Celebrating Mother's Day in Japan: Creative Gift Ideas to Show Your Love

by Nana Young

A celebration of love, tradition, and the bond between a mother and her child, Mother’s Day in Japan is around the corner. Get prepared for it by learning everything about the celebration, from symbolic gestures to perfect gifts. We’ve got all you need to make the day a special one for the incredible women in your life.

Mother's Day in Japan

Little asian girl daughter kissing mother on the cheek after giving a present, celebrating mother's day

Japanese Mother’s Day or Haha no Hi, is a date set aside to honor all women who have born or raised children. Families and individuals appreciate the influence these women have had in their lives by hosting parties, serving symbolic food like egg dishes, and presenting gifts to the mothers. There are a number of theories on the origin of Mother’s Day in Japan. Some say it started in the Meiji era (1868–1922), taking the form of a holiday inspired by the Chrysanthemum Festival of the Han Dynasty. Others claim that Mother Day Japan was first celebrated in 1931, in honor of Empress Kojun’s birthday (March 6). She is the longest-serving Empress consort in Japan’s history, the mother of Emperor Akihito, and a revered figure of motherhood.

All of the other beliefs are reasonable; however, the most likely origin story is that Mother’s Day in Japan began when Christian missionaries introduced the holiday in 1913. Some time during Empress Konjun’s reign, the annual date for Mother’s Day was set to coincide with her birthday, March 6. However, in 1949, Haha no Hi was moved to the second Sunday of May every year. The main reason for the change was to allow Japan to celebrate mothers on the same day as many other countries, such as the United States, Australia, Ukraine, and Singapore.

Mother’s Day in Japan took a hiatus during the Second World War. At the time, many Western customs were banned and Haha no Hi was one of them, which is further proof of its link to Christian missionaries in the past. Thankfully, the holiday was reinstated in 1949, after the war had ended. However, the date also changed to the second Sunday of May. Regardless of religion, Japanese culture has fully embraced the celebration. Everyone in Japan today, including kids, buys or makes gifts for the mothers in their lives while wishing them a happy Mother's Day. Even supermarkets and stores host special events in honor of mothers. You’ll find beautiful carnations all around households and shops.

When is Mother's Day Celebrated in Japan?

Good friends Japanese parents and children

Mother’s Day is celebrated in Japan on the second Sunday of May each year. In 2024, the day falls on Sunday, May 12. Like the US, Japan does not have a fixed date for the event. However, many other countries do not follow the same principles. Let’s take a look at the celebration dates of some of these countries to see the differences between their practices and those of Japan.

The United Kingdom: The UK has a more religious take on Mother’s Day than most countries, with its celebration on the fourth Sunday of Lent every year. Lent is the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. This means that the UK tends to celebrate Mother’s Day around March. The country is believed to have been the pioneers of the celebration back in the 16th century, when it was called Mothering Sunday. 

France: French people typically celebrate Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday of May, exactly two weeks after Japan. There is a one-week delay if that day falls on Pentecost. Hence, France can have its Mother’s Day in early June.

Thailand: People in Thailand celebrate Mother’s Day on the 12th of August. This is the same date as the birthday of Queen Sirikit, the country’s mother figure, who ruled as King Bhumibol’s wife from 1950 to 2016. Her only son, King Vajiralongkorn, is the current ruler of the country.

Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Mother’s Day celebration is one of the most unique ones because it’s a three-day event. The Antrosht festival, as it’s called, starts at the end of fall. It’s three days of festivities and feasting to honor mothers and celebrate the end of the rainy season.

Russia: Mother’s Day celebration timing in Russia is a bit conflicted compared to what goes on in Japan. The current official date is the last Sunday of November. However, the majority of the populace prefers to give mothers gifts on March 8, which is International Women’s Day.

The Tradition of Carnations: A Symbolic Gesture

Mother's Day and Carnation Bouquet, popular choice of present

The most important Japanese tradition for Mother's Day is to give carnations to mothers. These carnations are a special type of red, pink, or white flower that’s offered to people as a gift. When given to mothers, carnations symbolize appreciation for their relentless endurance. Red carnations are the most common type used by Japanese people on Mother’s Day. They represent love and appreciation. Some people give or display white carnations; however, that is common practice when the mother has passed away. They visit her grave and place the white carnations there.

