What to Buy in Kyoto: 43 Souvenirs that Boast Tradition and Modernity

  • Of course you want to visit Kyoto, recently voted World’s Best City by the US magazine Travel + Leisure. It is the land of the most gorgeous and traditional temples, fascinating geisha, and aesthetically pleasing one-of-a-kind sweets.


    Yes, of course we know that you know all about green tea and the yatsuhashi sweets of Kyoto, so today we are going to detail 30 of the lesser known (by tourists) yet most popular and exquisite items that are a unique blend of tradition and modernity.

    1. Traditional Japanese-patterned smartphone cases


    These cloth-patterned cases can fit your smartphone perfectly and there is even a strap to clip onto your bag! Add a little oriental touch to your outfits!

    2. Matcha soap


    Made in Uji, Kyoto’s finest green tea harvesting area, the matcha soap can help keep your skin soft, moist, and smooth!

    3. Maiko san lipstick (hana beni)


    Real maiko-san use this lipstick, so if you ever had dreams of becoming as elegant and fierce as one, just get some of these and make your dream come true! It comes in several colors.

    4. Local character goods


    If you didn’t know, each prefecture has its own specific symbols which are creatively designed onto Hello Kitty, Rilakkuma and other popular Japanese kawaii characters.

    So there are several different versions such as Rilakkuma with a green tea parfait, only to be found in Kyoto!

    5. Candy coated phone accessory


    Thought these cute accessories would go well with your phone? Well, yes they do! There are real pieces of candy coated over, which look cute and trendy! Give your phone a makeover.

    6. Rakugan


    Made of starchy powder, syrup, and sugar, rakugan are traditional Japanese sweets molded and formed into flowers, animals, and now using bright colors in a very modern version. Also, the sugar used is a traditional type called “wasabon.”

    They are just simply too adorable to consume!

    7. Seasonal daifuku


    Tired of boring old “original” daifuku (mochi filled with sweet red beans and other fillings)? Then try these artfully designed daifuku! The designs may change from time to time.

    Kyoto Yorokoen*Japanese Only

    8. Suhama dango

    More vibrant than the usual whitish dango you can find in your local supermarket, suhama are usually found with greens and pinks as seen here! They look more like accessories rather than snacks!

    9. Kitsune senbei


    Fushimi Inari Taisha, which is the temple of endless red torii gates, is the inspiration for these kitsune (fox) shaped senbei. Seeing and eating the sesame -and-white-soybean-paste sweet will bring to mind memories of the shrine you must visit!

    Inariya Kyoto

    10. Fukudaruma


    These snowman-shaped biscuits have become so popular recently they keep going out of stock at Funahashiya Sohonten, which created these very angry, poker-faced, and mischievous snowmen!

    11. Tawaraya Yoshitomi maiko bonbon


    Tawaraya Yoshitomi is the only store that makes these maiko-inspired bonbons so this limits these beauties to Kyoto! Some even have a bit of liquor inside as well as non-alcohol sweets.


    The designs are so intricate you can easily imagine the exquisite maiko when you see them.


    12. Kyoto limited Starbucks tumbler


    Even Starbucks has limited-to-Kyoto designs on their tumblers. You will always remember your awesome time in Kyoto every time you sip from your tumbler!

    Starbucks Kyoto Tower Branch

    13. Kyoto baum


    The Kyoto version of the three-layered German baum is apparently not as sweet as typical baumkuchen, maybe even a little bitter complete with the divine taste of green tea.

    14. Duck sable


    An ode to Kamogawa “Duck” River in Kyoto, these cookies have been presented in such a way as to resemble a mother duck and her little ducklings.

    Izutsu Yatsusan Bridge Store

    15. Fujiyoshi matcha tea roasted chocolate


    If you love matcha this is the snack for you! The rich taste of green tea spreads as it melts in your month, oh-so-divine!

    16. Omekashi bouru


    Almost like little flowers that line the ground after a spring shower, omekashi bouro come in 3 flavors: two kinds of matcha and white chocolate.

