Gratitude at the End of Year (‘osebo’/winter gift)

Dec 19, 2022


It is almost the end of 2022. In Japan, people give presents in winter in order to say thanks for daily support that you received. I would like to show you 1) the timing, 2) popular presents and 3) how to respond when you receive osebo. I hope you enjoy the cultural learning.


You give a present to the people who took care of you this year as always, such as your family, relatives, friends and people from your work. You show your gratitude to them in the past, this year and future relationship by giving a gift every year. The timing is 1st-31st December in Kanto area, and 13th -31st December in Kansai area (wiki). You can still give a present as orei(thanks gift) not as oseboto show your gratitude to someone just for this year.


Crab meat and strawberries can be nice seasonal gifts, but food for shogatsu (New Year) such as alcohol and meat for nabe (hot-pot) are also popular. You can give long lasting gifts such as coffee sets and soaps, throughout the year as well. These are usually beautifully packed in a box and you cover the top with noshi paper written osebo on it. This is something like ribbons.


When you receive osebo, you do not have to give a present in return. But it is courtesy to send a thanks message immediately. When you receive it by delivery, a telephone call and e-mail is fine to close people but a postcard is more polite. If you want to give a present back within December it will be  ‘osebo but it will be onenga (New Year gift)between 1st -7th of January.


I have heard that many companies and schools recently ban giving and receiving such presents due to their compliances. Therefore, I would recommend you to check it in advance. The custom of osebo before the Edo Period has changed in this modern society.


What do you think about 'osebo? Do you have a custom like osebo in your country too? I hope you have learnt something about Japanese life and thoughts.


輝いて‐Enrich your life

Mineko Arai

Managing Director

Arai Academy of Japanese Studies

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