Souvenirs from Japan are the best in this entire world. I can't express how many things we ended up buying from Japan, from wooden items, through interesting Japanese fans, to fridge gadgets. During our first 2 weeks in Japan, we collected an array of interesting items and even sent some in the post. During our second trip to Japan, we flew with almost empty bags, so we can fill them in with all sort of cool souvenirs from Japan. Although Japan is not just a shopping destination, it's a surreal place where you'll find so many interesting things you'll want to buy them all.
Here are the souvenirs from Japan you absolute need to buy.
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Souvenirs from Japan
Our favourite souvenirs from Japan are the unusual things you can only find in the country. We're not talking about magnets for your fridge or mugs from Starbucks. We're talking about traditional items which will add soul to your home. For example, we purchased a sushi knife which will forever remind us of the amazing food in Japan.
We bought a talking fridge gadget in the shape of a penguin which talks to us every single time we open our fridge door. We purchased norens, ramen bowls, sesame grinder (I will explain, I promise), miso bowls, chopsticks, cards, fans, clothing items, ah, the list can continue forever. Our family and friends love their souvenirs from Japan as well, and they continue to tell us that thus far, the things we buy in Japan are the absolute best in the world. We can't agree more.
Food & Drink
Souvenirs from Japan for foodies? The good news is that everything in Japan looks and tastes amazing. If you visit a department store you can even get your precious items wrapped to perfection. I think the beauty of Japanese souvenirs is that everything looks so wonderful. The joy of getting something from Japan is the art of unwrapping it and delicately unravelling what is in the box. It's almost as if the anticipation of unboxing something sure ads to the excitement.
In Japan, you will find matcha everything. Matcha sweets, matcha food, matcha tea, matcha ice cream. Matcha tastes delicious and is a bit bitter-sweet. Essentially matcha is ground green tea. We bought so many matcha sweets, it's unreal. You can call us matcha tea addicts. We found that getting sweet items are the best souvenirs from Japan as everyone enjoys experiencing a destination through food. We recommend buying matcha mochis.
Rice crackers taste so, so good in Japan. We recommend getting the soy rice crackers in a shape of a cute animal. We found several boxes of rice crackers, but my favourite was a set bought from Fushimi Inari Shrine, in the shape of small turtle snacks. You can be certain of is that souvenirs from Japan all looks outstanding.
We tasted several jams on Shijo Dori in Kyoto and gosh, don't they taste incredible? The only downside to bringing jams from Japan is that they take a lot of space and they are in glass jars, so they need to be well-wrapped before adding them to your luggage. Nevertheless, we bought mandarin and plum jams because they were too good to be true.
Plums, or ume in Japanese, taste absolutely delicious when pickled. It's not your ordinary items in a menu, I know, but we tried them and our taste buds exploded with happiness. You can find small cans or little airtight bags with pickled plums in them. they don't cost much but are a truly unusual souvenir from Japan.
Not joking, you can actually purchase salted sakura flowers from pretty much any market stall. They taste very salty, but they are really good for decorating various Japanese dishes. You can also eat them on their own, but just remember to drink plenty of water as they really are on the salty side.
You can get matcha from Japan, especially if you happen to visit Uji. Uji is believed to be the birthplace of Japanese tea so there is something really romantic about purchasing matcha right from the source. However, there is more to tea in Japan than just matcha. Try sencha one of the most interesting green teas in the world.
Genmaicha is my personal favourite, which tastes a bit like brown rice. Hōjicha is what you will experience in most Japanese restaurants when the unlimited tea is included. Don't forget to try Ume-Kombucha, a ground tea which combines the taste of plum and seaweed, an absolute treat.
I don't mean fresh seaweed, but the dried one you can buy in any supermarket. Get some nori sheet for sushi making or some wakame which tastes best when it's served as a salad. We purchased ground nori to add as extras to our rice and Japanese dishes. It's an unusual but very delicious souvenir from Japan.
I don't know why, but we found sesame to taste so much better in Japan than anywhere else in the world. We especially loved black sesame seeds so we made sure to purchase a few bags of it. You can find some in special Asian supermarkets all around the world, but in Japan, it simply looks better because of its exquisite packaging.
