This should not be confused with Christmas presents, however. Oseibo, this gift gifting with a flavor of Japanese culture, is specifically given to pay back favors received during the year, a way to say thank you as the rhythm of another year passes by.
Companies, first on the bandwagon, begin sending out perfectly-wrapped gifts to their hardworking employees at branches or subsidiaries and vice-versa at the beginning of December. That’s why, when you go to the post office and you are trying to remember if you put a letter in your package you are sending or not, you notice the conveniently displayed boxes of beer and food sets on your left. These can be delivered to your receiver of choice from the post office, without the hassle of battling the other oseibo shoppers in the department store. Oseibo time is a great time for department stores, as sales peak from oseibo gifts. It’s the peak before the fall however, in January, when sales slow to a crawl. And yes, you can even order an oseibo gift from the convenience store. It wouldn’t be Japan if you couldn’t even take care of your oseibo shopping at the convenience store.
Etiquette says you should send these gifts by December 20th, otherwise you are at the risk of offending your receiver. The average cost of an oseibo present runs around 5,000 yen but of course it can be more or less, depending on the relationship between the gift giver and gift receiver. Big companies can spend up to 20,000 to 25,000 yen on oseibo gifts. Of course, the most popular items for oseibo are food; meats, beer, canned food, coffee, seasonings, seaweed, seafood, fruits, etc. So don’t be surprised if you get some presents from your students, as this is the art of oseibo in Japan.