Finding and buying Omiyage (souvenirs in Japanese) is just one unmissable aspect of any trip to a new country. During your trip to Japan, you will notice there are a lot of shops where you can buy souvenirs. You may feel a little bit lost with all the choices on offer in those shops.
Here is a list to help you find the best traditional gifts you can buy for your family, your friends, or for you. With those souvenirs, you will be sure to bring back a little part of Japan in your suitcase and they will make the perfect Christmas gifts!
Daruma or Bodhidharma is considered in Japan as a figurine crowned in mystic powers. It is said to allow people to realize wishes or to reach a goal which is dear to them. A symbol of success and perseverance, Japanese people regularly call on these small dolls to favor the realization of their wishes. In order to send your wish, you have to draw one of its pupils with a black pen, put it somewhere in your house, and then wait. If your wish comes true, you then have to draw the other pupil.
This exists in all kinds of shapes and in various colors. You can find this traditional gift in a very large amount of souvenir shops, but I advise you to go to Oriental Bazaar.
Maneki-neko, which literally means “the cat which welcomes”, is a traditional statue representing a seated cat raising the right or left paw (or both) up to its ears. Considered as a lucky charm, it is very present in Japan and we celebrate it on September 29th. This little statue can be a perfect souvenir and you can find it easily in Tokyo, especially next to Gotoku-ji, a temple which celebrates this cat!
This cute statue is a very traditional souvenir to buy in Tokyo. The Tanuki is one of the yokai (spirits of the forest) in Japanese mythology. It is inspired by an animal looking like a sort of raccoon, to which Japanese attribute magic powers. A master of disguises, it is known for being able to change its appearance.
Tanuki is often represented wearing a straw hat and a gourd of sake, with a plump stomach which they use as a drum, and large-sized private parts, which gave birth to drawings and funny legends! A symbol of luck, they have been present in Japanese artwork and tales since the Middle Ages and remain very popular. If you are an amateur of Japanese anime, you may have seen them in Takahata’s movie Pompoko. You can find this souvenir in some shops on the street leading to the Senso-Ji Temple.
The kimono is one of the most recognizable symbols of Japanese traditional culture. A standard garment since the ancient times, the kimono is worn today to bring formality and elegance to many special occasions. It can make the perfect gift for one of your relatives, or for you. Kimono can be an expensive gift. However, you can find some great second-hand ones in shops like Chicago next to Harajuku.
Japanese ceramics can be a perfect gift and are easily found in Tokyo at a very affordable price. Go and walk around Kappabashi-Dori, a little street between Ueno and Asakusa, and you will for sure find what you need!
This object is an unmissable buy if you are coming to Tokyo during summer, but you can also buy it as a decoration for when you return to your home country! You can find it everywhere in Tokyo, in all sorts of colors and shapes.
The fan was always an object of daily use for the Japanese to find relief from the heat. However, it also has uses in various traditional arts such as kabuki theater, the traditional Nihon Buyô dance, or the funny narrative rakugo art.
The Noh theater is the heir of the most formal types of Japanese theater. It finds its origin in religious feasts celebrated in the countryside which were held to thank the divinities. In so doing, they made sure of their help during the harvests.
These dances with suits and masks are known under the name “Kagura”. This genre of theater is very well known and appreciated. You can easily buy masks used during these representations, and they will make an authentic gift.
These are the traditional Japanese shoes that people usually wear with kimonos. Of course, if you feel that the complete look is a little bit too much, this shoes can be a great gift for using in summer like sandals. You can find a lot of different shapes and colors in some shops along the street leading to the Senso-ji Temple.
If you are in Japan you will be sure to bump into a lot of Ghibli items. Those animation movies are very famous in Japan but also worldwide. There are a lot of shops dedicated to Ghibli souvenirs, so this makes a perfect present for your family or friends who like Japanese pop culture!
Sake is THE Japanese alcohol you have to try when you are in Japan. It is a rice based alcohol which has a very nice taste. You can choose between a lot of different bottle sizes and a variety of flavors to please every taste. This product can be found in any supermarket and grocery shop.
If you do not have the time to do your shopping when you are visiting, don’t worry! The airport’s duty-free stores, especially in Narita and Haneda airports, are filled with all those products, so be sure to arrive early before your flight. With these presents, you will be sure to please your relatives by bringing a little part of Japan home for Christmas!