Want to sweeten someone? Then buy them mochi from Japan, one of the best desserts in the whole world. Ah, we must have put so much weight during our stay in Japan. Don't go for matcha mochi, but buy something different like sweet potato mochi, mango and cream mochi or red bean mochi. It doesn't take much space and the packaging is always amazing.
Box of Wagashi
Wagashi is a type of Japanese confectionary usually served with tea during tea ceremonies. They look incredible and they are always done to perfection. They are usually plant-based and are made of mochi, anko and fruits. They can be purchased in a box and offered as a present. Exquisite boxes of wagashi can be quite pricey.
I know what you're thinking: why would I buy jelly from Japan? Well, because it's amazing! It actually tastes like fruit juice and it doesn't have that gross artificial taste. Banana foams taste real, grape jellies taste like an explosion of sweet fruit juice. Besides, they actually look extraordinary and their packaging is amazing. For budget souvenirs from Japan, you can go to any budget store available on most main streets and purchase grape jellies. They are cheap and incredible.
Finally, no trip to Japan is complete without getting some sake right from the origin. Sake looks so beautiful because in Japan everyone wants to create beautiful packaging. So no matter what sake you go for, you are guaranteed to impress. If you buy sake as a souvenir for a friend who loves fancy booze, go for Dassai sake.
Did you know that Japan has some of the best whiskey in the world? It actually tastes incredible and it's becoming a world sensation. This makes a great souvenir from Japan for a more sophisticated friend who loves to enjoy a glass of whiskey in front of their fireplace.
I love plum wine and Japan knows how to make the sweetest, most incredible plum wine in the world. We bought a couple of bottles from Choya and we continue to order it online as it's one of the best drinks we've ever had.
Traditional Japanese items
Whilst we love buying food items, we know that some of our friends and family like items which are not perishable but last for a lifetime.
As already mentioned, we are not going to suggest buying a magnet, but something a lot more precious and exciting. One of the main things we recommend as souvenirs from Japan are the mighty chopsticks. We are not talking about the 100 yen ones you can find at any corner, but the exquisite ones you can find when shopping in Ginza. The thing is, some Japanese actually carry their chopsticks with them, and they represent a lot more than just an object meant for eating purposes. Some are handmade, beautifully painted, incredibly well done. So here is our list of traditional souvenirs from Japan you will love.
Who doesn't love a beautiful Japanese fan? We purchase two types of Japanese fans: a folding fan called Sensu and a rigid fan called Uchiwa. These were used for various ceremonies and continue to be used today by Geishas and actors in Kabuki.
Yukatas are Japanese garments made of cotton. You will very likely find them in your ryokan if you decided to experience a Japanese onsen. They come in different colours and sizes for men and women. They are very comfortable and easy to use. In certain onsen areas, you will find locals going out in yukatas.
As previously mentioned, chopsticks are perhaps the best souvenir from Japan. It's also practical for those who love Asian food at home. We bought our unique chopsticks from Ginza, but also bought several cheap sets with various Japanese art on them. You can find them for as little as £1 in various stores and it's such a simple item your friends and family will love.
A noren is a traditional Japanese fabric which acts as a divider. You will find them at the entrance of most traditional restaurants or even in your ryokan. We found a beautiful noren close to Asakusa which depicts The Great Wave off Kanagawa. These are affordable items which are easy to fold in your luggage. They really are traditional and representative.
A Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese cloth used to transport clothes or gifts. We like to wrap sweets in Furoshiki before giving them to friends and family. There is a special store in Tokyo called Oriental Bazar, close to Omotesando Hills. You can find many Furoshiki there.
If your budget allows it, buying a traditional kimono is perhaps the ultimate souvenir from Japan. Japanese kimonos are very expensive but they are true pieces of art which can last for generations. They are fine and suave at touch. If you don't wish to purchase a real kimono, you can always dress up as an oiran or samurai for a day, and to experience wearing one.
There is something so special about buying a silf scarf as a souvenir from Japan. However, these are quite expensive. We purchased two silk scarves from Japan, both of them from the Oriental Bazar in Tokyo. They had geishas on them and looked so feminine and fine. A true traditional masterpiece from Japan.
