Let’s show your gratitude in summer! お中元(ochugen/summer gift)

Jul 10, 2022


Already 6 months have passed this year. In Japan, people give presents in summer in order to say thanks for the daily support around you. I would like to show you 1) the timing, 2) popular presents and 3) how to respond if you receive ‘ochugen’. I hope you enjoy the cultural learning.


You show your gratitude to the people who took care of you for the last 6 months. They are normally in a higher position or senior, such as your teacher or your boss. It is from early July to August 15th in most part of Japan but to July 15th in Kanto and Tohoku regions by following the old Japanese calendar (Lunar calendar). 


As a summer gift, something cold is popular, for example, beer, ‘somen (cold noodle)’, melon, fruit jelly and ‘mizu-yokan (red bean cake). Beautiful towels and soaps are also nice. These are usually beautifully packed in a box and you cover the top with ‘noshi’ paper written ‘ochugen’ on it. This is something like ribbons.


It is courtesy to send a thanks message immediately when you receive ‘ochugen’. If you receive it by delivery, e-mail is fine but a post card is more polite. You do not have to give a present as return because ‘ochugen’ is basically from a team member to the boss or from a student to the teacher.


I gave ‘ochugen’ to my teachers when I was a student in Japan. And now I feel that I should have done the same to my Japanese bosses at the universities and the Foreign Office in the UK. I think that ‘ochugen’ is showing thanks not only to the last half year but also for the latter half of the year to create or keep a good relationship with them.


Are you going to give ‘ochugen’ this summer? What do you think about 'ochugen? I hope you have learnt something about Japanese life and thoughts.


Mineko Arai

Managing Director

Arai Academy of Japanese Studies




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