20 of the Best Japanese Souvenirs to Take Home from Japan

20 of the Best Japanese Souvenirs to Take Home from Japan
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    Japanese culture is unique and has many traditional and modern items that make for perfect souvenirs for family and friends, even if you’re short on space in your suitcase!  If you’re planning a trip to Japan, then check out our recommendations of 20 of the best Japanese souvenirs to take home in the following categories:

    • Cultural Items 
    • Food and Drink 
    • Homeware
    • Clothing and Beauty 

    Best Japanese Cultural Souvenirs

    Maneki Neko 

    The maneki neko or lucky cat as it’s commonly referred to in English is a classic Japanese souvenir item and is easily found in stores throughout Japan. The figurine of the beckoning cat is said to bring good luck to the owner, and you’ll often spot them on display in restaurants and other businesses.

    If you visit Tokyo, be sure to take a trip to Gotokuji Temple, located in the Setagaya area, which is said to be the birthplace of the lucky cat and is filled with hundreds of cat figurines. You can also buy your own maneki neko there in different sizes.

    Maneki Neko

    Japanese Fans

    Another inexpensive but useful and uniquely Japanese souvenir is a paper folding fan. These traditional Japanese accessories have a long history dating back to the 6th century and are ideal for use in hot weather and are a must-have item if you are traveling around Japan during the summertime. 

    You can find fans available to purchase in stores across the country for as little as 100 yen each or you can purchase more expensive fans which are handmade by artisans featuring intricate designs on beautiful washi paper.

    Japanese Fan

    Goshuincho

    This special souvenir is a book that can be purchased at most temples and shrines and makes for a unique keepsake to remind you of your time in Japan. It’s an especially popular item to buy if you are doing a pilgrimage and visiting lots of different temples – like the Kumano Kodo or the Shikoku 88 Temples as proof of completion of your journey. You can buy these books at shrines and temples, and for a small fee the staff will write the name of the temple in your book in beautiful calligraphy.

    Goshuincho

    Kokeshi Dolls

    These traditional Japanese toys also make the perfect souvenir items, particularly for children. The simple wooden dolls are believed to have originated in the early 1800s in Japan’s Tohoku region and are recognizable by their unique shape – the dolls do not have arms and legs. These minimalist dolls are handmade individually by artisans in studios across Japan and are highly collectable as each doll is unique.

    Kokeshi dolls

    Daruma

    Another type of doll that has also become a popular Japanese souvenir, the daruma serves as a traditional good luck charm and is commonly used for goal setting and making wishes. They are usually made by artisans from papier-mâché, and the round bodies are painted in different colors to represent different meanings. 

    For example, red is for general good luck whilst pink is for love, and blue represents career success. The dolls are purchased with unpainted eyes, and the idea is to paint one eye upon making the wish or setting the goal, and then painting the second eye once the goal has been achieved.

    Daruma

    Best Japanese Food and Drink Souvenirs 

    Matcha Powder

    If there’s one flavor that’s uniquely Japanese, it’s matcha. This powdered green tea is ground from the leaf and grown in the shade, resulting in a more bitter flavor than other types of green tea. It is often served with wagashi (Japanese confectionery), as the bitterness provides a good balance when paired with sweet tasting foods. The highest quality matcha is what you’ll find in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, and the most famous matcha comes from Uji in Kyoto. If you want to find out more about the best matcha powder brands to buy – check out this article.

    Matcha Powder

    Japanese Whisky

    Any serious whisky lover will already know that Japan has an excellent reputation for creating high-quality whisky similar to Scotch, with famous brands such as Nikka and Suntory producing both single malts and blended whisky. A small bottle of Japanese whisky makes for a thoughtful souvenir item that can be slowly enjoyed over time! 

    Whiskey

    Wagashi

    These traditional Japanese confectionaries are good souvenir items if you’re planning to consume or gift them shortly after your trip to Japan. Wagashi became popular during Japan’s Edo period, and examples of popular wagashi items include daifuku – soft mochi cakes made from glutinous rice with sweet fillings such as red bean paste and strawberry, namagashi – traditional sweets filled with bean paste, and taiyaki – fish-shaped snacks made of batter with fillings such as chocolate, custard, and red bean paste. For more ideas on which wagashi to try, check out our article on 10 famous wagashi! 

    Wagashi

    Tokyo Banana

    These cream-filled cakes sold in Tokyo are one of Japan’s most popular souvenir items, as well as being the city’s official souvenir. The light and fluffy steamed sponge cakes are filled with a banana custard cream made from banana puree and have a soft texture. If you visit Tokyo, you can always see long line ups of people waiting to purchase Tokyo Banana cakes in the airport!

    Tokyo Banana

    Kit Kats

    Whilst milk chocolate Kit Kats are easily available to purchase around the world, in Japan, more than 300 varieties of Kit Kat have been created to make unique regional and seasonal chocolate treats. Unusual Kit Kat flavors with a Japanese twist include sake, matcha, wasabi, and yuzu. In Japan, Kit Kats are often purchased on trips as a popular ‘omiyage’ item: souvenirs given to friends and co-workers that showcase regional specialties or flavors. 

    matcha kit kat

    Senbei (Rice Crackers)

    These Japanese rice crackers are made by baking rice flour dough with sugar and soy sauce. They can be sweet or savory in taste, baked or fried, and are mostly made with a type of non-glutinous Japanese short-grain rice called uruchimai. 

