Japan’s Money related Customs: What is Nomikai and Why do you need to Pay for Weddings?

  • Japan is not a tip required country, but there are certain occasions in which you are asked to give money as a way of expressing your wishes. In this article I will talk about some of those occasions, part of the Japanese customs and traditions when you will need to offer cash either for gratitude or showing sympathy towards something or someone.

    These traditions are a part of the Japanese culture and a normal thing for the citizens, so if you are in Japan is better to know beforehand of what you should do in such cases.

    1. Weddings and funerals


    Weddings and funerals are some of the cases when you will need to hand in money if you are invited. At both ceremonies, people usually bring Japanese yen, enclosed in a special envelope (祝儀袋/Shugi-bukuro) and hand it when arriving at the reception. For a wedding, it’s called Go-shugi(ご祝儀), a gift of money, given to congratulate the bride and the groom.

    For funerals, it’s called Gokoden (ご香典), that would be condolence money in order to show your deepest sympathy to the deceased and his or her family. The amount of money you give depends on the relationship you had with that person.

    If you are not sure about the customs, don’t be afraid to ask the attendees or your Japanese friends what amount of money would be appropriate before before the event’s day. The special cash envelopes are usually available at convenience stores or supermarkets. Usually, the envelope with a red-and-white tie is for weddings and black-and-white ones are for funerals.

    Also,regarding weddings in Japan, people sometimes buy gift cards for newlyweds after looking in gift catalogs. The gifts have either food, sake or tableware and the newlyweds can enjoy choosing from the many options available and pick something they can use, want and suits them better.

    2. Donations when you pray


    Osaisen(お賽銭) is a donation made when praying at shrines. However, unlike weddings or funerals, it’s totally up to you when it comes to the amount of money you offer and the donation made goes directly into the Osaisen-box. This custom actually started long time ago when Japanese people used to offer farm products to Gods when they were praying.

    It is well-known that offering five Japanese yen, go-en(5円) in Japanese, brings an opportunity upon you as go-en written with a different kanji (ご縁)also has the meaning of “good chance”. But rather than the amount of money you throw in or how you do it, what is important is your thoughts and attitude.

    3. At a drinking party(飲み会/nomikai)

    The Japanese also have a custom when paying the bills at “nomikai”(drinking party) with your colleagues. Generally, there are 3 common ways to do this. First, there is the “ogori”(おごり) when usually the boss or the person with the highest status in the group treats everyone and pays for the entire bill. The second way is when someone volunteers to pay for the bill. The last and probably the most popular method out of the three is simply splitting the bill among the group. It’s less time-consuming and is more practical as you all have to pay equal amounts regardless of what you ordered.

    Now that you have an idea of some of the most common money-related Japanese customs, you won’t feel completely baffled next time you’re in Japan.

    Featured image: jp.fotolia.com/