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Ichigo Daifuku | Japanese Omiyage

Guide to Japanese Omiyage

By Lauren Sodabanh and Zerah Mathai | Updated January 19, 2021

This article is a subsection of our guide to life in Tokyo. Please visit our page if you are interested to know more about Japanese customs and culture in Japan. 

Are you going to Japan or visiting some region in Japan and need a souvenir? Meeting your Japanese host family, or need a gift for someone who is Japanese? The norm behind gift-giving in Japan is called Omiyage (おみやげ). Omiyage which directly translates to souvenir, is a widely practiced custom in Japanese culture between people of all ages. If you’re going into any tourist shop in Japan you’ll surely find beautifully packaged snacks in a big box; these are omiyage! 

So when are you supposed to give omiyage and to whom? We created an extensive guide that informs you about everything there is to know about Japanese Omiyage and the customs and mannerisms behind giving these gifts to Japanese people. You’ll find some of the most popular omiyage gifts, popular places to buy omiyage, etiquette tips, and more! 

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    General Overview of Japanese Omiyage

    Melons | Japanese Omiyage

    What is Japanese omiyage?

    Omiyage (おみやげ) or (お土産) is the act of giving gifts to your Japanese friends, coworkers or family when visiting a place. Although it directly translates to souvenir, omiyage has some slight differences that we’ll mention later. 

     

    When breaking down the word in Kanji, it’s literal meaning is..

     

    土 – "earth" or "local" (pronounced tsuchi つち or do ど)

    産 – "product" or "delivery" (pronounced san さん)

     

    This is a common and important practice in Japanese culture where it’s a formality of people who are going on a trip to return with omiyage for Japanese people back at home. The gift is often associated with the place that you visited.

     

    For example, if you went to Fukuoka Japan, you might bring back membei which is mentaiko flavored senbei that is special since Fukuoka is well known for their mentaiko. Or if you’re getting a gift related to where you’re from, a t-shirt or hat with the name of your city or town would be considered omiyage. 

     

    Omiyage has no specific limits in terms of budgets, types, or amounts. However, there is a lot of planning and consideration that goes into giving gifts to others back at home.

    Thankfully, you’ll find a lot of omiyage at tourist shops which saves you the time it takes to find the perfect little gifts for friends or family. Often, in omiyage shops, you’ll find a huge variety of local items like snacks, knick-knacks, toys, or art pieces that are produced in the town or area. 

    Difference between souvenir and Japanese omiyage

    While Google translate directly translates omiyage to souvenir, there is a difference between the concept of the two. 

     

    Many people buy souvenirs as a physical object that reminds them of the place they’ve visited and can be kept for themselves or given to others. However, omiyage is typically a food item that is given to others like coworkers, friends or family.

     

    Souvenirs are often keychains, t-shirts or any kinds of knick knacks with the name of the place that you have visited. Whereas, omiyage is typically small food items that are individually packaged that is made by the locals of that area and is typically an item that is known for in that area.  

     

    What makes Japanese omiyage special?

    Omiyage is a very important practice or custom in Japanese culture. In any area of Japan, you are sure to find an omiyage store or any tourist store carrying omiyage goods to bring back home with you. 

     

    This custom has been embedded in Japanese culture for centuries and has become normalized whenever someone close to you is visiting another place. One of the reasons that omiyage has been an on-going tradition is because it allows the sharing of regional goods that a certain place specializes in. Since many regions have different takes on flavor and food, other people are able to appreciate and try out a product specific to that region. 

     

    A great example of a region and a specialty good in Japan is Yamanashi which is known for Shingen mochi. Shingen mochi is also known as a ‘raindrop cake’ which is a transparent ball of mochi made out of agar and water. It is typically eaten with soy sauce and is well known in Yamanashi. 

     

    Origin of Japanese omiyage

    The origin of omiyage giving is unclear but has been known to first start from pilgrims taking sacred trips on foot. When pilgrims traveled, they had to bring back some sort of proof of their trip, and so this act gave birth to the act of gift-giving that is still present in Japanese culture today. 

     

    These items were at first non-perishable items due to the long journey back which spanned weeks long. However, now that travel is less on foot and more reliant on transportation systems, food and snack items have been the most popular form of omiyage.  

    How to Japanese Omiyage

    How to Omiyage | Japanese Omiyage

    Step 1: Make an omiyage list for everyone you are shopping for

    One common mistake people make is not having enough omiyage to give around. I have seen friends panic about what to do about the people you cannot give to and purchase something random nearby last minute. To avoid this, make a list! 

     

    Making a list beforehand saves you from thinking about who you have left to get gifts for on the top of your head. When you have multiple coworkers, to friends and family, to get gifts for, a couple will definitely be missed without a list! Simply writing a list, or getting a number of people to buy gifts for will make the buying process a lot easier. 

