The Best Souvenirs in Japan

souvenir shops Travel tips

Are you looking for Japanese souvenirs? There are lots of fun and unique products to buy for yourself or bring them home as gifts to friends and family. Souvenirs are one of the best ways to tell your friends and family that you are thinking about them while traveling, and of course, for you to cherish the memory. So, do you want to know what to buy in Japan as a souvenir? Here is the list of the best Japanese souvenir gifts.

1. Chopsticks 

Chopsticks or Hashi are one of the most popular Japanese souvenirs! It is a quite obvious choice. In Japan, you will find several stores that sell various kinds of chopsticks, from high quality handmade sets to mass-produced factory ones. There are stores all over the country that specialize in chopsticks and you can get personalized ones with your name on them. These are the best souvenirs to buy for sushi-lovers!

2. Daruma

Daruma dolls, known as good luck charms, are popular in Japan and commonly believed to make one’s wishes come true. The idea is to draw a left eye on the daruma while imagining your dream and complete the right eye when your dream comes true. Daruma was the actual Indian monk who founded the Chinese Zen sect. It is said that his continuous sitting zazen style, while facing a wall for nine years to achieve enlightenment (satori), caused his arms and legs to fall off.  Daruma dolls vary in design, and some are very cute. 

3. Kimono & yukata

Kimonos are one of the most recognizable symbols of Japanese traditional culture, which make them perfect gifts. Depending on the material used, the price of a kimono starts from ¥20,000 (cotton) to much more expensive prices made with silk. You can buy second-hand kimonos cheaply in many places but the flea markets in Kyoto are the best place to look for. The yukata is a traditional Japanese garment worn as a casual summer kimono. Yukata sets are very common in tourist areas like Asakusa, Akihabara, and Kyoto. The set contains a yukata, a belt (obi), yukata strings (himo) and geta (the shoes). Some come with a small bag as well. These are especially nice for kids, and the kids’ sets are cheaper. Children look very cute in yukatas!

4. Green tea (matcha) and its sweets

You can find matcha, powdered green tea, at the tea vendors in any department store’s food section. Green tea powder is a lightweight souvenir that can be used to make a simple tea, or an extravagant tiramisu. Also, from cake, to custard, to candy, to chocolate, green tea can be found in many different delicious treats. There are also many places in Tokyo where you can do a traditional tea ceremony, a fun and traditional experience!

Tsujiri Kyoto Isetan

5. Maneki neko

Maneki neko, or “lucky cats” make for perfect gifts as they are inexpensive and usually not very large. Maneki neko, which literally means a “welcoming cat”, is a statue representing a seated cat raising the right paw up (or sometimes left paw, or both.) Considered a lucky charm, it is present almost everywhere in Japan and believed to attract lots of customers for the owners. The classic maneki neko color is white and symbolizes good luck while other colors are also available, like black and gold.

6. Japanese pottery

Japanese ceramics can be a perfect gift and are easily found in Japan at a very affordable price. They can be found in many shapes and colors, with uniquely Japanese designs. It can be a square plate, a small rice bowl, sake pitcher and cups, or a Japanese tea mug; all come in different shapes and designs and will be appreciated back home. The texture of a Japanese ceramic cup makes one feel special and enjoy their tea much better. While buying ceramics may initially seem like a luggage nightmare, many shops have overseas mailing services, or will at least package whatever you buy so you can send it off from the local post office. Or you can just buy a few plates and cups and carefully nestle them securely in your luggage. Whatever you get, having Japanese ceramics is very classy and will be a cherished souvenir.

In Japan there are a number of pottery villages in Japan, each with their own distinctive style, colors and materials. In Tokyo your best option is to visit Kappabashi Kitchen street. A long shopping street between Ueno and Asakusa, lined with dozens of shops where you can find every product needed in the kitchen, including pottery, Japanese knives, pots and pans. Because the pavement is covered by a roof, this is also a great way to spend a rainy day in Tokyo. While some shops are open, most shops close on Sundays.

7. Wasabi snacks

Wasabi has become more common overseas as Japanese restaurants have spread around the globe. Most commonly known as a condiment for sushi and sashimi, this horseradish-like root is made into a paste that can be used in many ways. These days, Japan is producing many wasabi-flavored snacks. Nuts, peas, rice crackers, candies, chips and so on. In the Shizuoka and Kanto area, you can even buy Wasabi Kit Kat!

8. Noren curtain

A noren is a long, curtain-like fabric, split into two or more sections that is hung at the front entrance of shops and restaurants. Usually it is made of cotton or linen and they are hung outside to indicate they are open for business. When closed, the noren are taken inside. Lately, many households hang noren as a room divider.

9. Art form, ukiyo-e print

Ukiyo-e are traditional Japanese woodblock prints that appeared around the 17th century. These include images of mountains and seascapes, like the world-famous Hokusai’s great wave, or portraits of actors from traditional performing arts like Kabuki. Ukiyo-e images are humorous in part, and have a refined nature. This unique art form is very popular as souvenirs and gifts. There are several museums where you can see ukiyo-e. For example, the Ota Memorial Museum of Art (Tokyo, Shibuya district), which has a collection of more than 12,000 ukiyo-e pictures, or Hokusai museum (Tokyo, Ryogoku) and the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum (Tokyo, Hachioji City). Postcards, T-shirts, and various other merchandise with ukiyo-e designs are popular for both everyday use and as souvenirs.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa Hokusai

10. Hanko (personal seal)

It’s common to use hanko, the personal seal stamp, as a signature in Japan. Close to 100% of the people who live in Japan have their own hanko with their name. Because for all the official documents, you will need to put the hanko on them, not the personal signature.
But you don’t necessarily live in Japan to get your own hanko, and it can be a unique souvenir gift that you can bring home! You can make hanko with Hiragana or Katakana, or you can make up a Chinese character called kanji with your name.   
You can find hanko even at a 100 yen shop but it might be difficult if you have foreign name or a unique name. In that case, visit a hanko shop where they can make your original hanko.

hanko personal seal

11. Kawaii stationery 

From cute pen cases and pouches to colorful pens and notes, you can find many unique and kawaii (cute) stationery in Japan. Big stores such as Tokyu Hands or Loft are a paradise of these stationery. You can find not only the basic stationery such as pens and notes but also postcards, letter sets, stickers and anything you look for as good souvenirs from Japan. For example, sushi shaped erasers or sumo motif stationery are popular as a souvenir gift. Stationery in Japan is known for its efficiency and high quality, and you will find it fascinating walking around the line of stationery at the shop! 

12. Uchiwa/ sensu (traditional folding fan)

Uchiwa, a traditional Japanese fan, and sensu, a folding fan, can make a great souvenir from Japan, especially in the summer. It’s light so that you can put it in your carry-on bag, and also it’s pretty useful on very hot and humid days in Japan while you travel around.
There are many beautiful designs available, from traditional patterns to anime related patterns, you can definitely find your favorite one at the store.
If you look for an elaborate handmade one, it will be expensive but you can also find some cheap one at 100 yen stores or some souvenir shops at the popular tourist destinations.  

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I hope you have enjoyed this list of the best souvenirs from Japan. In Japan, it is easy to find a wide variety of souvenirs; but the difficulty is selecting exact gifts which friends and family will like. Just in case you could not decide which souvenir to get, keep in mind that the airport has many duty-free stores, filled to the brim with all kinds of gifts, so be sure to arrive early before your flight!

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