44 Japanese Souvenirs to Take Home
Presenting 44 uniquely Japanese souvenirs to take home as mementoes of your adventures in Japan. From the cutting edge to the traditional, we've got it all.
If you’re visiting Japan, you’re going to want to pick up a few mementoes to remember it by. Luckily, the country is well equipped.
Japan is a country with many faces, meaning Japanese souvenirs are equally diverse. For the oldies back home pick up something nice and traditional like a teapot or some matcha (green tea), for your friends, a slice of the country’s ultra-modern side: a gadget or some cutting edge fashion.
Below, we’ve put together a list of some of Japan’s best souvenirs, intended to inspire, inform and put a smile on someone’s face back home.
1. Sweets and Snacks
Japan’s shelves are stacked with a vast array of sweets and snacks, all of which make perfect Japanese souvenirs.
Famously, Kit Kats in Japan come in hundreds of different varieties; from the standard wafer bars you can buy back home to sake flavoured and those designed to be baked in the oven! For a full rundown of Kit Kats in Japan, take a look at our dedicated article where we run you through 23 of our favourites.
For the lover of indulgence in your life, head home with some Bulgari chocolate. This decadent Japanese brand specializes in deliciously rich chocolates packaged as if they were precious gems.
What’s more, each region and prefecture of Japan takes pride in their very own unique snacks and sweet treats. For example, Miyazaki prefecture is known for its delicious red bean and fruit rice cakes, nanjakorya daifuku, and Osaka for its Kuidaore Taro Pudding. Wherever you are, it won’t take you long to sniff out that area’s speciality. Conveniently, many of these snacks and sweets can also be picked up in Japan’s major airports.
Whatever you choose, folks back home are bound to be bowled over.
2. Matcha (Green Tea)
Japan is one of the largest consumers of green tea in the world, something that becomes quickly apparent when you’re in the country. Whether bought from a vending machine or prepared through an elaborate tea ceremony, matcha is big business. It also makes for one of the best Japanese souvenirs.
The tea comes in many varieties but quality is always guaranteed. Pick some up at a speciality tea shop, supermarket or even at the airport and get your loved ones hooked.
A word of caution, wagashi is not for everyone. It’s a type of Japanese sweet that is typically made of mochi (a sort of rice paste) and red bean paste. It’s also usually served alongside matcha. Love it or hate it, it certainly makes for an original Japanese souvenir.
4. Hato Sabure
Hato Sabure, also known as dove cookies, originate from ancient Kamakura. The original biscuit was designed as an imitation of Western-style biscuits made using butter, which, at the time, was a highly prized and expensive commodity. Consequently, the bakers did their best to accentuate the exotic taste of butter as much as possible.
Due to their massive popularity, they can now be found throughout the country but remain best bought from their place of origin, Teshimaya in Kamakura.
A kendama is a ball and string toy that was introduced to Japan in the 1700s by way of China. Move aside video games, a simple wooden kendama promises hours of fun for children and adults alike. Available in a huge array of different designs and styles, they make for a perfect souvenir of traditional Japan.
6. Koma (Spinning Tops)
Carved from wood and attached to a length of string, there’s a certain skill in learning how to properly throw and spin a koma. The perfect souvenir for anyone back home in need of a hobby.
Koinobori are carp-shaped streamers or flags that are traditionally flown to mark Kodomo No Hi (Children’s Day). From April to early-May, people in Japan get together to decorate these streamers which have come to be symbols of a bright future. Today, Koinobori are available all year round and are popular among foreign visitors as souvenirs.
8. Sensu (Folding Fans)
What could be a more traditional Japanese souvenir than a fan? As a tourist, you’ll see fans everywhere in a range of styles and for a range of prices. If you’re looking to splash out, head to a speciality shop where the better items will be made handmade using local fabric and wood.
9. Tenugui (Japanese Hand Towels)
Tenugui are traditional Japanese hand towels, typically made from cotton and measuring roughly 35 cm by 90 cm. Although to the casual observer they may seem like a random piece of cloth, these towels are steeped in history and are often highly prized. Available in all manner of styles, they make for a wonderful Japanese souvenir.
10. Japan Themed Keychains
Although a keychain may seem like a souvenir hurriedly picked up at the airport, the truth of the matter is that they can make for highly personal and very practical gifts. Unsurprisingly, Japan has a keychain to suit all purposes and trying to list them would be a Herculean task, though some of our favourites include the plastic sushi keychains you’ll see all over and those shaped like all the main tourist attractions.
