We've been eating well at home lately, with delicious ham and fresh mangoes and other good things. The reason is that it's chuugen season, the summer gift-giving period when people exchange various gifts -- everything from beer to coffee to those $50 honeydew melons -- to thank the people in their lives for their help over the past half-year. Chuugen gifts are exchanged between neighbors, between employees and employers (suspiciously, just before the summer bonus season), and also between companies: J-List trades gifts with the various distributors and eroge companies we work with to keep relations running smoothly. Of course no gift in Japan is ever received without a return gift, called o-kaeshi, a rule that must always be followed. These seasonal gifts are very important to Japan's domestic economy, and the competition to create gift boxes that will be popular is fierce. This year the trend has been towards gifts from different regions around Japan, like sake from the still-recovering Tohoku region of Japan or fruit from Okinawa.
Boxed gifts for the chuugen summer gift-giving season.