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Gift Giving in Japan

Anthrop 525 Term Paper Yi Min Yeng ( Leon ) Katherine Rupp began the study of Japan and Japanese when she was an undergraduate at Princeton University as noted in the Acknowledge portion of the book, Gift-Giving in Japan: Cash, Connections. Cosmologies. After that she had her graduated training in the University of Chicago funded by the National Science Foundation and the University itself, including one year of support from the Committee on Japanese Studies.

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Before the writing of this book, Katherine Rupp took twenty months of field work In Japan which is funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education.

She finally completed the manuscript of Gift-Giving in Japan as a postdoctoral associate of the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University in the Anthropology Department (Rupp 2003). Much like Mauss, Katherine Rupp is interested in the cultural effect of the gift giving and exchanges in Japan. She too believes that there is a social and cosmic order, much like Marcel Mauss’s total social phenomenon that it influences people but is also shape by the individuals. She focuses on the content of gift giving considers historical changes in gift exchange practice and differences in giving among groups.

Like Mauss, provokes thought on our own practices of exchange, gift and otherwise (Citation). She spent eighteen months of intensive scientific field works in Tokyo metropolitan area and also short term research on other parts of Japan by interviewing experts such as authors of gift giving books, Buddhists and Shinto priests, departmental and funeral home employees, workers and different classes of families. All these because she seeks to understand multiple questions such as “Why do people give as much, as often, and in the particular ways that they do? Why do some people reject giving and receiving?

How do attitudes towards practice of giving relate to considerations of age, class, gender, geographic area, occupation, and religion? … In What ways can these study of gifts in Japan contribute to the field of gifts and exchange in anthropology? ” (Rupp 2003:2). Other than that, she conducted observational studies on festivals, election rallies, house building ritual and other kinds of ceremonies with gift giving integrated in it. Besides using comparative methods, the use of statistic is also incorporated such as recording the amount and value of gift received and purchased on different events.

She believes that the recent anthropological attention of the strong contrast between commodities and gifts are not distinctively unrelated but are interconnected (Rupp 2003:182). The Gift Giving in Japan can be separated into six chapters. The book first emphasized the importance of gift giving in various ways such as pointing out reasons and giving the enormous examples of gift giving. People in Japan feel obligated and burdened when they receives gifts, some even avoid visiting their hometown or decide not to enclose the information to people when they do.

Gift giving on the other hand is very crucial to the macroeconomic level as well as departmental stores earn most of their profits during ceremonial festivals throughout the years such as ‘gosekku’ the five seasonal celebrations, new year, Christmas eve and Valentine’s day (Rupp 2003:2,119). Rupp too focused on examples of gift giving such as wedding gifts and returns sent to Mrs. Ueda, Mr. Hoshino’s house building ceremonial gift and returns, Mr. Ishiyasama’s father’s funeral gifts and returns, Mr. Tanabe declination of gifts and lastly gift categorizing of “meaningless” gifts, travel gifts, and seasonal gifts from Mrs.

Inoue. All these examples raise questions of relationships, the level of gratitude, and the influence of class between giving and receiving that will be explained on further chapters (Rupp 2003:33). Second chapter focus on the question raised previously with the emphasize in strength of relationship, gratitude and hierarchy. The value of the gift varies with the strength of the relationship. At times of celebration, those who bring enormous gifts are usually close friends or relatives and those who hardly brought anything are superficial friends or unfamiliar relatives most of the time.

For example during the house building ceremony people that are Mr. Hoshino’s true friends gave more than his superficial friends. And that those who gave a higher value of gift in order to create stronger relationship can be precarious as sometimes it can distant one from the receiver causing a backfire (Rupp 2003:36). Secondly, gift value can increase enormously as a form of gratitude to show appreciation for the receiver. For example, Mr. Hoshino received a large sum of money during his house building ceremony from his cousin because his wife had been taking care of his mum (Rupp 2003:41).

Lastly, the social class of a person can influence the value of gifts. A person with a higher hierarchy is obligated to give a higher value of gift compared to a lower one. On the other hand, they are also able to receive higher value of gifts as well. During Mrs Ueda’s son’s wedding, his superior in the company who made the decision to hire him gave them a gift worth a hundred thousand yen which is compared to be higher than average, yet he received three hundred thousand yen in return as a form of gratitude also because of his superior ranking.

In order to understand and interpret the meaning of gifts it is crucial to understand the three main factors which are relationship, gratitude and hierarchies that influence the value of gift giving (Rupp 2003:50). Gifts are not only given in considering of value, as not all items with high values symbolize auspiciousness for certain events. Gift giving practices are implemented during life and seasonal cycle practices and are considered highly important.

