The Gifted Blog

April 16, 2010

Wrap Story: An American (Gift) in Tokyo

This Wrap Story is part of a mini-series, documenting every present I’ve wrapped since the launch of The Gifted Blog. Click here for the whole series!

Gift giving is an important part of Japanese culture. I will never forget visiting relatives in Japan back in 2004. My sister and I were each given a present by our distant cousin, who had painstakingly written us notes in English to accompany CDs by popular Japanese recording artists.

Japanese culture is big on the balance of giri (roughly translated as duty or obligation). If someone helps you, you help them. If someone is loyal to you, you are loyal to them. And if someone gives you a gift...well, you know what to do.

Thankfully, Baachan (our grandma) had anticipated this very situation. She took out a package for our cousin. It turned out to be a kit of Clinique makeup, totally age-appropriate, special, and a fitting present to return her generosity to us.

All that to say, I knew I was going to have to doing some planning before we left for Japan last month. My mission: assemble an "American" gift for our Japanese friends. I saw these Maptotes on Love Forever, and the idea stuck. The deal was sealed when I saw Pasadena (our current and our friends' temporary hometown) on the Los Angeles tote bag.

I made some flower headbands for their girls out of felted cashmere and angora sweaters.

Really fun to make, especially as the mom of a non-accessorizing toddler.

By request, we picked up some walnuts for the girls' mom, M. (bonus: California-grown!).

And some organic teas from the local tea shop. I guess organic stuff is really expensive in Japan.

I tested these items out in the tote, but of course we packed this all separately in our luggage.
I really enjoyed using this bag to give our gifts. It packed well, and it was nice to give something so specific to where we live! I'll write more about visiting our friends soon.

What about you? Are there other gift-giving practices you can share? What kinds of gifts (if any) do you take on trips?


  1. very cool gift. i love your thought process in putting this together.

  2. Thanks, Bo! With globalization making more and more items accessible worldwide, it was fun to think about what to bring that was special to the U.S. and California.

  3. this is super cute. i love your use of the tote.

  4. the headbands are suuuuuper cute!

  5. Those headbands are way too cute! I found out about your blog through Hanna and now I can't stop reading, much to the detriment of my productivity at work! I have a gift I need to wrap so I'm definitely going to be scouring the archives for an idea. Thanks and keep up the good work!

    Your photos are really great too, by the way. :)

  6. Thank you for all your Californian gifts! We really really love them!


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