    Kyoto Century Hotel

    17. Deco-yatsuhashi


    Kyoto’s most famous snack, yatsuhashi, have been transformed into kawaii characters!


    You can see little pianos, flowers, literally anything you can think of!


    Thing is, they are so decorative and creative it seems impossible to eat and thus, destroy all the work put into it!

    18. Fushimi inari torii


    The little temple gate can be a token of your memory when you visit the ultra-famous shrine!

    19. Bamboo goods

    Arashiyama is the bamboo grove that leaves a lasting impression on the visitor. You can get the feel of diving into a bamboo forest that is relaxing and peaceful. There is a store (Mingei Teika) not far from Saga-Arashiyama Station which sells bamboo-made goods to help maintain your lasting memories of the one-of-a-kind forest.

    20. Ayu (fish shaped sweet)


    This super-adorable ayu (sweetfish) shaped snack is a replica of the fish that swim in Kamogawa River in Kyoto. Popular with people of all ages, it is made of soft sweet dough with a filling made of rice flour. Sometimes it may come filled with sweet bean or green tea.

    21. Oil-blotting sheet


    Of course even Japanese-made oil blotting sheets, made of washi, are designed to be artful and kawaii! Get these at Yo-jiya, which is quite popular amongst tourists now

    22. Oil paper umbrella


    Feel like a modern geisha as you whip out your oil-paper umbrella with its vibrant designs! The price is not so steep and it is made of tough bone, so its durability makes it a great gift as well! A recommendation is to buy it at the oldest umbrella shop in Kyoto, circa 1690.

    23. Shimizu confetti


    The edible confetti come in many colors and flavors but the fruity smell is just glorious and takes over the whole box! It can also make a nice present for your friends!

    24. Carre de canelle (niki niki)


    This is another type of yatsuhashi that has been designed into gorgeous flowers.

    25. Kyoto Ningyo (Kyoto Doll)

    kyoto ningyo

    Kyoto has quite a long history of doll making. These beautifully crafted items go back to the Heian period! They are often elaborately dressed with amazing accessories such as fans and hair ornaments.

    26. Camellia oil


    A multipurpose oil that can be used for cooking, improving your hair and skin, Camellia oil is the perfect gift for your female friends. This plant based oil has been popularly used for 1000 years in Japan.

    Kazurasei Shop

    27. Kyoame koicha temari


    Carefully crafted after temari, a type of traditional ball popular with noble figures of the past, these beautiful sweets come in many flavors like mint, chocolate, and even sakura.

    28. Kiyomizu pottery


    Kiyomizu pottery is what Kyoto is known for, intricately designed earthenware that includes the craftman’s vision, as there is more than one way to create them. If you buy it, you will be getting a one-of-a-kind piece to keep for a long time.

    29. Kotobuki teacup


    Finely made porcelain in the form of a vintage teacup, you may feel that they are too delicate to bring back home, but they are well worth the effort it takes to keep them well-preserved. Buy a teacup to instantly make your kitchenware collection vintage and unique!

    30. Monkey Candy (Arashiyama)

    If you’re in Kyoto, you must make a stop by Arashiyama Park! These amezaiku candies with monkey faces are pretty in these days, as they are cute and sweet!

    31. Kanzashi Hair Ornaments


    It may have be in vogue at one point to stick chopsticks in your hair, but you should never see the real kanzashi hair ornaments as that. These are made to sit snugly and artistically in your hair to match with your beautiful kimono. Just be sure to get one made of smoked bamboo and not cheap plastic to complete your look more authentically!

    Wargo Nippon

    32. A Bag to Match your Kimono


    So you bought that kimono you’ve been eyeing ever since you got to Kyoto, but now you realize that you don’t have any matching purses? These bags are light and actually designed with modern artistic sense so they can even go with your normal clothes as well!

    Marumasu Nishimuraya

    33. Cloth coinpurses


    Cutely patterned, doesn’t take up space in your bag, and very convenient, the cloth coin purse is a must have item for every girl! You can even get a matching gauze handkerchief along with it and be the fashion envy of all your friends.


