Japan Data

“Chūgen”: Packaged Food and Condiments Prove Popular Summer Gifts

Economy Lifestyle Culture Society

The Japanese custom of giving summer gifts to bosses and important customers has declined from its twentieth-century peak, and those who do send out presents tend to get them for relatives.

In twentieth-century Japan, it was common practice for working people to send summer gifts known as chūgen to their bosses and business customers. With changes in lifestyles and work ethics, however, this dutiful act of gifting chūgen to work associates is on the decline. For one thing, increased privacy concerns mean it is no longer appropriate to ask superiors or colleagues for their personal addresses.

The mail order website Toyosuichiba.com conducted a nationwide survey targeting 1,033 people aged from 20 to 49. Respondents were asked to whom they send chūgen, to which, at 77.6%, the overwhelming top response was “relatives” (such as parents and siblings). Only 18.3% said “work superiors.”

While 67.4% explained they give summer gifts as “a way to show appreciation to the recipient,” just 30.2% said it was “a custom or etiquette,” indicating that younger generations are less aware of the traditional ceremonial aspects of this gift-giving custom.

Who do you send chūgen to as a gift?

Asked what gifts they send as chūgen, food-related items were popular, including packaged food (68.1%), condiment and ingredient sets (36.1%), and fresh food (27.6%).

What do you send as a chūgen gift?

Among the key points when choosing a summer gift, the most common responses were “quality and taste” with 68.9% and “price” with 52.7%. Only 7% considered the “retailer” to be important, a sign that the time of giving gifts bearing the wrapping paper of a renowned department store are over.

What do you consider important when choosing chūgen?

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

customs gift giving summer