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Old May 3, 09, 7:36 pm   #1
 
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Gifts for an American to Bring to Japanese Host Family

Any suggestions as to what would be good gifts to bring from the US to Japan if you're going to stay with a family for 8 weeks, yet you know nothing about the family before you arrive?
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Old May 3, 09, 9:26 pm   #2
 
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I hear T-shirts from a local university or sports teams tend to do the trick.
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Old May 3, 09, 9:40 pm   #3
 
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Originally Posted by trentslori View Post
Any suggestions as to what would be good gifts to bring from the US to Japan if you're going to stay with a family for 8 weeks, yet you know nothing about the family before you arrive?
When I did my homestay in the 90s, I brought something from my home region, which in my case was wine (brought two bottles). This is of course tricky if the family does not drink, but turned out mine did. Also had some university apparel (e.g. t-shirts for the kids).
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Old May 3, 09, 10:15 pm   #4
 
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These threads have some suggestions that would be appropriate. Also, spend some time with the the wrapping.
What gifts to take to Japan??
Advice Please:Gift from YVR to NRT
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Old May 3, 09, 10:29 pm   #5
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Originally Posted by trentslori View Post
Any suggestions as to what would be good gifts to bring from the US to Japan if you're going to stay with a family for 8 weeks, yet you know nothing about the family before you arrive?
Some more suggestions: coffee; cans of high quality nuts; gourmet chocolates. Any small local items that are attractively packaged are nice -- presentation is a big deal!
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Old May 4, 09, 4:52 am   #6
 
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Japanese are big on food or drink from different places. Whenever someone goes out of town, they usually bring back local comestibles for their friends, family and co-workers: if you go to a tourist spot in Japan or to a gift shop in a Japanese-infested area overseas (e.g. Hawaii) you will see tons of pre-packaged individually-wrapped foodstuffs on sale for this very purpose.

So yes, coffee and chocolates are good, especially if there's a local connection (so if you're coming from California, bring some Ghirardelli or See's). You can also make do with local knick-knacks, like little Statues of Liberty from New York or something like that, but the key is to make your gift somehow specific to the place you come from.

Microwave popcorn and ranch-flavored Doritos seem to go over well too (neither are common in Japan, despite many other American things being easy to find here).
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Old May 4, 09, 2:21 pm   #7
 
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I would try beef jerky
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Old May 4, 09, 3:15 pm   #8
 
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I'm originally from the Boston area. My wife, MrsTokyoKid, is Japanese. We live in the Nagoya area. We fly to Boston to visit family and friends twice a year. When we return, our suitcases are full of presents for Japanese family, friends, and colleagues at work. Here's a list of gift ideas to bring with you to Japan for your host family (keep in mind these are Boston/New England presents but you could easily adapt them to your region of the U.S.):

1) Harvard University/Boston Red Sox T-shirts & caps (Matsuzaka & Okajima play for the team)
2) Jam - We always bring back some Stonewall Kitchen blueberry jam since Maine is famous blueberries. Be sure to wrap in bubble wrap and stick it inside a zip lock bag in case the jar breaks.
Do not put it in your carry on as jam is considered a liquid!
3) Coffee - Again, we always bring back coffee from Green Mountain Coffee located in Vermont (who knew Vermont was famous for its coffee beans, eh? LOL). The blends we choose are Harvard, Vermont, and Nantucket. For flavored coffee we choose blueberry (seasonal). For myself, I bring back blueberry, coconut,
pumpkin spice, chocolate raspberry truffle, & cinnamon swirl. Outside of New England, flavored coffees are apparently not popular. If coffee isn't your thing, substitue it with interesting tea which can only be found in your neck of the woods. Japanese people drink a lot of tea and coffee especially when someone comes to the house.
4) Cookies, candy, & chocolate - If there are any unique to your area, bring them. Your host family will serve them with tea/coffee whenever visitors arrive at the house (announced and unannounced). CAUTION: Avoid bringing chocolate during the summer months (June through September)!!! It's incredibly hot and humid
throughout most of Japan and the chocolate will must likely resemble chocolate soup by the time your host family receives it. This advice comes from personal experience. Fortunately, the chocolate was for us and was never intended as a gift. Whew!!
5) Local crafts, pottery, etc. - In the Boston area we have Dedham Pottery.
6) Any interesting and unique jars/bottles/packages of ketchup, mustard (I love honeycup mustard and so does my entire family including my mother-in-law!), salad dressing, onion dip, garden vegetable dip,
pancake mix, maple syrup, and soup. You'll have to show your host family how to make whatever you bring. The metric system is used here. Before you leave home, print out metric conversions. This will
make the cooking process considerably easier!!