    34. Hand-sewn Cloth bookcovers


    Remember how in elementary school your teacher made you wrap your textbooks? At that time you probably used plain paper or some plastic wrap, which was totally unfashionable. But now you can find some cloth covers with cute traditional patterns like animals or key motifs! It’s also washable so you can use it again and again!

    Guidebooks Kyoto

    35. Tabi-shaped socks


    A mix of modern and traditional is represented well in these tabi-shaped socks. Originally meant for wearing the Japanese geta to go along with your yukata/kimono, the tabi has been transformed into comfy cotton format and even goes well with sneakers, adorned with cute designs.


    36. Mamezara (Small plates)


    These tiny decorated plates are meant to hold small amounts of food or even chocolate. They can even just be used for decoration, as the designs are very simple yet sophisticated. If you see them on the streets of Kyoto, be sure to get your hands on them!

    Saison de Japon

    37. Fushimi Inari Fox Fortune

    When you visit the ultra-famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, you will most likely see this cute little fox statue. As you get your fortune at the shrine you have to give back the paper but you can take the fox home as a nifty keepsake.

    Guide Books

    38. Kyo no Comachi Soap


    Made of all-natural powder from Komachi, the soap is designed to help your skin be as smooth and silky as it was meant to be. Elegantly packaged in square form, it can also make the perfect gift.


    39. Mini sachet


    Palm-size and made of cloth that is traditionally used in kimono, the mini sachets are cute and can also be used as a phone strap or just to put in your bag. The pleasant smell that wafts from the sachet will surely remind you of your Kyoto travels when you get home.

    Yamadamatsu Shop

    40. Red bean bread from SIZUYAPAN


    Although red bean bread is one of the most ordinary things in Japan, you would never guess the cool and stylish packages hold some inside! After all, Japan focuses on presentation as well as taste, so enjoy!


    41. Customized Chopsticks


    Do you have a friend who has recently been engaged? Would you like to thank your manager? Do you like customized gifts? If you answered any of those questions with a “yes” then this souvenir is for you.

    You can carve your name, or any short message on your selected pair of chopsticks and get it wrapped in a special message from you. Most shops will carve the name or message on the chopsticks in Japanese or English for free, and they will show you which models can be customized and may even offer to gift wrap it for you too – and in a way that relates to the occassion.

    42. Senjafuda


    Author’s photo

    Ever wondered what your name would look like if it was written in Japanese kanji? Well, Japan has the answer to this! Senjafuda were originally wooden plates posted on the gates of the shrines but the material changed from wood to stickers or scraps of paper since the Edo period. They also used to replace what we know today as “Business cards” which was one of their most common uses.

    Nowadays you can get your own Senjafuda at many places in Japan. One of the most famous shops is “Ginza Souvenirs” which has a small boutique in the Gion area of Kyoto and is also where Johnny Depp visited to get his name translated into Japanese Kanji and printed on a beautiful Senjafuda plate.

    Ginza Souvenirs Website

    43. Matcha and Gold leafs holder


    When in Kyoto you will be amazed by the number of matcha products you will see everywhere. Matcha ice-cream, matcha milkshake , matcha parfait and much more. But what you may not know is that it’s a custom for Japanese people to add beaten gold leafs to their matcha on a special occasion (e.g. during New Year’s ceremony) or if a special guest is visiting.

    So, if you are a matcha lover without a doubt, be sure to track down the gold leafs in Kyoto. It can sometimes be tricky to find but a well-known place that definitely has it, is the “Kinkaku-ji Temple“. You can purchase it for about 1000 yen in a nice and trendy key holder.

    Kinkaku-ji Temple Website


    Come to Kyoto, the most beautiful and popular city in the world to see the sights and taste all of the exquisite foods! But remember to keep these 30 types of gorgeous souvenirs on your bucket list of things to buy, or you might just regret it!

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