Giving gifts is a big thing in Japan. Not big expensive gifts, but little things that are usually edible.
This is a sweet custom.
(Although i wonder about giving large gifts to people who then have to pack and fly across the Pacific with them.)
Below is one of the gifts The Mister and i received from the the family with whom Em's friend stayed. For size comparison, the scantily clad model holding this box is 5'5". The box is also about 4" deep. We first opened this on the Shinkansen (bullet train) traveling back to Tokyo the day before we left.
Em's friend asked a nice Japanese man who was sitting next to us on the train. He told us that they represented the tiles found on top of traditional Japanese houses.
Still slightly puzzled, i asked "But, is it food?"
He started laughing and said that Yes, it was in fact, food.
It's a cookie! Three of them in fact, nestled together, shrink wrapped, wrapped in bubble wrap and placed lovingly inside the box.
They tasted like fortune cookies.
We also received a box of chocolates, some strawberry filled cookies, and a large Hello Kitty stuffed animal.