Gift Giving

I suppose that gift giving looks simple enough, but I’ve received enough gifts from Japanese colleagues (and seen them exchange gifts with each other in a particular way) to know that there is a system to it. For example, you might give the best gift to the most senior person in an organisation, then other gifts to key members of staff. I’m a poor gift giver at the best of times, so I played it safe on my recent trip to the National Diet Library by asking who, how and when? Even then, I didn’t get it quite right. Still, we look quite happy, don’t we?

Mr Otaki, the National Diet Library ‘Librarian’ (the head of this organisation, which is like the House of Commons Library combined with the British Library, or modelled on the Library of Congress) got a University of Stirling tie:


Mr Ikemoto, the Deputy Librarian got a fancy pen (not pictured, because I messed up the presentation). Mr Amino, the Director General of the Research and Legislative Reference Bureau, also got a fancy pen


Then, the leader of the project and ‘Senior Specialist’ Mr Yoshimoto, sub-leader and ‘Specialist’ Mr Kato, and Senior Researcher Mr Yamaguchi all got fancy pens:


Everyone else did a great job of looking appreciative when I brought some Scottish shortbread – including Mr Tanaka (Director, Public Administration and Judicial Affairs Division) and Ms Matsuda (Researcher, Public Administration and Judicial Affairs Division), who took me on a tour round the National Diet (plus Mr Ashida, Ms Hagiwara and Ms Nishikawa, in the penultimate and very bottom pictures, who coordinated some of the events, showed me round the library and helped interpret some discussions) :

2013-11-25 14.53.50

Of course, as it turns out, they gave me much better gifts – and senior staff themselves paid for me to go sightseeing, at the end of the seminars, with Ms Matsuda and Ms Uehara (Researcher, Parliamentary Documents and Official Publications Division) – apologies for the picture, taken (at the base of the Tokyo Skytree) by me at arms length:

2013-11-28 15.45.33

My fancy tie/ pens ended up looking a bit second-best.  Still, we look quite happy, don’t we?  More importantly, the welcome that I got was inspirational. This trip has inspired me to begin to learn Japanese and to try to study Japan in much more detail. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point of being able to present complex ideas without an interpreter (speaking into my ear, at three different sessions, below), but I’d like to think that, the next time I visit Tokyo, I can maintain a basic conversation with the great people I met in Tokyo.


At the very least, I’d like to be able to say, ‘my flash isn’t working, but I think it still looks good’:

2013-11-26 21.22.05

See also: What Can Japan Learn from Devolution in the UK?

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