Again, be careful with glass and anything considered "liquid" by the TSA in your carry on. If you have any doubt, check their website before you buy the present.

Whatever your bring keep in mind most Japanese homes are small and there's not a lot of space for big items. Keep the size of the presents small. It will be easier for you to pack and transport, too. Bring gift wrapping paper with you in your suitcase (the small square sheets) which you can use after arriving in Japan. It will be less of a hassle dealing with security and the gift wrapping will arrive in your host family's hands without any rips and not looking like it had a rough journey half way around the world. I hope these suggestions help.

Have a great time in Japan! It's an amazing country. That's why I live here now with MrsTokyoKid and BabyTokyoKid. The first time I came to Japan as a university student I was bitten by the Japan bug and found myself returning year after year after year until moving here with the wife and child. I miss Boston but being able to live in Japan is wonderful, too!

Last edited by TokyoKid; May 4, 09 at 3:49 pm..
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Old May 4, 09, 3:47 pm   #9
 
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Originally Posted by joejones View Post
So yes, coffee and chocolates are good, especially if there's a local connection (so if you're coming from California, bring some Ghirardelli or See's). You can also make do with local knick-knacks, like little Statues of Liberty from New York or something like that, but the key is to make your gift somehow specific to the place you come from.
I second Ghirardelli - especially if you live in, or near, San Francisco. I always get one of my friends Ghirardelli chocolates and the other one another type... Ferrero Rocher chocolates. One of my friends mentioned that they are unbelievably expensive in Japan but in the US they're standard so I usually buy them for her.

Although it's a bit late I try to get ahold of some Girl Scout Cookies to bring with me if the timing is right. They are definitely a US type thing that no one else has ever really heard of~

As to things from the hometown - when I studied abroad in Japan one of the things I brought to give my host family was a picture book - not like a kids book but some really nice shots of where we lived by a local artist. Not sure if you live in a scenic area but if you're near a body of water or have a bunch of local artists I would see about buying something from them to bring to the family. I happen to think postcards are a nice general gift to give as well, they usually have nice images.

Souvenirs can be tricky unless it's something really famous (e.g. Eiffel tower, golden gate bridge, statue of liberty, etc). Clothing can also be hard because you don't know the size of the family before you go there (although S & M US sizes are usually pretty safe bets...)
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Old May 4, 09, 4:46 pm   #10
 
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If you know who the family members are (children? number thereof?) beforehand, you're in luck.

For children and teens, get t-shirts with the name of your city or state on them, or t-shirts with the name of your local sports team.

For adults, a book of photographs of your city or region is a great conversation starter.
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Old May 4, 09, 4:47 pm   #11
 
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Originally Posted by marmaladeboy View Post
Souvenirs can be tricky unless it's something really famous (e.g. Eiffel tower, golden gate bridge, statue of liberty, etc).
Actually, those are pretty easy.
For the past several years, I've been telling folks that I bought them the Tower of London, but they'll have to collect it from London themselves. Works like a treat.
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Old May 4, 09, 5:15 pm   #12
 
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Originally Posted by jib71 View Post
Actually, those are pretty easy.
For the past several years, I've been telling folks that I bought them the Tower of London, but they'll have to collect it from London themselves. Works like a treat.
That's fantastic! I should try something like that with the golden gate bridge or a trolley* 'I did get you your very own trolley but they wouldn't let me check it onto the plane...'

*Trolley in this case = classic cable cars: http://www.sfcablecar.com/

Last edited by marmaladeboy; May 4, 09 at 5:16 pm.. Reason: added clarification for trolley
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Old May 4, 09, 9:52 pm   #13
 
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i agree with all the above. I've homestayed twice and both times i've brought my family local goods from my home city of seattle- which of course would be salmon(smoked). but the idea of t-shirts. also maybe you can send them an email and find out what the kids(if any) hobbies are. i brought my host brother a soccer ball.
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