Gift-Giving as Relationship Building between the U.S. and Japan
Mary J. Eberhardinger, PhD
Department of Communication at Central Washington University
This article will demonstrate the significance of the role of gift-giving in the omiyage industry in Japan. The role of gifts in the omiyage industry will be situated and argued as an extension of U.S.–Japan grassroots public diplomacy. The article will also serve as a truncated exploration into how gifts function to strengthen everyday political, professional, and personal relationships between the U.S. and Japan. Implications drawn in this article will seek to address why the question concerning a philosophy of gifts matters for friendship and relations between the U.S. and Japan. By exploring a position on non-reciprocity or asymmetry in the giving and receiving process, this article will offer the eventual takeaway that a true gift across cultures, specifically between the U.S. and Japan, is one with no expectation for return. The author’s experience living in Japan for two-and-a-half years will shed light on the observations and suggestions for readers to ponder when they find themselves overseas with the choice to give or not give.
About the Author
Dr. Eberhardinger taught English in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program from 2008 to 2010 in the rural mountain town of Tanba-shi, Hyogo Prefecture. She holds a BA in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she also earned a minor in Japanese language and culture, an MA in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a PhD in Rhetoric from Duquesne University. She is currently a Lecturer for the Department of Communication at Central Washington University. Her book, A Rhetoric and Philosophy of Gifts, will be published on March 15, 2021. The author can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the JETs on Japan Forum
The JETs on Japan Forum is a partnership between USJETAA and Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (Sasakawa USA) that features selected articles of JET alumni perspectives on U.S.-Japan relations. The series aims to elevate the awareness and visibility of JET alumni working across diverse sectors and provides a platform for JET alumni to contribute to deeper understanding of U.S.-Japan relations from their fields. The articles will be posted on USJETAA’s website to serve as resource to the wider JET alumni and U.S.-Japan communities on how alumni of this exchange program are continuing to serve as informal ambassadors in U.S.-Japan relations.
Submissions are encouraged from mid-to-senior level professionals who are established in the current fields OR current/recent graduate degree students in both masters and doctoral programs. Click here for more information on how to submit a proposal for consideration.