A yukata is a casual summer kimono (traditional Japanese womenswear), a garment with all the grace and charm of its more famous cousin but with a fraction of the hassle. Yukata available to buy are commonly found in tourist areas like Asakusa in Tokyo or all over central Kyoto, with a typical set containing the yukata along with an obi (sash) and geta (shoes). Made from breathable fabric, they are extremely comfortable and timelessly stylish. A perfect souvenir, though not a particularly cheap one.
12. Toe Socks
Perhaps an odd choice for a souvenir but toe socks do sum up a certain aspect of Japanese youth culture pretty well. They are kawaii and endlessly personalizable; perfect for a cheap but fun souvenir for a lucky someone back home.
13. Kairo (Heat Packs)
Kairo are disposable Japanese heat packs which are typically stuck to one’s body to stay warm during the brutal Japanese winters. With the heat lasting for between 8 and 12 hours and costing just 400 yen for a 10 pack, they are a great novelty (yet practical) Japanese souvenir.
14. Hair Accessories and Jewellery
The ever style-conscious Japanese put a lot of time and effort into looking good. Consequently, stores abound dedicated to accessories and jewellery from the ultra-hip to the beautifully traditional. If you’re on a budget, head to one of the many 100 yen shops in the country and pick up a bargain.
15. Train Merchandise
Japan is a haven for appreciators of quality public transportation, especially those who love trains. Japan Rail (JR), the countries primary train operator, sells a great array of merchandise (think models, t-shirts, keychains) which is most easily picked up from one of the dedicated stores found in some of the major stations (Yokohama, Tokyo, Shinjuku). Additionally, you’ll also find train themed goodies in shops like the popular Village Vanguard chain and Tokyu Hands.
16. Japanese Kitchen Knives
The quality of Japanese kitchen knives is indisputable; chefs from all over the world making pilgrimages to Japan to bag themselves some of the finest knives money can buy. Even budding amateurs can treat themselves when in Japan, however. Good quality knives aren’t as expensive as you may think and there’s always bargains to be found. For the best chance of finding a good deal, head to Tokyo’s Kappabashi-dori; a whole street dedicated to kitchen goods and related paraphernalia.
17. Ceramic Products
Japan is also renowned for its ceramics. You’ll find examples all over the country, though for the best quality items be sure to head to a specialist store. Once you’ve picked up the ornament of your dreams, the only thing to worry about is how to get it home undamaged.
18. Neko (Cat) Goods
Japan is a good place to be a cat. Our feline friends are adored in the country, something obvious given the profusion of cat cafes and the volume of cat themed knick knacks you can pick up all over. If you’ve left your moggy back home, why not pick it up something for when you return.
19. Omamori (Japanese Charms)
Commonly sold at religious sites like temples and shrines, omamori are traditional Japanese charms that come in a variety of different styles and designs. Each omamori has a special purpose, some promising good fortune in business or love, others symbolising good health or success in exams. Choose yours wisely.
Chopsticks make for a perfect souvenir. Available all over in a vast array of styles and designs, you could spend hours shopping for chopsticks alone. As with knives, for the best range of chopsticks in Tokyo, head to Kappabashi-dori.
21. Japanese Stationary
Japan has a barely concealed obsession with stationary. As a result, pens, pencils, notebooks, postcards, stamps and everything else you could hope for are available all over in all manner of designs. Chain stores like Tokyu Hands and Don Quijote typically have some of the best selections.
22. Inkan/Hanko Stamp
Instead of using signatures, Japan uses inkan or hanko stamps to authenticate documents. An individual’s name (in Japanese) is carved onto the base of a small wooden cylinder which can then be repeatably coated in ink and stamped on paper. Often coming in ornate packaging, inkan and hanko are becoming increasingly popular as small, personal gifts. If you’re not sure how your name or the name of a loved one translates, don’t be afraid to ask someone once you arrive.
23. Fake Plastic Food
Fake plastic food outside of a restaurant is a common sight in Japan and can be very useful when no English menu is available. Besides practical use, this fake plastic food makes for a fun and unexpected gift. Good old Kappabashi-dori is the best place to find this stuff, though be warned, it can be a little more pricey than you might expect.
24. Vending Machine Goods
For a full guide to the exciting world of Japanese vending machines, take a look here.
Rest assured, whatever you’re after, you can probably pick it up from a vending machine somewhere in Japan.
25. Sake (Japanese Rice Wine)
Sake, the much-loved Japanese rice wine is another ideal gift. Sake can be found everywhere, although many specialist shops will let you have a little taster session before making your purchase. To find out more, take a look here.
26. Edo Tsumami Kanzashi
Edo Tsumami Kanzashi are traditional hair accessories made from thin pieces of silk woven into the shape of flowers or birds. These hair accessories remain popular in Japan and are often given as gifts as they are said to last a lifetime.
