September 16, 2007

Japanese Customer: Flower giving in Japan you carry the flowers toward the ground

Photo: Blooming flowers in a Tokyo Park.

Flower purchase and giving in Japan has some similarities with other cultures but there are also a range of behaviours that are clearly culture based.

In Japan, for example, flower etiquette performed by Japanese customers includes how flowers are carried after purchase. A typical way to carry a bunch of wrapped flowers in Japan is normally downward, towards the ground. Typically the bunch is held by the stems and the bouquet hangs toward the ground. Reasons for this include: the relative ease of walking along a narrow crowded street. Many Tokyo sidewalks are so narrow that pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, scooters & prams all share the same space. A person carrying a bunch of flowers has to constantly adjust their position on the side walk and by having a bunch of flowers hanging down allows the person to quickly and easily hide the bunch behind their back which reduces the chance of them being damaged in all the chaos.

Added to this is the fact that many flower bunches have insects. Japanese customers tend to dislike insects, for example, flies, spiders, mosquito's will drive them to distraction. Any chance of an insect coming out of the bunch is reduced if the bunch is held downwards toward the ground.

Japanese customers buy flowers for a range of reasons but predominantly for the purpose of visiting the grave of their relatives. When you visit a florist in Japan, the florist often has a number of pre-made bouquets for the purpose. They are clearly marked and priced for a range of budgets. As in a western ceremony on the anniversary of a persons death, one visits the grave with flowers to pay their respects. Depending on the religion of the person, different ways of celebrating an anniversary occur. For example: in Buddhism, a number of ritual dates are remembered.

When it comes to gender, women predominately buy more flowers than men. In my experiences in Japan it is quite uncommon to see men buying flowers. It is common to see men carrying flowers, for example: on occasion's as coming of age day, graduation, left a company etc. A survey by Interwired surveys on Japanese customers flower purchasing habits found,

"Only 8.5% of the purchasers bought flowers for their partners".

When you do see men carrying flowers, the mood on the street changes as everyone on the street takes notice. Old women look with wide eyes, more at the flowers than the carrier, young women smile and you can read their thoughts from the reactions on their faces. Does he have a girl friend? How romatic, I wish someone would do that for me?. Men look on competitively ( that's a good idea I should do that, what type of flowers did he buy? what is the occasion?).
Flowers in Japan are not cheap, for example: roses and more exotic flowers are sold by the stem. A single stem rose can start from 200 yen. Prices changes based on season and occasion. Wrapping is typically free after you select the stems you want.

Vouchers are common as a gift and when redeeming a flower voucher in a store an additional levy is charged on redemption. For example: a 500 yen voucher would attract an additional 25 yen redemption fee. Different in western shopping whereby a voucher covers the entire purchase price. If there is any money left from a voucher it is typically not refunded in Japan.

When the flowers get home then another form of etiquette begins that of flower arrangement!

Books on Japanese Flowers:

Learn more about study in Japan at Study Abroad Japan

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