Why not look for Edo Kiriko glass or Arita Yaki porcelain? These are made using traditional methods and look absolutely spectacular. They are very delicate so make sure to wrap them properly when transporting them back home.
My husband is obsessed with Japanese knives and during our 7 days in Tokyo, we visited so many special knife stores. Eventually, he found one he loved and he still uses today. They are known to last forever and to be incredibly sharp.
Again, a samurai sword is very expensive and it can cost a small fortune when purchased from a true master. We never purchased a samurai sword as they were way out of our budget, hence we are not sure what are the rules and regulations when transporting one. They are technically a weapon so make sure to check with your country's laws and customs before purchasing one.
I love incense sticks, but my husband is a little sensitive to them. Thus, I decided to purchase several boxes of colourful incense sticks for family and friends. In Tokyo, you can find special incense stores which look simply stunning. They are from another world with an array of colours and amazing aromas.
A furin is a wind chime in Japan and some of them look like beautiful glass globes with special items in there like a mini Mount Fuji. I love wind chimes and Japan has some of the most aesthetically pleasing ones. You can find them in specialised stores in Ginza.
Omamori is a Japanese amulet usually sold at Shinto shrines. They are dedicated to particular Shinto gods (kami) and they are meant to protect you from evil spirits. You can purchase them around spiritual sites and they make a wonderful and unique souvenir from Japan.
This is one of my favourite souvenirs to bring home from Japan: ema. An ema is a wooden plaque where people write down their wishes and leave them behind at temples for the gods to take care of them. They can be purchased at most shrines and they usually have the kami representation for that particular shrine. We purchased a few from Fushimi Inari Shrine as they were a mini torii gate. We left a couple behind with our wishes and brought the rest home as wonderful souvenirs.
Origami is the art of folding paper and is deeply associated with Japanese culture. You can find various origami items made with special paper. The crane is perhaps the most popular item, although you can find various modern figures as well.
There are so many Japanese masks you can purchase, including samurai masks, festival masks, noh masks etc. They play an important role in Japanese culture and if attending a matsuri in Japan you will inevitably see people wearing them. They are not conventional but they are unique and make a fantastic Japanese souvenir. Some masks are used for decoration, whilst others are thought to frighten bad spirits and bring good luck.
Neko is the Japanese word for cat. Before you ask, we are not advocating that you bring a real cat from Japan, but a maneki-neko, a beckoning cat which is a Japanese figurine meant to bring luck. They are usually white cats with red elements and a paw upwards, positioned at the entrance of stores and homes.
Electronics & Gadgets
Japan has a lower VAT than many other countries so it's sometimes fun to travel to Japan in order to get various electronics and gadgets. For example, we wanted to purchase a new laptop, because we knew it's going to have the Japanese characters on the keyboard. As we are learning Japanese, this was very important for us. It's a lot of fun to purchase electronic items and for this to be a successful shopping spree, it's best to head to Akihabara, also known as the electric town.
This is not quite your ordinary souvenir from Japan, as it can get quite pricey. However, we saw an array of cute and colourful point and shoot camera in Akihabara. Some of them were in the shape of a cat and they look so great for any kids looking to get into photography. For yourself, you can also visit a few camera shops and purchase Fujifilm cameras, lenses and accessories. We are huge Fuji fans, so this was a must for us whilst in Japan.
Same as with the camera bodies, lenses in Japan tend to be a little cheaper, especially in some stores around Akihabara. We found a very good Fuji lens in Japan and we are planning on going back for a few more electronic purchases.
If your luggage allows it, why not go crazy and get a rice cooker? Can you believe it that it's been so long since we wanted one, and we are still to purchase a rice cooker for ourselves? Again, this is not an ordinary souvenir from Japan, but it's something fun for everyone who loves Asian dishes.
What I'm about to tell you will rock your world. Are you ready? The absolute BEST souvenir from Japan was a fridge gadget in the shape of an animal. We purchased a fridgeezoo, a small plastic toy in the shape of a penguin which talks to us every single time we open the fridge door. This little guy can be set to know when it's morning and changes its messages based on various times of the day. If you leave the door open for too long, it starts complaining. It's incredibly fun and we love it so, so much. We purchased ours from Don Quijote in Akihabara. It's been such success, that every single member of our family wanted one, so when we went back to Japan, we came back to a suitcase full of penguins.
