What should I get for a friend acting as my guarantor on a visa?
March 6, 2008 9:30 PM   Subscribe

What's a good gift for a friend I don't know that well but is doing me a huge favor by acting as my guarantor for a student visa?

I've known him for nearly 7 years (since I went to Japan as an exchange student in 2001) and despite emailing each other frequently and seeing him a bit in 2004, I can't say that we're particularly close.

He's now a salaryman (about 25 years old) in Tokyo and taking on a big responsibility by acting as the guarantor for my student visa, as I leave next month for 1-2 years of Japanese language study in Tokyo. Needless to say I'm very much indebted to him and would like to get him a nice gift to give to him when I arrive.

I suck with gifts, and with other friends I usually get easy stuff like DVD's or video games but I'd like to get something a bit more substantial for him. Any suggestions?
posted by yellowlightman to Human Relations (8 answers total)
Do you know anything at all about him? Hobbies, quirky interests; does he drink? Does he like books? Any clues in the way you met each other? etc
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:36 PM on March 6, 2008

Where do you live now? I think bringing something from your home country would be a nice gesture. Is there a local specialty where you live, some consumable that packs well and will not go bad? That's probably what I would bring, nicely wrapped/packaged.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:36 PM on March 6, 2008

Response by poster: As far as I can tell his biggest interests are drinking and women. He also speaks near fluent English.

I live in northern California, but unfortunately I think foodstuffs and such are prohibited from being brought into the country.
posted by yellowlightman at 9:40 PM on March 6, 2008

Whatever it is should be consumable or small, if he's living in a tiny Tokyo apartment. So:
art, or fancy booze? A nice wristwatch? (How much $ can you spend?) A quick google for "japanese gift gratitude traditional" yields a couple of results that suggest something region-specific (ie, produced where you are coming from) would be good.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:48 PM on March 6, 2008

Fresh food, such as vegetables, fruit, and meat, are prohibited but canned, dried, and processed foods are fine, according to this website by the Japanese Consul-General. You are also allowed to bring 3 bottles of alcohol. So, since he likes drinking...maybe you could bring some wine from a local vineyard.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:57 PM on March 6, 2008

Get him one or more bottles of the brandies made by Germain-Robin; it's made in Ukiah. It's spectacularly delicious - their XO is divine, and I imagine their (more expensive) single barrel is even more so. Some day, I will acquire a bottle of their ($350) Anno Domini.

It's made in small batches; I can't imagine it's available in Japan, as it's barely available here. Go up to their tasting room in Ukiah - they're wicked nice, and the tastings are free (or were, a couple years ago). Bring a designated driver.
posted by rtha at 10:06 PM on March 6, 2008

I think some high-end local alcohol is the right idea here. Maybe some Old Potrero whiskey? Or some good wine?
posted by pombe at 11:22 PM on March 6, 2008

Spend a bit of time with him when you first arrive, and let the conversation or experience you have then guide your decision. If you're shopping and a particular item catches his eye but he passes on buying it - there you go. Or he mentions a movie he loved or an author he's interested in.

You're having a hard time picking a gift because you don't know him well... no offense, but the solution isn't parsing generic suggestions until you get an idea, the solution is getting to know him better. It seems like you can have a good time doing so, so why not?

Good luck!
posted by chudmonkey at 1:15 AM on March 7, 2008

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