Japan’s Mother’s Day and Golden Week Shopping Season

Like many countries of the world, Japan celebrates Mother’s Day. The tradition began in 1913 after a church service took place at Aoyama Gakuin, a Christian school in Japan. After World War II, Japan decided to follow the U.S. tradition and calibrate the date to May’s second Sunday, and soon after Mother’s Day became established alongside the postwar rise. As in the U.S., sending carnations is a familiar part of Mother’s Day in Japan. However, like other western traditions that Japan has adopted, Mother’s Day observance has evolved over the years. Japanese department stores have marketed long-lasting luxury goods as alternative Mother’s Day gifts. One customary gift is the handkerchief sets by high-end brands, which can be found in seasonal Mother’s Day gift areas of department stores from the end of April.

Some however, have started to question the custom of sending such gift sets and the younger generation in particular, are preferring to select thought-out gifts themselves. Normcore, a recent worldwide fashion trend which is characterized by bland, average-looking clothing, has been translated into ‘luxurious but simple clothing’ in the Japanese culture. 1LDK is a boutique with locations in Nakameguro and Aoyama that has triggered this Tokyo Normcore trend. Along with their original brands Universal Products and MY, 1LDK offers a selection of stylish clothing and accessories from around the world. In Nakameguro where they first opened, there is a second location right by 1LDK called 1LDK apartments which houses three boutiques (1LDK me., Taste AND Sense, editeD / Found STORE) giving the area a tiny village vibe.

At 1LDK, you will not find products specifically promoted as Mother’s Day gifts. Still, it is a destination many choose to find a gift for someone special. Popular items that are often sent on Mother’s Day are the room fragrance by the Chiba-based brand APOTHEKE FRAGRANCE, LIVING CONCEPT towels by the Japanese towel-maker Imabari towel, and leather goods by Hender Scheme or MALY AL TERNA. Although clothing items can seem difficult due to sizing matters, MY sales staff Mayu Sugano says, “The high-quality cotton mesh materials used for MY’s long cardigans create a silhouette that is perfect for any body type, and is often a chosen as a Mother’s Day gift.”

Right before Mother’s Day, Japan has a long spring holiday known as Golden Week (GW). As there are four national holidays during GW (Shōwa Day on April 29, Constitution Memorial Day on May 3, Greenery Day on May 4, and Children’s Day on May 5), many are able to take up to 10 days of holiday by taking the entire week off. With cherry blossoms and other flowers blooming and considering it is one of the best seasons of the year, various events are held around Japan and many choose to travel or go out shopping during this time. Similar to the New Year vacation, GW is a spring break that everyone looks forward to, and although it is unique to Japan, it has been a significant way for the Japanese to take time off work. Naturally, as this is also a time when people tend to spend more, companies such as travel agencies and departments stores depend on GW as their high season and are always looking for ways to increase sales. Despite efforts, it has become increasingly difficult to stimulate demand using traditional marketing methods. What customers truly want from companies and brands are uniqueness and originality, because buying such products allows them to experience something new. True brand value may be hidden in the essence or philosophy of a company; or similar to the simple desire to find a thought-out gift at 1LDK.