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If you visit Japan, you are going to want to pick up a few mementoes to remember it by. Luckily, the country is well equipped; Japanese souvenirs are very diverse. The items that you will find in Japan are really unique and interesting, for example: sake, matcha, sweets.
It is always good to know the significance behind each of the items you plan on purchasing as they become more meaningful gifts. To get you inspired and to know what to keep an eye out for when you are souvenir shopping in Japan, below are some tips for the top souvenirs.
Most people look for souvenirs that would remind them of their trip. When it comes to Japanese souvenirs, the list is endless, really! From anything Pokémon and Hello Kitty to electronics and unique crafted items, or beauty products, Japan has something for everyone.
For the oldies back home, pick up something nice and traditional like wood-products or a calligraphy set; for the younger ones, matcha (green tea), unique snacks and sweets are always the best option. For your friends, Japanese sake, a gadget, or some cutting-edge fashion will do best. Below, we have put together a list of some of Japan’s best souvenirs you must bring back home.
A tsuko-tegata or “wooden passport” represents an ancient custom in Japan. This “passport” was used during the Edo period. When a person traveled, they had to possess a symbol of authorization from the warlords of the various regions.
This “travel bug” is a descendant of the original travel passes used by Shoguns to control travel within their provinces. One of the primary destinations of that day was called Owari (now the city of Nagoya) and a pass was needed to cross the various Shogun territories. Those symbols are what we today might call a passport.
Today, tsuko-tegata can be found at various temples, shrines and hot spring resorts; they are a symbol or “proof” that you have visited certain places. They have a bell and braided string attached. This will be a meaningful souvenir for the older generation.
These pocket-sized items are known as omamori in Japanese and are very popular with both locals and tourists alike. Their purpose is to drive away evil spirits with the attached bells and to guard their owners from misfortune.
Dedicated to specific Shinto gods or Buddhist figures, each charm is said to provide specific forms of luck or protection. There are six main good-luck charms that people often carry with them or give as gifts; they are for health protection, money, love, education, safe travels, or to ward away evil spirits.
Today there are omamori for almost everything you can think of, from the more traditional kinds, such as prosperity and happiness, to more modern variations like for safe driving and cyber-security! Omamori can come in the form of small silk bags with a prayer inside. You can find omamori at various shrines, temples and shopping arcades throughout Japan.
Chopsticks make a great souvenir of Japan. Known as hashi in Japanese, you can find a wide variety of chopsticks, including sets of chopsticks and chopstick rests, as well as chopsticks that are dishwasher proof. As well as being practical items, chopsticks with a pretty pattern can be used as kanzashi (hair ornaments), which makes them a popular item for fashion conscious women.
There are a wide variety of chopsticks available, from simple wooden chopsticks to high-quality material chopsticks. You can find and buy chopsticks at all kinds of stores, including “100 yen shops”, souvenir stores and department stores.
Chopsticks sometimes are painted with images of ukiyoe, cherry blossoms or other typical Japanese things, making them more attractive. Chopsticks are the best souvenir for the older generation.
Japan has a wide variety of types and flavors of sweets, and there are some sweets that you can only find in Japan. Try the traditional Japanese sweets, known as wagashi. Wagashi are Japanese unique traditional confectionery. Usually made from plant ingredients such as rice, barley, beans, kudzu powder, seaweed and even seasonal plants. You can find these anywhere, from arcade centers to small confectionery shops.
Other than traditional ones, we recommend everyday snacks and sweets, that you can buy in local supermarkets and convenience stores, as souvenirs as well. Japanese sweets come in small individual packets which make them easier to share, which is one of the reasons behind their popularity.
Each region and prefecture of Japan takes pride in their very own unique snacks and sweet treats. For example, Miyazaki prefecture is known for its delicious red bean and fruit rice cakes, and Osaka for its Kuidaore Taro Pudding. Wherever you go, make sure to bring some of these Japanese sweets back home.
Japan is one of the largest consumers of green tea in the world; something that becomes quickly apparent when you are in the country. Whether bought from a vending machine or prepared through an elaborate tea ceremony, matcha is big business. It also makes for one of the best Japanese souvenirs.
Matcha is the finely ground powder of shade-grown green tea leaves. It is the type of green tea used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. In Japan, you can easily find a variety of foods flavored with Matcha, including chocolate, candy, drinks, ice cream and also wagashi.
The tea comes in many varieties but quality is always guaranteed. Pick some up at a specialty tea shop, supermarket or even at the airport and bring it back for your loved ones.
Also called Nihonshu or Seishu, it is the national beverage in Japan, made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran. It can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled. The traditional way is to serve while it is still warm.
In Japan, each area has its own local sake, made by their local rice and water. But make sure to comply with the customs regulations, such as, you must be 21 or older. Generally speaking, Japanese sake has alcohol rates around 15-17%, which is higher than beer and wine.
There are some health benefits to drinking Japanese sake in moderation. It is believed that Sake reduces the risk of having cancer, prevents osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even makes your skin become white and moisturized! Sake is the best souvenir for health-enthusiasts.
Yukata is a type of kimono that is usually made with thin cotton and worn when sleeping, or outside during the summer. Yukata are generally not that expensive and can be put on quite easily, which makes them ideal as a souvenir.
Yukata can be found in specialty kimono shops. In the summer you can even find them in major supermarkets such as Aeon or Ito Yokado. Yukata prices range from a few thousand yen to several tens of thousands of yen. The yukata with traditional Japanese designs, sold at UNIQLO, which cost roughly 3000 yen, are very popular.
Yukata are available for both men and women, as well as for kids. They make a great souvenir for fashion-lovers.
As one of the country’s oldest art forms, Japanese pottery is distinguished by two aesthetic traditions. One is very simple and roughly finished pottery in earth color. The other is highly finished and brightly colored porcelain, with complex and balanced decorations.
Overseas mailing services are offered in most Japanese stores, but you can just choose several unique plates or cups and nestle them securely in your luggage. Whatever you get, having Japanese ceramics will be a cool and cherished souvenir.
You can find pottery and porcelain anywhere, from a shopping arcade to a specialty shop that focuses only on pottery and porcelain, the price ranging from a few thousand yen up to several hundreds of thousands of yen.
If you are looking for something cool and unique (and maybe weird), simply to make your friends or family laugh, Japan is the country you should shop. Thanks to the huge otaku (geeky) culture, there are many unique items sold. Akihabara is the best area to shop otaku items as there are numbers of stores, often offering very strange items.
If you are an anime, manga or gaming lover, Akihabara is also the best place to find rare items such as figures, toys, games, mangas and more. So if you know someone who loves Japanese toys, make sure to make a stop at one of the shops to find the best souvenir from Japan.
Buying a souvenir from Japan for your family and friends is a must, but to find them can be stressful and depressing if you are not familiar with the area and the language! Travel with Asia Highlights and we will help you to find the most desired souvenirs for you and your loved ones. Please drop us an email if you have any further questions.