Gift Giving in Japan

Topics: Marcel Mauss, Giving, Gift Pages: 8 (2916 words) Published: October 22, 2012
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. 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...
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