If there’s one thing for certain about Japan, it’s that the country leaves an instant impression on everyone who visits. Vibrant, colourful, and endlessly fun, it’s a place unlike anywhere else in the world.
It’s unsurprising that Japan’s quirky side extends to what you can buy there; its shops and stalls are filled with all manner of technicolour treats. If you feel like bringing back a little bit of what makes the country so special, take a look at this guide the best – and at times, strangest – souvenirs you can bring home with you.
Traditionally worn in the summer, yukata is similar to a kimono, but everyone will tell you they’re much, much easier to put on. Despite its all-over design, and the fact it’s worn in summer, they’re unbelievably comfortable, and the item of choice for lounging around the house in.
Speaking of comfort, toe socks – inspired by the traditional tabi that dates back to the 15th century – are perfect for putting your feet up in. They’re like your usual socks except there are five individual toes, ensuring maximum contentment the second you slip into them.
With a 400-year-strong history behind them, Kabuki masks loom large in the history of the country. A central part of Japanese Noh theatre, their name is thought to be derived from the Japanese word meaning ‘to be out of the ordinary’, and while you wouldn’t go walking out in public wearing one of these, they’ll make for a more-than-unusual decoration at home.
Porcelain and ceramics
If you want to add a touch of the Far East to your home, then traditional porcelain and ceramics are a great way to go. Easy to find in speciality boutiques and malls, all manner of plates, bowls, teacups, chopstick rests and shallow dishes for pickles and sauces are available to take back with you, making superb decorative additions to your living area.
If you struggled using them while you were there, why not take some chopsticks back with you and get practising at home? The lacquered varieties are almost a work of art, and you can even get them engraved with your initials too.
The serene sounds of these Japanese wind chimes are great for relaxing summer days when the sun’s out; the gently swaying notes will always remind you of your Japanese excursion. They’ll set you back about 1,000 yen and are available to buy across the city.
Not an item, but the Japanese equivalent of a dollar store that’s packed with all manner of home décor, kitchen and dining gifts priced at 100 yen. Even if you don’t buy anything, the colourful, vibrant environment is a spectacle in itself.
Food and drink
Otherwise known as Japanese pickles, these are the small, colourful arrangements of cabbage, cucumber, aubergine, and radish served alongside classic Japanese dishes. If you like to get creative in the kitchen, then these add an authentic finishing touch to your meals once you’re back home.
If you, or the person you’re gifting it to, is made of stronger stuff, then sake makes an ideal souvenir to bring back with you. Made from fermented rice, it’s much-loved in its home country, but definitely an acquired taste. Serve it in a traditional tokkuri flask for bonus points.
The ever-popular green tea consumed up and down the country, matcha is an excellent gift to bring back with you. Washing down a hearty glug is all well and good, but you’ll even find it flavouring a variety of different things, from sweets to chocolate. Keep an eye out for the strangest stuff and treat your friends and family to something else entirely.
Wagashi might not be for everyone, but for those who are on board with this mix of rice paste and red bean paste, then its sweet flavours and soft textures are a real treat. Usually served with tea, bring some back to make the perfect pair with your matcha.
Fun and games
The home of the cute battling monsters, Japan is the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs featuring Pikachu and all his pals. Tokyo train station is home to a massive array of everything Pokemon from t-shirts and cuddly toys to collector toys and homeware branded with the pocket monsters.
Ultra-realistic replicas of food are very popular in Japan. Typically used in restaurants, these mouth-watering miniatures look good enough to eat and you can now get them as key chains and mobile phone straps too.
The perennial Japanese souvenir, these iconic figurines, literally translating to ‘beckoning cat’, are said to bring good luck to the owner. Bring back a little good fortune with these lucky felines nearby at home.
Weird Facial Masks
Made to moisturise the face and keep it soft and supple, these kinds of facial masks are very popular in Japan, though we’re not sure if that’s because of its moisturising properties or the array of designs adorning them. From kabuki designs, cats, pandas and tigers, these face masks are even enhanced with strange ingredients such as snail essence, bee venom, or snake venom.
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