In Japan, Omiyage, is the term that describes bringing back souvenirs for friends or family after travelling. Gift giving after a trip is some serious business in Japan; it’s almost expected—at home and in the workplace—for anyone who’s gone away, whether for travel or business, to bring back omiyage.
Fortunately, you’re not expected to bring back anything expensive, matter of fact, gifting cheap edibles from the area you’ve visited is the most common type of omiyage. For those bringing back a gift to someone close, there’s a large selection of fancier gifts to be chosen from in Japan.
Whilst omiyage hunting can be fun, trying to figure out the right purchase can prove to be a challenging task, and not to mention—time consuming. I’ve been caught jumping between stores only to find myself scratching my head in confusion on what to buy.
So, to make the process easier for those of you who plan to bring back omiyage from Japan; we’ve put together our top 10 list of omiyage categories that is sure to impress your friends and family.
- Treats and edibles
Treats and edibles are the most common omigaye for Japanese people to bring back; as I mentioned—the norm is to bring back edibles specific to the place just visited—which actually makes for a unique gift, and lets the preson literally get a taste of where you went.
If you’re visiting Tokyo, then you may want to pick up a Tokyo Banana—the cities flagship omiyage; it’s a sweet made with banana puree, cream, and sponge cake. You won’t have any trouble finding them in gift and even convenience stores. Besides the Banana Tokyo, you can opt to bring back other authentic snacks such as Daifuku, Senbei, Manju, and Anmitsu.
Japan has always cherishes the art of creating handcrafted products; specifically, with tableware such as—bowls, chopsticks, plates, and teapots. The craftsmen of today apply techniques that’ve been passed down through generations, along with using the finest equipment, to create stunning crafts.
Most finely crafted tableware you’ll find in Japan is made out of ceramics, wood, and urushi.
The work produced by these master artisans have become so adored that you can find them in the houses of Japanese royalty, politicians and central government.
- Traditional cloths
There’s a vast selection of different type of cloth products you can buy in Japan; from beautiful Kimonos down to miniature towels. While a kimono would be an amazing gift to bring back, it’s generally quite expensive, and not everyone is lucky enough to be shopping on a high budget. Luckily you can still purchase beautiful Japanese cloths such as Tenugui, Nore, and furoshiki.
Tabi are split toed socks that also come as shoes. They’re unique to the Japanese culture, and have a rich history in itself; usually they’re associated with ninjas and samurai. They’ve already grown in popularity around the world, however, you can only find the most authentic tabi in Japan.
In addition to their comfort, they come in a variety of creative designs which embody the Japanese culture. You can find tabi socks and shoes easily in gift shops—and they’re priced to be more than affordable.
Dolls, for a long time, have been a part of the Japanese culture. They began as being sacred decorations used in shrines, and, during special event/festivals. Since then, they’ve evolved to cater to the rise in Japanese pop culture. Most dolls are a reflection on the anime culture, and have exploded in popularity that you can even find miniature dolls in street vending machines.
To find dolls influenced by the current Japanese pop culture, then your destination should be to a famous otaku town like Akihabara. Towns like Akihabara, are filled with store after store of dolls.
For something traditional, Kokeshi dolls, are the easiest option. They’re handmade wooden dolls, that mix a traditional Japanese theme with a kawaii design. Because of their unique look and affordability, Kokeshi dolls, hold the title of being the most popular doll souvenir.
If you’re looking for something that embodies even more of the traditional Japanese culture then, Ichimatsu dolls, may interest you. These are a more realistic looking dolls, that are full bodied, made to have a natural skin color, and have glass eyes.
Furin are traditional Japanese wind chimes that are commonly hung up during summer. As you walk through local Japanese streets in summer, you’ll usually be serenaded by the refreshing sounds that furin make. The relaxing tunes create a feeling of fresh wind passing, during an otherwise, scorching hot summer. Because of the calming sounds made by these wind chimes, it’s become tied closely to zen philosophy.
Electronics and gadgets have become somewhat of an infatuation in Japan; new gadgets are continuously invented to help make living life more convenient, and, that bit more interesting.
You can easily surprise friends and family by bringing back items such as musical earmuffs, light up umbrella’s, spy watches, or, really step it up and take home a real life robot.
To find the best gadgets in Tokyo head to the mecca of electronics, Akihabara.
- Traditional toys
Japan has an admirable pride for their traditional toys—so much so that elementary schools hold regular events to encourage children to play with traditional toys such as: Kendama, koma spinners, taketombo, darumaotoshi, and kami-fusen.
The preciousness of these toys make it easy to come across. You can easily find these in Japanese gift stores. For those looking to get even more fancy with their gifts you can buy certain toys that have been made using ancient decorative techniques such as maki-e komas.
Japanese Stationery are famous worldwide because of their high quality, innovative features and the plentiful designs they come in! You can choose from rotary point sharp pencils, paint markers, high quality paper, notebooks, cute animal shaped clips, colorful stickers and much more! You could spend hours just looking the huge variety of stationery to find in Japan.
If you’re looking to bring back something more spiritual, then Omamori is what you’re looking for. Omamori are Japanese talismans that are sold in shrines and temple. These charms offer protection and good fortune to its holders. Omamori is a common gift because of the good intentions from the giver.
There’s a heap more different and unique list of categories you can choose from, but at least you can easily guide yourself with these top 10. It’s a great tradition, because really, who doesn’t love getting gifts. It’s even more exciting to receive different or strange souvenirs from another culture.
We’d love to hear if you’ve ever bought any of these products or if you have suggestions for the best omiyage. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!