27. Kabuki Face Masks
Kabuki theatre is one of Japan’s most famous cultural products; a performance art with a rich history stretching back over 400 years. The masks used in Kabuki are widely available to buy as souvenirs and make great decorations.
28. TV and Character Merchandise
All of Japan’s major TV networks also have lines of merchandise dedicated to their most loved shows and characters. If you know a big anime fan, what could be a better gift? Fuji TV, the network of popular shows like Dragonball and the Moomins, has its headquarters on Odaiba in Tokyo where visitors can shop for all manner of merch.
Senjafuda are stickers or scraps of paper said to bring good fortune to whoever posts them. These popular charms can often be seen plastered all over gates at temples and shrines, where you can also find them to purchase. Often, senjafuda can be personalised to include the name of a loved one or specific wish.
Furoshiki is a piece of cloth traditionally used to wrap bento lunch boxes and gifts. The cloth, available in all kinds of patterns and designs, is now a popular gift, especially among foreign visitors to whom the concept is brand new.
Not a particular item but a store, Mamegui, found in the base of the Tokyo Skytree. A one stop shop for traditional Japanese souvenir items, find here many of the gift ideas listed above and a lot more besides.
32. Studio Ghibli Store
Another Tokyo Skytree store, this time dedicated to the fantastic world of Studio Ghibli. Donguri Kyouwakoku, as it is known, is where you’ll find all the plush Totoro toys and film memorabilia you could wish for.
33. Makanai Cosmetics
Makanai is a cosmetics brand which is increasingly considered one of Japan’s finest. Products such as hand cream, face oils and hair care items are all available and of infinitely high quality. The lovingly designed packaging also makes Makanai an ideal souvenir.
A gamaguchi is a type of clasped purse or pouch, sometimes said to resemble a ‘toads mouth’. Now somewhat retro, these small bags are increasingly popular among young people in Japan and can make for great souvenir items. Traditionally decorated with a floral pattern, gamaguchi are now available in any number of designs.
35. Japanese Dolls
Dolls figure largely in Japanese culture and are found everywhere from homes to shrines and temples. Figures representing all walks of life – from humble farmers to emperors and gods – are available to buy in stores across the nation. They can make for great gifts if you’re looking for an authentic slice of Japanese culture to take home with you.
36. Daruma Dolls
Daruma are traditional Japanese dolls, usually red, rounded and depicting fearsome looking men. They symbolise perseverance and good fortune. When bought, the eyes of the doll are left blank. One eye is intended to be filled in when the owner sets theselves a goal, the other when the goal is complete. Another great little traditional Japanese souvenir.
37. Wagasa (Oil-Paper Umbrellas)
Originating in China, wagasa, or oil-paper umbrellas, have become another enduring symbol of traditional Japanese culture. A common sight at weddings and festivals as well as souvenir stores, they make for great gifts. Just don’t try and use them in the rain.
38. Furin (Wind Chimes)
A furin is a Japanese wind chime often found hung outside of homes and businesses. Buy one to take home and each time the chime gently rings you’ll be reminded of your Japan adventure.
The art of Japanese calligraphy is an ancient one and as any novice who has attempted to write Japanese will tell you, it is an art requiring great skill. Pick up a calligraphy set or prewritten scroll to take home and cherish (even if you can’t understand exactly what it says).
40. Tatami Mats
A common feature of traditional Japanese homes, tatami mats are used as cushioned flooring in place of carpet or wood. Typically made of straw and with a unique smell, they can be a great addition to any home. Because of their size, the best option for getting a tatami mat home would be to have it delivered especially.
41. Medal Coins
Medal coins can be found at all of Japan’s major tourist spots. These small metallic coins inscribed with place-specific designs are highly collectable and a lot of fun, especially for kids. Once you start collecting you won’t be able to stop. Find them dispensed from special machines in and around tourist sites.
42. Japanese Cosmetics
Japanese drugstores are some people’s idea of heaven. Stocking many Japan-only cosmetics and international brands at discount prices, they have taken on almost cult status among beauty fans abroad. If you have a cosmetics junky in your family, stop by a drugstore and pick them something up. You’ll find a drugstore on almost every major shopping street, so this shouldn’t be too difficult.
43. Japanese Face Masks
One product that is particularly sought after among beauty fans are Japanese face masks. We’re not sure of the science, but many people swear by them for a soft and supple face. Pick them up for prices starting as low as a few hundred yen at any drugstore.
44. Free Tissues
A good souvenir choice for those running out of cash: free tissues. Tissues are commonly handed out on busy Japanese streets or train stations as a marketing strategy for many different companies. Spend an afternoon walking around central Tokyo and you’ll soon have a bag full of totally free souvenirs to take home.