    There are plenty of senbei flavors to try including soy sauce senbei, nori senbei flavored with Japanese seaweed, salted senbei, and chili pepper senbei. Sweet flavors include sarame senbei coated in sugar granules and sato senbei dusted in powdered sugar. Throughout Japan you can also find regional specialties, for example, in Osaka you can purchase okonomiyaki-flavored senbei, whilst the Fukuoka region produces a senbei called mentaiko, a spicy rice cracker featuring fish roe.

    For more Japanese snack ideas, check out our recommendations for the best Japanese snacks to try for a fun tasting experience at home!

    Senbei

    Best Japanese Homeware Souvenirs 

    Zabuton Cushions

    A popular Japanese homeware item that’s relatively easy to fit in a suitcase, these cushions are traditionally rectangular in shape and primarily used for sitting on the floor. You can find them in Japanese homes and ryokan with tatami flooring, and they are also ideal for sitting on during meditation and yoga practices. The underside of the zabuton cushion is flat to provide stability, whilst the top is rounded to provide comfort and bear the weight of the user. A zabuton cushion would make the perfect souvenir or gift for anyone who is interested in Japanese design and interior décor.

    Zabuton Cushions

    Furoshiki

    These square pieces of cloth are traditionally used in Japan for wrapping items – anything from bento boxes to gifts and have been used for hundreds of years since Japan’s Nara period. To use furoshiki you place an item in the middle of the cloth and then gather the fabric and tie a knot at the top. Furoshiki is a great gift item because it can be reused many times for wrapping objects, transporting items, or just as beautiful home décor. 

    Furoshiki

    Chopsticks

    A pair of Japanese-made chopsticks is the perfect inexpensive souvenir item for family and friends or to use at home yourself as a reminder of your time in Japan. Known as ohashi in Japanese, chopsticks in Japan are typically made from wood or bamboo unlike Korean chopsticks which are usually metal, and they are generally shorter in length than Chinese chopsticks. In Japan you can also buy special training chopsticks designed for children so the whole family can use them!

    Chopsticks

    Japanese Knives

    Widely considered to be the best kitchen knives in the world, known for their sharpness, durability, and precision, the blades of Japanese knives are often made from a single piece of steel which means that they will not bend or break as easily as other types of metal. 

    Different kinds of knives are designed to perform different functions, from cutting raw vegetables into thin slices or cubes, to slicing cooked meat into thin strips, or even to break down whole fish filets into smaller pieces. You can also check out our selection of Japanese knives for inspiration.

    Yaxell Japanese Knife Set 5 Kitchen Knives

    Japanese Tea Set 

    Recreate the art of the Japanese tea ceremony at home with your very own Japanese tea set. Japanese teapots are usually made from clay or porcelain and are very versatile in the different kinds of tea they can brew. Teacups are usually made from porcelain, clay or glass and come in a wide variety of shapes and designs, so you can easily find something that suits your preferences. Complete your Japanese tea set with a rustic cast iron tea kettle and some high quality green tea

    Japanese Tea Set

    Japanese Stationery

    Whether you’re a student, work from home or an office, or simply love stationery, you’ll have plenty of beautifully designed, high-quality products to choose from in Japan. Examples of popular stationery related souvenirs include washi tape for journaling, personalizing notebooks or artwork, cute novelty erasers that look like exactly like mini replicas of food dishes, and traditional handmade washi paper, ideal for calligraphy projects.

    Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens 0.5mm 10 Colors Set

    Best Japanese Clothing and Beauty Souvenirs 

    Yukata 

    A must-have Japanese clothing item during Japan’s summertime festival season, the yukata is a kind of casual kimono that you can also wear at home whilst imagining that you’re relaxing at a beautiful ryokan or hot spring resort! Unlike formal kimono which are made from silk, yukata are typically made from cotton and traditionally in the evenings, kimonos made with indigo dye are popular to wear because they are said to repel insects. In Japan you can easily find yukata in different sizes, designs, and to suit different budgets. Pair your yukata with a traditional obi belt and matching hairpin to complete your look!  

    Yukata

    Tabi Socks 

    Like the yukata, tabi socks are another uniquely Japanese item of clothing, and much more affordable than buying a kimono as well as being small enough to fit in your hand luggage, making them the perfect gift item. Tabi socks are traditionally worn with kimono and feature a split between the big toe and rest of the toes, but these days you can buy all kinds of tabi socks in different colors and designs that can be worn with everyday clothes.

    Tabi Socks

    Sheet Masks

    An affordable and effective beauty treatment that takes up minimal luggage space, visit any Japanese drugstore and you’ll find hundreds of different kinds of facial sheet masks to choose from. 

    For example, you can find sheet masks designed for use especially before bedtime and in the morning, masks for daily and weekly use, masks with unusual ingredients like synthetic snake venom or snail slime, or more luxurious masks packed with beauty serums and unique ingredients such as Japanese rice and cherry blossom extract. You can check out some of our favorite Japanese face masks here.

    Sheet Masks

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