Father’s Day: How Do the Japanese Choose to Celebrate it?

Tokyoesque
6 min readJun 13, 2019

By Ryoko Iwamoto & Melissa Francis

Tokyoesque are experts in Europe-Japan relations and provide clients with unique cultural insights that can be used to accelerate business growth across the globe. In this post, Tokyoesque offers insights on this special event in Japan, looking at overall market size, consumer behavior, key trends and some examples of campaigns relating to the occasion.

What does Father’s Day mean to Japanese people?

Father’s Day, known as chichi no hi in Japan is set on the third Sunday of June every year, and this year happens to falls on Sunday 16th June, the same date as in the UK, unlike Mother’s Day which Japanese people celebrate on the second Sunday of May each year, instead of the fourth Sunday of Lent as is common in the UK.

The significance of Father’s Day in Japan is exactly the same as in the UK and other western countries. It is an occasion in which to display gratitude and respect to one’s father by sharing time together and/or giving gifts. According to a survey by research firm Cross Marketing, the most popular way to celebrate Father’s Day in Japan is to ‘give presents’ (66.1% of all respondents who have celebrated Father’s Day before), followed by wanting to ‘spend time with family’ (46.4%).

Source: Shutterstock

The Father’s Day market is expanding in Japan

According to the survey, 22.4% of all respondents said they have celebrated Father’s Day previously, which indicates that Father’s Day is not the most popular annual event to celebrate among Japanese when compared to the top five events, which are:

  • New Year’s Day (81.8%)
  • Christmas (66.6%)
  • Birthdays (57.6%)
  • New Year’s Eve (54.2%)
  • Mother’s Day (32.6%)

The value of the Father’s Day gifts and experiences market in Japan is estimated to be 182.5 billion yen ($1.7 billion USD), lower than Mother’s Day which is 28% higher at 237.7 billion yen ($2.2 billion USD). It has been reported, however, that the average amount being spent on Father’s Day gifts is on the rise every year. In contrast, the value of the market in the UK currently stands at around £700 million ($892 million USD), substantially lower than that of Japan.

As a result, brands have been focusing their efforts more seriously on this expanding market. A survey by Rakuten found that the average amount of money spent for Father’s Day last year was 6294 yen ($58 USD), 1000 yen higher than the previous year. More than 10% of the total respondents said they will give their father a gift worth more than 10,000 yen ($92 USD).

So what types of gifts are trending this year?

As mentioned, the majority of people choose to celebrate Father’s Day in Japan by giving gifts. But what are the most popular presents in Japan? According to the Rakuten survey, the most popular is what Japanese call shiko-hin, which typically includes alcohol and cigarettes (23.2%) followed by ‘food including sweets’ (21.8%) and ‘clothes’ (16.1%). Below are some examples of Father’s Day gifting trends in Japan:

Beer

Beers, especially limited edition versions or premium brews are a popular choice of Father’s Day gift. Craft beer brand Yonayona no sato offers a box of different kinds of beer with a sign inside that says ‘Thank you, Dad’ which pops up when the box is opened. Some of the beer cans also have messages printed on them. Beer gifts bought at department stores are often accompanied by something extra, such as sausages or other types of meat. Personalised drinking tumblers and beer glasses are also popular.

Source: Yona yona no sato

Unagi

According to Takashimaya, one of the major department stores in Japan, the most popular Father’s Day gift last year was unagi (eel). In a Japanese context, unagi is usually considered as luxurious and reserved for special occasions. This year, Takashimaya is offering various types of prepared unagi again, packed in celebratory boxes inscribed with simple and thoughtful messages.

Source: Takashimaya

Jinbei

Jinbei is a traditional item of Japanese clothing that is considered to be rather casual when compared to the design of a formal kimono. It is typically worn at home and is made from cotton and/or hemp, with an easy-to-wear appeal. Department store Takashimaya is selling a wide range of these, along with an accompanying uchiwa fan. These come with a special Father’s Day wrapping with the inscription ‘Thank You Dad’. As well as these traditional clothes, it’s also common to give more practical, contemporary garments such as ties and shirts for work.

Source: Takashimaya

‘Cool’ Outfits

A survey conducted by Retropics, a men’s fashion brand specialising in XS size clothing, found that at least 70% of daughters thought their father was ‘not cool’ in terms of their appearance, and often consider it difficult to purchase clothes to give as gifts due to pattern and sizing concerns. Retropics ran the ikepapa (‘cool dad’) campaign between 8th — 12th June that offered a 15% discount on fully coordinated papa coode (‘dad coordination’) outfits that complement a smaller body size. This works well since Japanese consumers tend to like items that can be coordinated together. The slogan for the campaign was,‘I want to give the gift of ‘dad coordination’ to my petite father’.

Source: PR Times

Experiences

JTB, the most prominent travel agency in Japan, is offering a Father’s Day only service that enables people to customise their gift. With JTB, you can enclose pictures of you and your father along with the travel voucher, or design a bespoke voucher with personalised messages.

More Japanese men are treating themselves to gifts on Father’s Day

As is increasingly the case with Valentine’s Day in Japan, men are taking occasions such as Father’s Day as positive excuses to splurge on items they might not normally purchase otherwise. Perhaps they’ve been working especially hard recently and feel that they deserve something a bit more luxurious, or there’s a product they’ve been wanting to buy but it’s been out of their budget range. Father’s Day discounts might encourage them to go ahead and buy it.

This year, the Takashimaya store in Nagoya set up a section dedicated to showcasing ‘self Father’s Day’ gifts intended to be bought by Fathers themselves. Customers at the Mitsukoshi department store in Nihonbashi, Tokyo are spending between 5,000–20,000 yen (around $45–185 USD) on items to reward themselves. This trend is not necessarily limited to Fathers though; even those without children may also be tempted to take advantage of these limited offers.

How can foreign brands benefit from aligning themselves with occasions in Japan?

As we can see, the Father’s Day market is expanding in Japan and many Japanese brands have already been busy capitalising on this. It is important that western brands interested in expanding to Japan understand how annual and one-off occasions influence purchase behaviour, particularly New Year. There is significant opportunity to boost brand awareness during these event periods, so it’s really helpful to research how Japanese consumers perceive various occasions to see where a specific offering can fit as well as how to localise campaigns effectively.

Tokyoesque specialises in providing cultural and consumer insight on the Japanese markets. We ensure brand messages are crafted well enough to truly resonate with the right audience while taking the sometimes hidden cultural aspects into consideration.

For more information, contact us or fill out our free diagnostic.

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Tokyoesque

Japan-EU market entry and expansion consultancy driven by market research. Based in London and Amsterdam, we provide cultural insights with real impact in Japan