The use of colorful flowers to convey these emotions and show what a mother means to the gifter is a common form of communication in Japan known as hanakotoba, the language of flowers. The language assigns different meanings to a variety of flower species. For example, carnation means love, fascination, and distinction in hanakotoba, which makes them the perfect gifts to give a beloved mother. Based on the language of flowers, we’ve curated a list of other flower choices you should consider gifting. Each one has a unique meaning that fits the theme of the occasion. Feel free to choose the flowers that best resonate with the emotions you want to convey.

  1. Cherry blossom (sakura) means transient nature of life, kindness, or meekness.

  2. Daffodil means respect

  3. Daisy means faith

  4. Hibiscus means gentle

  5. Bluebell means grateful

  6. Yellow Chrysanthemum means imperial

  7. Honeysuckle means generous

  8. Pansy means caring or thoughtful

  9. Pink rose means trust, happiness, or confidence

  10. Aster tataricus means remembrance

Offer or display one or more of these flowers alongside some Japanese sweets, and other gifts to make Mother’s Day more special.

Gourmet Japanese Sweets: A Taste of Delight

Traditional Japanese sweets on the black tray with cherry blossom

Choose from a selection of gourmet sweet treats to offer as a gift on Mother’s Day. Our recommendations blend tastiness with traditional Asian values that mothers will appreciate.

Wagashi

One of the best treats you can offer a Japanese mother is traditional Japanese sweets, also known as wagashi. Often served with tea, these confections use ancient cooking methods and seasonal ingredients. They are also plant-based and natural. Wagashi includes different kinds of mochi, cakes, and fruit-based sweets.

Sakura mochi is a great treat to offer on Mother’s Day. It’s made by filling glutinous rice balls with anko (sweet red bean paste) and wrapping them with pickled sakura (cherry blossom) leaves. The hanakotoba symbolism of cherry blossoms (kindness or meekness) comes into play here. Hence, you’ll be offering a treat and sending a powerful message. Don’t forget that Mother’s Day is in spring, the season of cherry blossoms. Another fantastic wagashi option is castella. It’s a traditional Japanese sponge cake made with eggs. Like our previous wagashi recommendation, castella also has a symbolic impact on the occasion because the Japanese egg (omelet) is closely associated with Mother's Day.

Artisanal Chocolates

Mothers will also appreciate chocolate gifts. However, we recommend you go for handmade, artisanal chocolates rather than mass-produced ones. These are handcrafted, bean-to-bar treats that use natural ingredients to create healthier and richer flavors. Buy the chocolates that were made using premium cocoa beans. They taste better and offer more health benefits, such as better digestion. Artisanal chocolates also tend to come in better looking and more unique packaging. Check out Bokksu Boutique for premium artisanal chocolates made by Japanese family businesses.

Traditional Cookies

Feel free to include sweet cookies in your Mother’s Day gift basket. These tasty treats come in a variety of forms, shapes, sizes, and flavors. From manju to kinako, the list of traditional cookies is endless. The ones with chocolate, anko, or cream are the best. We highly recommend that you give Hyakunin Isshu Haiku Cookies Gift Set. It contains 20 pieces of cookies, all following a theme of a collection of ancient Japanese poems that dates back over 9 centuries. The cookies are handmade and packaged to resemble Japanese playing cards called karuta. Mothers might have fun memories of playing with these cards in their childhood.

 

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Other Snacks and Sweets

There are other non-Japanese snacks and sweets that would make great Mother’s Day gifts. Many of them originated in East Asian countries like Korea and China. Examples include rice crackers, seaweed snacks, potato chips, almond sweets, and wasabi peas. They’re great options if you want to offer a taste of something different. Also, some of these snacks and sweets are produced by Japanese businesses, which means that you don’t have to look too far from home to get them. The Elegant Almond Sweets Gift Set fits the profile perfectly. It’s manufactured by a Japanese family business, and uses the best almonds to create unique, unforgettable almond snacks.

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Sakura-Themed Gifts: Celebrating with Cherry Blossoms

Selective focus of beautiful branches of pink Cherry blossoms on the tree under blue sky, Beautiful Sakura flowers during spring season in the park, Flora pattern texture, Nature floral background.

