Sometimes Japan’s gift-giving culture can make life really complicated. Having to leave half your suitcase empty so that you have room to put souvenirs for all your co-workers, or trying to figure out if money envelopes are for funerals or weddings can be a nuisance, but this is only the tip of the gift-giving iceberg. Throughout the year and on countless occasions in daily life, Japanese people are socially obligated to slip little envelopes filled with money to one another. Here are some of the more famous and interesting ones:
Senbetsu (Japanese: 餞別) – Farewell money is given to someone who is moving, going on a long trip, or quitting her job to get married. Recent university graduates about to go on a working holiday can expect anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 yen from close relatives, and workers who are being transferred or are quitting their jobs to get married get anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 yen per co-worker (usually depending on their rank within the company).
Average take: 50,000 yen
Choju Iwai (長寿祝い) – Make it to the age of 60 in Japan and you’re entitled to some cash. Kanreki is a celebration based on the Chinese zodiac, and happens when a person has lived through the entire cycle of astrological signs and returns to the same year and horoscope sign as they were born in. Achieve this amazing feat, and all your kids and grandkids have to cough up some cash. Children pay 20,000 to 30,000 yen, grandchildren pay 10,000 to 20,000 and other relatives 5,000 to 10,000. There are also celebrations at 70, 77, 80, 81, 88, 90, 99, 100, 108, and 111.
Average take: 70,000 yen
Sharei (Japanese:謝礼) – If you’re about to go under the knife, it’s probably best to slip the doctor a little gratitude money in an envelope before the operation. Although it’s technically illegal and is not as common as it once was, many patients still pay it.
Average payment: 300,000 – 1,000,000 yen
Tegirekin (Japanese:手切れ金) – When a man terminates a relationship with a hostess or mistress, he pays her separation money. The amount depends, of course, on his income, how long they’ve been going out, and how much trouble it would cause him if she revealed intimate details to his wife or company.
Average take: 100,000 yen
Otoshidama (Japanese: お年玉) – Most Japanese children and teens look forward to New Years a lot more than they do to Christmas because they know that there’s going to be New Year’s gift money from each and every older relative of working age. Elementary school students get about 1,000-3,000 yen, jr. high students take in 3,000-5,000 yen per relative, and high school kids get 5,000-10,000 yen.
Average take: 40,000 yen
Okozukai (Japanese:お小遣い) – Okozukai can mean pocket money when parents give it to children, but when a man gives spending money to a mistress, the word takes on a completely different meaning.
Average payout:300,000 yen/month
Kaiki Iwai (Japanese:快気祝い) – If someone has helped you out or visited you a lot while you were sick or hospitalized, it is customary to pay them recovery celebration money. The amount is usually one-third of the estimated value of presents or cash gifts that you received while ill.
Average payment: 3,000-10,000 yen
Isharyou (Japanese:慰謝料) – If you’re ever involved in a fender bender or get hit by a car, make sure you get your consolation money, which is paid for your mental suffering and is over and above the cost of car repairs and hospital treatment. It is also paid out in divorces in the case of infidelity or spouse abuse. Minor accidents and injuries start at about 20,000 yen.
Reikin (Japanese:礼金) – The most famous of Japan’s courtesy payments, this money is paid to landlords for the privilege of moving into their buildings.
Average payment: two months’ rent
Goshuugi (ご祝儀) – If you’ve passed an important examination, been accepted into, or graduated from school, or won an important prize, you might get some congratulatory money.
Average take: 10,000-30,000 yen
Kenshoukin (Japanese:懸賞金) – When you see banners being paraded around the ring before a sumo match, it means that there is prize money on the table. Each banner represents one sponsor, and for every sponsor, the winning wrestler takes home 35,000 yen.
Average take: 30,000 yen
Okaeshi (Japanese:お返し) – Okay, now the bad news. When Japanese people get gifts, there is usually an obligation to give a return gift called an okaeshi. For example, if you get a present for your baby, it’s common to give a return gift of one-third to one-half the value of the original gift.