These rites of passages vary in places and modern cities such as Tokyo considers these practices burdensome, old fashioned and irrelevant where else people in Warabi observed these practices for generations (Rupp 2003: 53). There are three important life cycles which are birth, marriage and death which all three will be given bowls of rice packed into a mound sphere shape symbolizing total consumption and breaking of relationship and it was considered inauspicious not to do it. For the birth of a child, it meant it means separation from the world of the dead.

A woman consumes bowls of rice symbolizing separation from her side of family and lastly the dead is separated from the live world when a bowl of rice is given to the deceased. But as time passes, history changes and most of the people do not implement some of these traditions and nor do they consider as inauspicious as before. Life cycle events are divided into happy and sad occasions. During happy occasion such as birth and marriage, bills should be new and shiny while facing up in an elaborately decorated envelope where else sad occasion such as death, bills given should be old and crumbled while facing down in another kind of envelope.

Also, certain colors and method of tying a knot are used in happy and sad occasion with different meanings. For example, black or white ‘musubikiri’ knots which are knots that cannot be undone are used for funerals and red, white or gold butterfly knots are used for marriage. Returned gifts too are carefully considered as it is inappropriate to return inauspicious gifts as different items symbolize different meanings (Rupp 2003: 59). Besides life cycles, most gifts in Japan are given in related to seasonal cycles with yearend and midyear gifts with the highest percentage also there are festivals such as ‘bon’, ‘Gosekku’, ‘Higan’.

Throughout the history, traditions in festivals have changed especially when the Meiji government changed most of the ritual to the worship of Shinto God in order to bolster State Shinto and the emperor’s position (Rupp 2003:123). The book then describes the auspicious decorates people put up for each traditional festivals such as the zigzag white flags during New Years and Carp banners during ‘Gosekku’ festival, and people send auspicious gifts such as long noodles during the New Year which symbolize one life’s will extend like the long noodles (Rupp 2003:117).

Other than that, gifts will be offered to the dead on ‘bon’ festival in the form of gratitude. Relatives will visit their families and company employees will visit their superiors during New Year and they will be given auspicious gifts or snacks such as the two rounded rice cakes similar to the rounded bowl rice thus reinforcing the hierarchy of their relationships (Rupp 2003: 122). Besides traditional seasonal festivals, Japan do celebrate Western holidays such as Christmas Eve, Valentine’s day, Father’s day and Mother’s day. Christmas Eve is quite unique in Japan as it is strongly associated with romance.

Heart shape decorations with bells will be decorated in the streets and young men are willing to pay over one hundred thousand yen for a date during Christmas Eve. Even though men think Valentine’s Day chocolate gift as absurd but at the same they would be secretly delighted if received. Yet these western festivals still requires return gifts similar to the traditional festivals. Interestingly enough, unlike traditional festiavals which benefits men more than women, western festivals are the only festivals that it is women who have the upper hand (Rupp 2003: 144-154).

The practice of gift giving has variations of attitudes and it “vary according to regions, occupations, education, class, family background, gender, religion, and personality” (Rupp 2003:155). For example, most funerals in Warabi region returns a fixed value of gift yet funerals in Tokyo returns records each received gift and returns the half value of it after forty nine days. Also, most people studied in Warabi region did receive higher education in the middle or lower class. They are straight forward and do not concern with politeness and will assume people from Tokyo are calculative concerned with ranking.

Other than that, it is an assumed social fact that women have perfect knowledge in gift giving and that they are responsible for the gift giving between their husbands or other households as well. If a women who was from another region married to a men in Tokyo and do not know the region’s practices, she would be sanctioned yet people would not fault the husband which could have told her. By giving gifts from women on behalf of their husband, it “softens” the gifts and saves face for men as it is unusual for men to offer gifts to the people who are superior over them (Rupp 2003:159-161).

Thus this type of gift giving system reinforced the hierarchy of men and women and the subordination of women below men. Besides hierarchy between men and women there are practices between other subordinates and superior such as tenant and landlord, patient and doctors. People send gifts to their land lord or doctors as a form of gratitude even though there is a contract between them which the tenant or patient has already fulfilled. Interestingly enough even though hospitals forbidden gifts for doctors, patients still send cash gift certificates from high ranked departmental stores to the doctors’ house.

It seems to be a bad custom according to Mrs. Inoue, yet everyone abides by it and they do not consider it as a bribe (Rupp 2003: 164). Even with people like Mr. Tanabe who declined a valuable live shrimp gift from his customer as he felt burdened are uncomfortable of calling these practices bribery (Rupp 2003: 166). Due to these norms, there is a rising of abuse of the system and forming an example of forced giving by doctors throughout Japan. There are cases that if no valued gifts are given to the doctors as a form of “gratitude”, the quality of the patient’s care will decrease dramatically.