It’s hard to find someone in Japan who doesn’t love cherry blossoms. Sakura-themed gifts are never out of place on any springtime occasion, including Japanese Mother's Day.

Tea

Since the celebration of Japanese mothers happens in the spring. Sakura tea is one of the most popular types of beverages served at tea ceremonies. It’s made of sakura leaves infused with hot water. The leaves are then soaked in sugar to improve their sweetness.

Sakura tea is only one of the many types of teas you can give mothers. However, its floral taste and aroma make it a standout beverage.

Kitchenware

Show appreciation to mothers by giving them individual or collective sakura-themed kitchenware, which serves both functional and aesthetic duties. If you decide to follow this recommendation, the best types of sakura-themed kitchenware are mugs, cups, plates, and saucers. We highly recommend the Set of Sakura Square Plates from Bokksu Boutique.

 

Luxury Japanese Bath Sets: A Spa Experience at Home

Spa still life with burning candles,zen stone and bamboo mat reflected in a serenity pool

Another way to thrill mothers this spring is to give them luxury Japanese bath sets for a relaxing spa experience at home. Bath sets are a collection of bathroom products and accessories, such as bath salts, oils, bombs, soaps, towels, and dispensers. A relaxing bath after a long day at work will help you to rise early and feel energized. These items help to recreate the experience of traditional Japanese baths like onsen, furo, and sento. Below is a list of common items in bath sets and their uses:

  1. Bath salt: It comes in the form of a tablet submerged in a bathtub to help the body relax better. Bath salts contain chemical compounds that moisturize your skin and relax your muscles.

  2. Essential bath oils: Lavender, lemon, and peppermint oils are great examples. They help to enhance the bathing experience.

  3. Bathroom incense: It eliminates odors and fills the bathroom with a fragrant aroma.

  4. Bath bombs: These are single-use products that, when immersed in water, will cause gas to escape and fill the bathtub with essential oils, colors, and aromas.

  5. Face mask: It’s an infused and scented sheet mask that is worn on the face for a short while at spas. The mask contains chemicals that moisturize the skin.

  6. Washcloth: It’s a small, handy towel made with soft and absorbent material.

For the spa-like experience every mother deserves, look no further than The Treat Yourself Box. It’s the perfect gift set to give someone in need of a relaxing experience in their home. This box houses a complete bath set with facemasks, bath tablets, incense sticks,and a washcloth. It also contains relaxing green tea, milk chocolate, and a mug to go with these treats.

Japanese Tea Sets: A Gift of Relaxation

Japanese Tea - Hot Teapot And Teacups On Bamboo Mat. Other gifts

And now for our final gift recommendation: a beautiful Japanese tea set, perfect for mothers who appreciate the art of tea and moments of tranquility on the busiest days. These tea sets include cups, mugs, and filters with designs that promote Japanese customs and traditions. She’ll love enjoying flavorful tea with them during tea ceremonies. You want her to relax and take a break from the rigors of life, and a classic Japanese tea setup can do the trick. However, you need to choose the right product—something that displays traditional artistry, retains tea flavor without affecting the taste, and works efficiently.

Thankfully, we’ll save you hours of trying to find the tea set that meets all of the above criteria. Get our recommendation, the Frustum Tea Set, a product that blends modern and traditional designs. It consists of a ceramic teapot and two tea cups of the same material. The manufacturer has been making handmade tea utensils for over 150 years. This set was the 2020 recipient of the German international “Red Dot Design Award” and is worth every penny. Your tea set could do with a variety of tea options as a companion. Add these teas to your gifts to round out the experience. It’s the perfect combo for tea-loving moms. The Japanese Tea Box comes with 14 different types of high-quality Japanese tea. She gets to try as many as she wants!

Celebrating Motherhood with Thoughtfulness

Bokksu Boutique Mother's Day banner

Explore Bokksu Boutique for the perfect Mother's Day gift. Whether you're looking for something traditionally Japanese or a modern twist on classic gifts, Bokksu Boutique offers a curated selection that promises to convey your deepest appreciation and love for the special women in your life. Celebrate motherhood with a touch of Japanese elegance and thoughtfulness this year. 

Get a $25 gift certificate when you spend $150+!

Don't miss our new Boutique Mother's Day collection starting April 10th!


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