Part of the fun of travelling is picking out souvenirs that become a real talking point when you get home and Japan is an easy place to do this. There are a range of brilliant souvenirs that are the perfect mix of the familiar and the uniquely Japanese and will keep even the most difficult to buy for friends and family happy. Even better, they won't break the bank or your back lugging them around the country. Here are 5 we love and, to save you time, we'll even show you where to find them!
1. Seasonal and Regional Flavoured Kit Kats
Everyone loves a Kit Kat and in Japan thanks to their love of a good pun and some clever marketing, they are hugely popular. Kit Kat, pronounced in Japanese sounds almost identical to kitto katsu, meaning 'sure to win' so at exam time, it has become something of a tradition to give a Kit Kat as a symbol of good luck. With a range of interesting, seasonal and regional flavours these are more than just a last minute quick-we-forgot-Uncle-Joe gift. Basic flavours such as green tea are easy to find at most supermarkets and drugstores however if you want some of the more limited editions, think pudding, cheesecake, cherry blossom, wasabi, you will need to know where to look. For variety, First Avenue Tokyo Station is your best bet and as an added bonus, is dedicated to Japanese snacks and sweets so you'll find more than just kit kats.
2. Gachapon / Gashapon
Gachapon, or gashapon, are described as capsule toys and are kind of like a Kinder Surprise, minus the chocolate. They are onomatopoeically named for the gachagacha sound made when turning the dial and the pon of the capsule dropping out of the machine.
Gachapon machines are found everywhere from supermarkets to game centres and even airports (a fun way to get rid of those last coins you have in your wallet at the end of the trip!) but half the fun of the gachapon experience is browsing the machines to find the perfect souvenir to match the receivers personality. From hats for dogs to anime figurines, there is a machine for you.
We all know someone who needs gudetama to adorn their wine glass or Moai carved fruit, right? To find your perfect match, you should head to the gachapon Mecca, Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku. Here you will find two whole floors of gachapon machines to peruse.
Missed out in Tokyo, never fear in Kyoto you can get a taste of the experience, also at Yodobashi Camera, right by the main train station.
3. Crazy Curry Flavours
I think we can all agree that the distinctive Japanese style curry is pretty delicious and even better the packets are easy to buy and transport home to your curry loving family and friends. However if you want to take your curry souvenirs to next level Japanese craziness, you simply can not go past the flavours (and colours!) available in Village Vanguard stores. Why not try the Ice Curry? Pour out your white chicken curry and then surround it with a blue curry to represent the ice floes in the Sea of Okhotsk. Know a Ghostbusters fan? Try the Marshmallow Man curry, with mushroom and marshmallow flavours. Those in the know (I have not yet been brave enough) say they taste surprisingly good despite their questionable appearance!
Village Vanguard stores are found around the country. In Tokyo, try the Shinjuku store below.
4. Cute Food Samples
To the relief of many non-Japanese speaking travellers, many restaurant shopfronts hold delicious looking displays of unbelievably lifelike meals available on their menu. Made from plastic or wax, there is a whole industry dedicated to the faithful representation of foods from spaghetti to ice cream sundaes. In Nagoya and Gujo Hachiman (in Gifu Prefecture) there are hands on experiences to make your own food sample and there is a whole street dedicated to the stuff, Kappabashidori, in Tokyo. If this doesn't feature on your itinerary but you know someone who absolutely needs to have a sushi fridge magnet, beer mug paperweight or takoyaki keyring, head for your nearest Tokyo Hands or Loft store. These stores are found in major cities around Japan. In Tokyo pop in while visiting Shibuya as both stores are within a stones throw of each other.
5. Fancy Face Masks
While you are checking out Loft and Tokyu Hands for plastic food samples (locations above), pick up some face masks, of the skin care variety. Perfect for the beauty conscious among your family and friends this allows them to moisturise their skin in hilarious fashion as a Kabuki actor, Hello Kitty, Doraemon and more. You might even find regional specialties on your travels! In Fukui, you can be the proud owner or gift giver of a dinosaur face mask...be careful who you give that one to!
So there you have it! 5 gifts sure to suit someone at home awaiting your stories of adventure and gifts that will ccertainly keep you amused while you are choosing them. Happy shopping!
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Photos found on their website.