Before you go into any stationary shop in Japan, please make sure you clear your schedule. We mean this. We went to Loft in Tokyo and what suppose to be a 5-minute scout, turned into a 6 hours shopping experience. Everything (and I mean literally everything) was mesmerising. I mean these guys even have tiny little boots as toothpaste holders. They have stickers for everything, cute erasers, adorable little holders... I was so happy, I wanted to cry. Buying stationary in Japan is one of the best experiences known to mankind. You might be sceptical now, but wait until you visit Loft.
Erasers in Japan are in the shape of super cute and adorable animals. I can't imagine how exciting it must be to get new stationery as a child in Japan.
Pen Holders in Japan are adorable. You can find them in the shape of cute animals or cute characters. Essentially, stationary in Japan is all kawaii. If you have friends with kids, definitely hit the stationary stores for awesome souvenirs from Japan.
Pens and pencils
Not only pens and pencils in Japan are awesome but they also have some special rubber tops which you can attach to your items to personalise them and make them more awesome. You can get them all in Loft.
Can you even begin to imagine a cute paper clip? No, me neither, until I saw them in Japan: these guys are so cool, they manage to transform something banal and borning like a paper clip into a super cute item which you want to buy and use all the time.
In Japan, stickers are everything. There are rows upon rows of different stickers you need to get for your books and agendas. We purchased several stickers for ourselves and for our work colleagues.
I hope you still have room in your luggage because we are far from being done with all the souvenirs from Japan. Next, are the kitchen items which are essential. When wondering what to buy from Japan, kitchen items should be on the list.
We found several stores in Asakusa which sell cheap kitchen items. We already covered Japanese knives above, so we are not going to repeat it here, but we think is one of the coolest things to purchase in Japan.
Once you have your trip to Japan, you'll come back wanting to eat only Japanese food. We are not even joking. It took me years to learn how to make good ramen and it's still difficult with some of the ingredients here in Europe. Ramen bowls are a must if you start cooking Japanese food at home. They are usually inexpensive and quite essential in our kitchen.
Suribachi is a grinding bowl like a mortar and pestle. They are used to grind and crush various items like sesame seeds. Because of their inner ridges, items are being crushed a lot easier than with a traditional mortar and pestle. Besides, they are usually tiny and super cute.
Miso soup is served with almost everything in Japan and it's one of my favourite things to eat at home, even for breakfast. It's best served in those black and red miso bowls, which are inexpensive and small enough to be carried back home. They look very nice hence we think they make great souvenirs from Japan.
A bamboo steamer is used for dumplings. You can get them in the West as well, but we bought ours from a small shop next to Ueno park. We wanted something unusual from Japan so we thought this will be an interesting thing to buy.
Can you imagine that in Japan you can buy cute tea bag holders? They are usually small animals which act like sieves or actual holders. Imagine a cute little cat in your tea. It's the only country in the world which takes such mundane objects and transforms them into exciting items you want to use all the time.
Bamboo chopstick holder
Japanese etiquette is important and that's why you should invest in chopstick holders. The idea is to keep the chopstick tips off the table to prevent used chopsticks from contaminating or falling off the table. You can get origami chopstick rests or some made from yew or bamboo. Since you can find some in various cute shapes, we think they are great as souvenirs when offered with a matching pair of chopsticks.
Sake cups are super small and adorable. They are usually made from porcelain and sake can be enjoyed in a number of different vessels. Sakazuki is the oldest sake style cup but our favourite is the Guinomi as its made of porcelain and earthware. It also looks great and stylish. Most restaurants will serve sake from Ochoko, a modern set which usually has some blue and white design on the bottom or on the inside of the cup.
Cute Japanese plates
For Japanese tableware, you should visit Ginza where you can find a variety of places to buy ceramics from. Prices in Ginza are quite high, but the items are of outstanding quality. If you wish to purchase budget items, you can head to Asakusa to Kappabashi Dogu Street.
