If you are planning a trip to Japan soon and you are looking for inspiration for your souvenir-buying journey, you are in the right place! We understand how difficult it can be to organize a complex trip to such a culturally-rich country. What should you visit? What food should you try? And most importantly… what souvenirs are worth buying?
We’ve got you covered with the last aspect. For souvenirs to be worth it, they should be useful, not just dust catchers. In the following article, we will offer you a list of 10 souvenirs that you have to buy on your trip to Japan!
As common as you might find this souvenir, chopsticks are very famous in Asian countries and you shouldn’t leave the country without some authentic and original chopsticks! The great thing about this souvenir is that you can find some personalized ones that are really unique and very specific to Japan. Therefore, you can find amazing, colorful chopsticks with Japanese motifs on them that will turn out to be amazing souvenirs to either keep or offer to friends and family. Moreover, they are extremely useful and one of the most authentic items that you can keep using afterward when you’re back in your home country.
Another precious souvenir you must buy on your trip to Japan are most definitely the pottery and porcelain sets! No matter what you choose to buy - either mugs, cups, tea or saki sets or something else (or maybe all of them), it’s important to know that these are one of the most famous souvenirs and one of the oldest art forms from Japan, dating to the Neolithic period. What makes them so special is the aesthetics of the design – some of them are very simple, and they have minimal colors and some of them are very colorful and they depict certain important Japanese elements.
8 Omamori (Lucky charms)
Another wonderful souvenir is an amulet that has the purpose of protecting the owner. The word omamori (御守) is the honorific form of the verb “to protect.” If you are in Japan, you will most likely find them at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines and you should buy one and bring it home as it is an important aspect of the Japanese culture. Moreover, in Japan, people offer omamori to another person (as a gift) to wish them well and luck so it can be a great idea for gifts to give to your loved ones on your return.
If you didn’t know, Kendama originally appeared in Japan, even though it got very popular around the world and people started using it without knowing where it came from. In Japanese, the word “ken” means “sword,” and “tama” means “ball” so it has a very deep meaning in Japanese – sword ball. This is similar to the ball and cup toy, which is a ball and cup on a stick connected by a string. The object is to swing the ball and catch it with the cup. However, the kendama has three different sized cups and a hole in the ball to catch it on the ‘sword.’
6 Sensu (Folding Fans)
Like some of the other souvenirs we have mentioned on this list, folding fans are quite popular around the globe, but they are originally from Japan. From the colors, texture, size, and prints, everything screams elegance, as you would imagine from the Japanese culture. They are a very important souvenir to bring back home, being made of Japanese materials and bamboo, but sometimes you can find them made of silk, which means they are the most precious. Moreover, sensu have a lot of symbolism thanks to the “design” of the fan - it starts from one point, which means it’s the birth and then you have more branches that mean the various choices and paths one individual makes in life.
This is a traditional garment, very popular among the Japanese culture. Although locals do not wear it on a day to day basis, but only for certain special occasions. These are occasions such as festivals, holidays, weddings or funerals, we strongly believe that it is a big part of the Japanese culture and you should keep an eye out for a kimono you like and you are willing to bring back home. They come in different materials, such as silk (luxurious material), or cotton, for everyday use, as well as in different colors and prints so you will have a lot of options to choose from.
4 Maneki Neko
These are commonly also known as the Lucky Cats or Fortune Cats. You have probably seen them at Japanese restaurants or shops but you may not have known what they were for. Well, they are very famous in Japan as well as in China. The movement of the cat’s hand is what makes it even more special, as it constantly waves, which is a sign of good luck to whoever enters the room. There is a lot of color options you can choose from: calico, white, black, gold, red or green – each of the colors having a special meaning.
3 Furin (Wind Chimes)
If you are walking around Japan, you will immediately notice one specific sound, apart from the traffic sounds and people’s voices – the wind chimes! Known as furin, they do make a refreshing sound, when the breeze touches them. They are usually hung outside so that they can be touched by the wind, clink together and release their lovely music. The reason why you should consider buying the wind chimes as souvenirs is that they will be a delight to all who you give them to. Many areas of Japan have specific designs. It is said that Buddist monks first hung wind chimes to keep away evil spirits.
2 Kabuki Masks
Kabuki is a type of theater that was created over 400 years ago by a woman named Izumo No Okuni. She would dance on the roadside and parody everyday activities. Soon there was a movement of others following and it became an art form of its own and one of the many Japanese treasures. The outlandish acting and subjects that included red-light districts and wild behavior became a favorite with the public. In Japanese, “kabuki” is a verb meaning “to set off-kilter” or “to tilt.” The making of the masks used became an art form in itself and they make wonderful decorations and gifts.
1 Daruma Dolls
When you take a first glance at them, they look like bearded, grumpy old-looking men. They are not as cute as the Maneki Neko or other Japanese souvenirs, but they are very important to the culture. The “angry” looking face they have has a positive message. It is that we will all fail sometimes, but everybody should have the courage to get up and pursue their dreams despite the setbacks. As souvenirs, they represent good fortune and the message of perseverance and never giving up is something all of us can use from time to time. Legend says that the faces are representations of a monk who tried for years to reach enlightenment.