Visiting Japan on a Budget: Souvenir Hacks

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  • Regardless of whether you’re a tourist visiting or a foreigner working in Japan, you may feel obligated to buy souvenirs or gifts when you go back home. Bringing back a gift after a vacation, or omiyage お土産, is paramount in Japanese culture. So why not partake in this intricately painful process of selecting an appropriate gift? However, you (and your bank account) may suffer from the plethora of beautifully packaged souvenirs and their hefty price tags. Here are some hacks for reasonable souvenirs that are suitable as gifts or for oneself, that are both pleasing to the eye and a wallet!

    Snack omiyage

    snack-omiyage

    Literally meaning “local product”, these snacks are usually a local product that is representative of the town or prefecture. Each box on the shelf is already beautifully wrapped, and they make good gifts if you cannot afford the time for a thought. The snacks within are also individually packaged, so it is not awkward when you hand them out in the office or set them on a table for easy sharing. Common examples of such snacks are Tokyo Banana, Royce Nama Chocolate, and Shiroi Koibito Langue De Chat cookies.

    Hack #1: Get the exact same goods at a small discount at Don Quixote, a mega store similar to Walmart.
    Hack #2: Get limited edition snacks from convenience stores. Chili Kit Kat or Chocolate-Dipped Potato chips, anyone?

    Local handmade products

    kokeshi

    Support farmers’ markets or proprietary stores; the same handiwork cannot be found in big cities. For example, traditional handheld fans, purses, dolls and even earthenware! Japanese earthenware or crockery come in a myriad of designs, from rustic to cute to minimalist to sophisticated. However, artisanal handmade ones tend to be on a steeper end. Both one-of-a-kind and mass-produced options are presented here to suit the purpose, be it a tea set for gifting or a casual mug to use at home.

    Hack #1: Visit stores in smaller towns if you get the chance, the handmade wares made by the local people tend to be rougher, more affordable, and beautiful. You might even get a story to go along with the gift
    Hack #2: For the kicks of having Japanese style everyday utensils or crockery at home, Daiso is always available at a steal. Most items are priced at 100 yen each, and are usually made in Japan or China.

    Best for last: Postcards!

    postcards

    This is technically not a hack as it is a meaningful and thoughtful expression of yourself, how could you put a price on that? Well actually you can: it costs 50 and 70 yen for domestic and international postage respectively. In addition to the scenic pictures of Japan’s lakes, mountains, meadows, cliffs and other masterpieces of nature on the front of the postcard, the stamps and postmarks themselves are also very pretty!

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