Not ordinary bowl tops, but cute ones with animal faces and adorable colours. Old food left in the fridge is somehow a lot more exciting with kawaii around it.
I didn't quite know in which category to add these items but I know for a fact you will find them not just cool, but also useful. These are the special souvenirs from Japan which we sometimes order online when we run out. For instance, the best eyeliners on the planet was from Japan. I continue to order it every two months. Face masks in Japan are also really great and there are some essential winter items which I can't live without.
These are not your ordinary souvenir but we wanted to add it to the list. I was a huge Sailor Moon fan as a child, so couldn't resist not getting my own figurine. There are shops with so much anime merchandise, it's unreal. If you love anime, then Japan will be the most exciting place on the planet.
Have you ever wondered how those Japanese girls can withstand freezing temperatures without wearing tights? I now know the secret: heat patches. These are the most amazing Japanese invention ever. You simply add them to your clothes and keep you warm for hours on end. How incredible is that? I absolutely love them and I always buy a suitcase full of them. You can find them in almost all pharmacy in Japan.
I love wearing black eyeliner and for a very long time, I searched for the perfect eyeliner which doesn't smudge. When we visited Tokyo, I misplaced my eyeliner one evening, so I had to buy a new one from a random store in Japan. Turns out, I purchased the best eyeliner money can buy. It cost £10 and it lasts for up to 2 months if used daily. It doesn't smudge at all and doesn't lose any of its intensity. It's literally magic. As I don't live in Japan, I still buy it online.
The best mascara I bought? You guessed it, from a store in Japan. The same brand as my eyeliner, Heroine Make, I have the Isehan Kiss me Mascara. It's so, so good. It actually curls my lashes and lasts a lot longer than any other mascara I ever bought. For your girlfriends, the eyeliner and mascara have to be the best souvenirs from Japan.
How about we forget about conventional socks and we start buying socks with toes? Toe socks are better at keeping your feet warm in the winter. Besides, they look incredibly cute, so it's a win-win situation.
Face masks in Japan are a lot easier to use than in the West. They are individual sheet full of moisture and active ingredients. You put it on your face and it moulds properly around your nose, eyes and lips, you wait 10 minutes and you simply get rid of the sheet. It's a lot easier and more convenient for travel.
Finally, the best souvenirs from Japan have to be the cute items. Everyone loves cute and kawaii items in Japan are the bomb. Same as stationary, you can spend hours upon hours just searching through kawaii items. It's a never-ending shopping experience. Here are some of the cutest items we found in Japan.
Our phone covers were bought from Japan. I mean who can resist a cover in the shape of a smiling cactus? Or those cute bear ones? Point of the matter is, everyone has a smartphone and everyone needs a kawaii phone case from Japan.
This is more for girls interested in fashion. Harajuku is well known for its vibrant Takeshita street, perfect for cute shopping opportunities. This is the place to buy those cat long socks, cute skirts and adorable hair accessories.
You can find so many plush toys in Harajuku. All of them have adorable and unimaginable shapes. I mean I don't think I ever thought about buying plush toys in a shape of a toaster. But somehow, Japan managed to make even the most ordinary objects seem like fantastic items everyone wants and needs in their home.
Kawaii squishies are a real thing. They come in various shapes and sizes and some of them even release a special scent when played with. These are items which you can have on your desk and act as great stress releasers. They are basically your cute version of a stress ball.
Vibrant Hair Dye
Want to have an interesting kawaii experience? You can find a lot of temporary dye in Japan. I bought a pink and lavender temporary hair dye from Loft and was really pleased with the results. It's a fun way to colour your hair in just 5 minutes, then get rid of the colour once you wash your hair the next day.
As many items in Japan, hair accessories are incredibly cute. Just head to Takeshita street and buy yourself an array of hair accessories which are cute and colourful. They are great souvenirs from Japan for those friends and families with younger girls who love fun clips and hairpins.
These were our top 61 souvenirs from Japan we think you should get. Japan is a shopping destination and we promise, you'll find so many cool things to buy. Our advice is to travel with an empty bag as that will get filled, really quickly whilst discovering Japan. What souvenirs from Japan did you get? Let us know in the comments section below.