Thursday, May 10, 2007


Since I've been in Japan for quite some time, I haven't bought or sent any souvenirs home for quite some time. When I first got here, I frequently visited a very nice local souvenir shop and picked up items which I'd send home to my family. In particular, I used to send along a figure for each New Year's representative animal in the Chinese zodiac.

After awhile, it seemed the novelty of such items wore off and my mother's sight began to worsen (she has retinitis pigmentosa) and she couldn't really enjoy the little things I sent. I could have offered some olfactory, auditory (wind chimes) or gustatory delights instead but the first two were not something my father would allow in his presence and the last something which is of very dubious value. I'm pretty sure my mother would much rather I sent her a box of chocolate pecan turtles from See's than a box of bean cakes.

My husband's family is also pretty well covered on the souvenir front. His brother goes home every year and has been taking home a variety of items for everyone, particularly his young nephews. So, it's been quite awhile since I've gone souvenir shopping.

My mother e-mailed me about a week or so ago and asked me to buy some uniquely Japanese things as gifts for a woman who helps her through social assistance for the blind. She didn't actually give me any clue about what this woman might like to have or what her character is like. The only thing I know is that she is middle-aged and has three daughters from age 6 to about 15 and she's unlikely to fit into Japanese women's size clothing. I also decided that any type of plates or dinnerware were ruled out because of the high likelihood of breaking and the relatively smallish size of Japanese plates, bowls and cups.

The local souvenir shop (on Pearl Road in Asagaya) has some really nice items which are well-made but relatively expensive. Given the uncertainty I feel about what I should buy, I decided to opt for buying a plethora of lower-priced items at the Daiso shop rather than one or two choice items from the nicer place. Most of the things pictured above are 100 yen each (except the prince and princess figures which were 315 yen).

The only type of items pictured above that I'd sent to friends back home before were a fan (a considerably more expensive one) and the cup and ball toy which I sent a very long time ago to a friend for his step-son. Apparently, the cup and ball was a big hit so I'm hoping this woman's youngest daughter will like it (and not injure herself swinging it around).

To be honest, I'm so far removed now from how a tourist might regard Japan that I have no idea what types of things they might enjoy so I picked up the things that looked the cutest. I did notice that there were a great many souvenirs and that all of them have bi-lingual tags or labels on them so they are clearly meant for foreign friends to receive as souvenirs despite being sold in a decidedly non-tourist/souvenir type of shop. I also noted, ironically, that many of the "Japanese" souvenirs were made in China. ;-)


Roy said...

I know exactly what you mean.

After living here for so long I too have no idea what kind of typical Japanese souvenir would be nice. Instead of trinkets and the like I have been buying things like bath salts, health products and useful things that aren't really that expensive but may provide some fun for friends. I bought my mom some salt toothpaste and she loved it. Now I have to send it back every so often. Also things like Japanese condoms (for the novelty not the quality) are appreciated, although I'm not recommending that for your mother ;-)

terrance said...

You know, if these kids are from California, anime is getting pretty big. Mostly the big name ones, naruto, yugi-oh, pokemon.

Mayhaps, the kids would like little anime toys? It's a gamble though, they might actually have no idea what it is. =P

Shari said...

Roy: I'd considered "useful" products but, I figure my mother is sufficiently fussy that she wouldn't be too open-minded. Also, she wears dentures. ;-) I do send my sister Japanese chocolate but mainly for the novelty value of the names. Always a pleasure, Roy. :-)

Terrance: Hi, and thanks for your comment. These kids are in Pennsylvania and, unfortunately, I know nothing about their interests but people in rural western PA have little exposure to Japanese programming (to my knowledge). However, it is a good suggestion and I might see if I can pick up something small with the daughter in mind.

Helping said...

There certainly are a few doubtful souvenirs around which you can find all over Japan. Some of them make great gifts, however if you were giving them as a souvenir I would recommend:
- Those drums found in the karate kid
- recently drink holders or stubby holders (because they fold up, are light, don`t break and last a long time). Every time I`m at a BBQ and I bring out one of my Japanese Stubby Holders people always ask me where I got it from. It`s a nice conversation starter, however once someone gets me going on Japan its hard to stop.
- Also postcards and magnets are quite good too as they are light and small.
I found some of these things from who are great at getting things delivered to you, if you aren`t able to get to a shop in time.