Make Sure to Take Omiyage When You Go to Japan!
Japan has a unique gift-giving culture, omiyage (お土産), which means souvenirs or gifts that you give to your family, friends, or coworkers when you come back from your trip. If you come to Japan for working, homestay, or going to school, it is a good idea to pack some omiyage in your suitcase. Giving omiyage to people you meet during your stay in Japan shows your caring to those people and brings a moment of joy talking about your home country and culture.
But, you may find it difficult to buy appropriate omiyage. What should you choose for omiyage?
Let’s have a look at best omiyage ideas!
Tips for Choosing Good Omiyage
First of all, we introduce you to some tips you want to keep in mind when choosing omiyage to take to Japan.
Choose Something “Local”
Feeling your country from what you have brought is important in omiyage culture. Choose something special to your region, not what can be found anywhere in the world. Something that is not sold in Japan, or that is expensive in Japan but cheap in your country is even better. Products that are unique to your country catch the recipients’ interests and give them an exciting experience.
But, even if it is a worldwide brand, if the brand originates from your country or region, it is totally fine. It will give the recipients a sense of "receiving something genuine".
Choose Something Used on a Daily Basis or Consumable
Make sure to buy items that can be used in daily lives or consumed in a short period. Generally, souvenirs don't have to be items used on a daily basis or consumable: you can jut put them on a shelf or somewhere. However, it doesn't apply to omiyage. Unless your hosts ask you for a specific product, it is a good idea to choose usable and consumable items such as stationery, snacks, or alcoholic beverages. If you are still worried if picked items will be used on a daily basis in Japan, you can ask your hosts about it.
Make Sure to Have Gifts Wrapped
The presentation of the gift is important as well as omiyage itself. If the present is not wrapped, ask a shop staff to wrap your gift so that it is presentable. You can wrap it by yourself with cute wrapping paper. Putting omiyage in a beautiful wrapping bag and tying a ribbon on it makes a great presentation of omiyage.
For more about omiyage etiquette, please check out this page.
Omiyage Ideas: For Anyone
The followings are omiyage ideas that make everyone happy. If you have no idea what to buy, go to the supermarket nearby and grab some stuff like:
Choosing chocolate that is famous in your country, or that is expensive in Japan but cheap in your locale makes a great gift. If you are from the US, GODIVA is the best choice because their chocolate is very expensive in Japan. Also, GHIRARDELLI, Lindor, and Excellence are good options.
Snacks like potato chips, nacho chips, crackers, chocolate bars are a good choice, too. Giving something that is not sold in Japan gives the recipients a surprise and an interesting experience. For example, Pringles are sold in Japan, but they have fewer varieties than the US. If you choose a flavor that is special to your country, you give a familiar but new product, which worths a great gift. Also, Cheetos, Goldfish, Twix, twinkies, Reese's are rarely found in Japan.
Colorful candies like jelly beans, skittles, M&Ms, nerds are good for everyone. Especially, Skittles and nerds are not familiar to Japanese people. Since brightly colored candies are rarely found in Japan, trying candies in vivid colors will be a lot of fun. But be careful about the flavoring. Some kinds of flavors may not be familiar or too strong to Japanese people, so instead of choosing unique flavors, try to choose familiar tastes like strawberries, melon, lemon, orange, peach, etc.
Japanese people drink tea or coffee after every meal. So tea or coffee made in your country makes an excellent gift. They don’t have to be from fancy, expensive brands. Ones that you usually consume are enough to be a good gift. But it is better to avoid Starbucks related because the brand is already famous and available all across Japan.
Postcards with a picture of your hometown are good to start a conversation and tell Japanese people about your homeland.
Omiyage Ideas: For Men
Beer is a great choice for men. Make sure to pick beer made in your country. They will enjoy a different taste of beer from what they normally have.
Nuts can be a good omiyage for men too. They make a good snack to have with beer, so choosing a set of beer and nuts will please every man in Japan.
Omiyage Ideas: For Women
Japanese women love cosmetics. They will love trying cosmetic products from your country, and they will also love different packages! Make sure to choose brands that have not come to Japan, such as Urban Decay, Benefit, Too Faced, fresh, or Josie Maran Cosmetics. But anything that directly put on the skin should be avoided (like foundation or BB cream) because it may not match users’ skin. Make sure to pick other cosmetics like eye shadow, lipstick, or blush.
Most women like soap related items with a nice aroma. Bath goods from Bath & Body Works will be great because the brand has not arrived in Japan. Uniquely shaped or uniquely colored soaps will be good, too.
If you meet someone who likes cooking, kitchen tools or kitchenware will make them happy. This would also work for men, too. Apron, placemat, or towel are a good choice.
Eco bags from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods are ranked in the top omiyage that Japanese women are pleased to receive.
Necklaces, bracelets, or pierces will be a great gift for women. They don’t have to be from luxury brands. Something that will look good on them will be appreciated.
Omiyage Ideas: For Kids
Stationeries like pencils, notebooks, or erasers are children’s everyday use. American colorful stationeries will make their study time much more fun.
Age-appropriate toys are great. Toy cars and dolls will be a good choice, and bringing toys is a nice conversation starter with kids. Make sure to check their age in advance to choose proper toys for their age.
Disney is huge in Japan. It is not too much to say that every kid in Japan loves Disney. T-shirts, toys, dolls, candies, and any other Disney-themed items will make kids smile.
Omiyage Ideas: For Business/School
If you visit Japanese companies or school, shareable snacks will make good omiyage. As written on this page, make sure to have each snack packaged individually and contain many pieces, so it goes to all the members. You will not fail if you choose chocolate, cookies, or candies.
What NOT to Take to Japan as Omiyage
There are some kinds of items that you don’t want to take to Japan as omiyage. They may be a typical choice for souvenirs, but not a good choice as a gift. The recipients will look happy when they receive your gift, but they will not likely to use it, unfortunately.
Key chains are a typical selection of souvenir, but they tend not to be welcomed as omiyage. In particular, ones that have symbols of your home city want to be avoided. Some people have favorite brands or choose ones that match their outfits. If you give key chains but it doesn't match the receipients' tastes, your gift will be put away forever.
Something that you just put on your desk, by the window, or on the wall is not a good choice, either. These types of souvenirs are great if you keep for yourself, but if they are given as omiyage, they will not be appreciated because those types of items make the recipients troubled to find where to put.
-too unique food/condiments
Choosing something unique can bring an excitement to the recipients, but food items with too unique or too strong flavor are not good. They may not taste good to Japanese people.
-T-shirt with a big logo of your city name
A T-shirt with a big logo of your city name like “I love NY”does not make a good omiyage, even if it has a fashionable design. A Japanese person wearing a T-shirt with “I love NY” logo on in Japan…it is nothing but weird, isn’t it?
Let’s Make Your Japanese Host Happy with Your Omiyage
We hope you have got some ideas of omiyage to take to Japan. Have a great trip!