In the conclusion of the book, Rupp emphasizes that the Western concept of gift and market cannot be in the same realm and should not be applied in Japanese culture. Rupp uses Mauss’s theory of reaching back into history to seek explanation and highlight that Western culture have once been like Japanese culture which when gifts are not separated from the realm of buying and selling (Rupp 2003: 181). Japan is a place that challenges the stereotype of Western capitalist societies which are characterized almost exclusively by the commodity form with the circulation of independent transaction as alienable objects.

Rupp brought up multiple reviews on Japan’s gift giving practices and evaluates those who critics it as irrelevant and misleading. Japan is a major capitalist society, yet gifts and commodities are not two different realms but entangled together. In Japan, calculation of value on an item might not always be related to the economic realm compared to the Western societies. She concludes that the practice of gift giving in Japan is not so much in relation to an individual level as it is the shaping and solidification of the social order, which then influences the individuals. Notes for review:

On gift giving guan xi : purpose of Gift giving is shifting from its original meaning. Nowadays coporate gift givings are mainly aimed for illicit payments, corruption and pursuit of self interest instead of the building of ‘guan xi’ which means relationship or even providing social solidarity in macro levels. Understanding gift giving in japan page 20 the practice of gift exchange encompasses a wide range of social and cultural implications. Many purposes are served, such as fulfilling a sense of obligation to return a favor, reciprocating a favor, cultivating rapport, and enhancing a willingness to share sad and happy occasions.

When the Japanese practice gift giving, they always have some reason why they wish to give a gift to another. A gift without reason is not acceptable For example, when one company in Japan wishes to do business with another company in Japan, a salesperson from the first company will visit the prospective client company and take a small gift, perhaps sweets or candy valued 1,000 yen The ‘Social Death’ of Unused Gifts: Surplus and Value in Contemporary Japan page 396 it is the sentimental value we attribute to things we have had a long-term relationship with that keeps us from disposing of them.

However, my ? eldwork suggests that in Japan the propensity for not throwing things away is more affected by a feeling of duty than emotional attachment. The duty people felt towards objects is grounded in an awareness of the interrelatedness of human and nonhuman entities. In other words, things offer their service to people who, in return, should be thankful and treat objects respectfully Many people receive excessive quantities of these gifts because of the overall increase in af? ence since the economic growth of the 1970s that has led to an acceleration of the scale of the Japanese gift economy. Because the surplus of value embodied in unused gifts can only be recouped through sociality (Henderson, 2004), many tried to re-circulate their ‘unused goods’ through intimate, personal networks. These data thus question accounts that depict Japan as an hierarchical, formal society primarily grounded in ritualized gift exchange. GIFTS BRIBES AND GUAN XI page 399 Clearly guanxi can be used for instrumental purposes, and this usage is recog- nized by members of the society.

However, it is referred to as the art of guanxi, be- cause the style of exchange and the appropriateness of the performance are critical to its effectiveness. The style and manner of gift exchange is not optional; rather, it is fundamental to its operation. Although a relationship may be cultivated with in- strumental goals foremost in mind, the forms must be followed if the goals are to be achieved. The relationship must be presented as primary and the exchanges, useful though they may be, treated as only secondary.

If, instead, it becomes apparent that the relationship involves only material interest and is characterized by direct and immediate payment, the exchange is classified as one of bribery Gifts, bribes and solicitions: page 522 In traditional Chinese society, relationships, quanxi, are moderated and balanced by renqing, obligations of reciprocity (Hwang, 1987). A patient receiving service from a doctor may feel obligated by renqing to reciprocate with an informal payment or gift. Alternatively, patients who desire new or continuing care from a doctor may give a gift or payment as a way of ‘‘seeking relationship’’ (Lyckholm, 1998).

The rules of renqing dictate that if the keeper of a resource accepts a petitioner’s gift, he or she now has an obligation to provide a service (Hwang, 1987). The implementation of Taiwan’s system of national health insurance (NHI) in 1995, and the introduction of concepts of consumer rights into Taiwanese culture, created tension with the tradition of informal payments (Ensor & Savelyeva, 1998). The premises of NHI—that the health care system had an a priori obligation to provide care and that doctors’ fees would be set and paid by a third party—stood in sharp contrast to the premises of renqing.

This study examines how the meaning of informal payments (red envelopes), as an integral part of the doctor–patient relationship, evolved during the process of healthcare reform in Taiwan. The red envelopes discussed in this paper differ from traditional gift-giving. ‘Red envelopes,’ in the context of the doctor–patient relationship, imply the transfer of money or valuables from patients to doctors in return for an enhanced or improved medical encounter Dagang Write gift giving and mauss idea Good field world Then say about bribery Then conclude bribery is not same with gift giving. Why Conclusion