, and hand it to him/her with both hands whilst congratulating with the words “Honjitsu wa omedetō gozaimasu.” (Congratulations on  today’s wedding!).

Wrapping of the fukusa

Giving gifts as congratulations for a wedding

   In the case where you cannot attend a wedding reception you have been invited to, you can present goods to the bride and groom instead of money to show your congratulations. But some goods are not acceptable unless you were asked to give them. Things that can cut such as knives, and scissors, and things which can be broken such as ceramics, mirrors and glassware, are inauspicious to a marriage because of their nature of severing and breaking.

At the funeral

   It’s also common in Japan to give gift money at a funeral. The envelope to put the money in for the funeral and other unfortunate occasions is called fushūgibukuro. You have to decide which envelope to use by the Chinese characters on the front of the envelope because they are different for each religion: 御霊前 (goreizen) and 御香典 (gokōden) are used in Buddhist funerals, 玉串料 (tamagushiryō) and 御神前 (goshinzen) in Shintō, and 御花料 (ohanaryō) are used in Christian funerals. If you are unsure of the religion under which a funeral is performed, 御霊前 (goreizen) is acceptable for all religions.

   The amount of money you should pay depends on how deep the relationship is between you and the deceased or their family. Most people pay 5,000 yen at the funeral for a deceased family member of their friend or colleague.

   The way with which the money is inserted into the fushūgibukuro envelope is opposite to that of the shūgibukuro. The paper money is put in the small envelope with the heads side of the note to the back of the envelope and to the closed end. Fresh bank notes should be avoided and keep the upper flap over the lower.

   The fushūgibukuro envelope also has to be wrapped up and carried with fukusa. But this time it should open to the left. The color of fukusa for unfortunate occasions should be black, green, purple or gray. Purple can be used for both happy and unhappy occasions. At the reception, open the fukusa and hand over the envelope to the receiver’s side with both hands, and deliver the condolence: “Konotabi wa goshūshōsama deshita.” (You have my sympathy.).

Taken from vol.36 PDF


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