     

    Once you have this list or number of people that you want to get gifts for, it’s much easier to buy packages of individually wrapped omiyage to give out to people. Some omiyage may come in boxes of individually wrapped goods which makes the buying process a lot easier if you’re trying to get omiyage for everyone. You could save yourself from wasting more money on extra omiyage that won’t be given out. 

     

    Making a list of the people that you want to get special things will save you SO much time at the store! If you individually list the people that you’re planning to get special things for, you’ll have the assurance that these people are already checked off your list and not forgotten. We want to avoid the worst-case scenario which is leaving the place you’re visiting without a gift for someone close to you! 

    Step 2: What to buy

    Doing a little bit of research beforehand on the area or place you’re visiting will save you lots of time trying to find a meaningful omiyage! When visiting a place try finding what that area specializes in and try getting food items that can’t be found elsewhere. 

     

    Most shops will have individually packaged goods at the omiyage store which saves you time from doing this research. But, if you’re looking for a specific type of thing that the place is known for, this can help you find the shops that have these goods that you’re looking for. 

     

    Some people close to you may make requests when it comes to their omiyage that they’re receiving. Depending on whether you have time or if they’re important to you, you may have to do extra research beforehand on which shops sell what they’re requesting. Organizing your list beforehand to list out people, items, and where it can be bought will save you from going to multiple stores trying to find something someone requested. 

    Step 3: Plan the whole experience

    Making sure you have the luggage space is very important if you’re bringing back omiyage for people at home! It would be a disaster if you had to empty out your luggage at the airport because it was overweight or if you opened your luggage and everything was broken. Making sure that you have enough space in your luggage is often dismissed but very important if this unfortunate situation happens to you!

     

    Also, definitely plan to shop for omiyage at least for half a day. Depending on the number of people you have on your list of gifts to buy for, it is definitely important to make sure you have an omiyage for everyone.

     

    Also, depending on how many people are requesting certain items, you should account for the extra time it may take to find these items! Some stores may not carry everything you’re looking for, so planning out half a day can save you from the stress of a time crunch when looking for a certain gift. 

    Step 4: Budget well so no one is left out

    Good news! Expensive omiyage is not common. Omiyage is meant to be a small, inexpensive snack item that is given to multiple people. 

     

    If you’re on a tight budget definitely make sure to budget well so that everyone is able to receive an omiyage. The recipient will care less about whether it was expensive or not and more about whether they were thought about when getting an omiyage from you. 

     

    It is also very understandable if you’re on a budget! You’re traveling and so you have to expend more money than you’re used to. Don’t be afraid to give little snacks to people! Anyone would appreciate getting a gift, no matter the price. 

    Step 5: Present your gift

    So you come back from your trip and go back to work or back to your family, this is your moment! Here are some things to note before giving omiyage to your family, friends, or coworkers. 

     

    Make sure your omiyage is individually wrapped! I’m only saying this for sanitary reasons and for presentation when showing your coworkers or friends what you came back with. Family might be a different situation if you bought a large food item that is shareable.

     

    The same goes with the workplace, if you have a shareable omiyage for the office, it’s best that the whole package is wrapped to make it look presentable! 

     

    Be ready for multiple reactions, or no reaction at all! People will definitely thank you for the time and effort you put into buying the gift. While some may open their omiyage and try it in front of you to show their gratitude, others may save it for when they’re at home and like to appreciate the packaging. 

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    Best Places to Find Japanese Omiyage

    Japanese Omiyage is everywhere in Japan! You are able to find omiyage in many department stores, 100-yen stores, train stations, or any place with tourists. Even if you’re purposely not looking for it, you are bound to come across some beautifully packaged snack or item in any store you go to. 

     

    Depending on who you’re giving an omiyage to, whether it’s a coworker, friend, or family member, snacks are always a go-to omiyage! To help you in your search for the perfect Japanese omiyage, we’ll provide you with the best list of places to visit for Japanese omiyage in general shops, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

    Temple grounds | Japanese Omiyage

    General Places for Japanese Omiyage

    • Train Stations 
    • Temples
    • Airports 
    • 100-Yen Shops 
    • Tourist Areas 
    • Main Streets 
    • Drugstores

    Japanese Omiyage in Tokyo

    Tokyo is the heart of Japan and is one of the world’s greatest cities. Home to the 2021 Olympics, Tokyo is constantly bustling with not only Japanese people but also millions of tourists exploring and roaming the streets. With amazing Japanese foods, temples, and easy access to transportation, Tokyo is typically the first and only stop for tourists when exploring Japan.

    1. Nakamise Street, Asakusa

    Nakamise Street in Asakusa is one of the busiest shopping streets connected to the main gate of Sensoji Temple which is one of the most visited temples in Japan. If you already have Sensoji Temple on your itinerary then you’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone. Nakamise Street is filled with tons of Japanese omiyage gift shops as it caters to the tourists of Tokyo. 

     

    If you plan to visit Nakamise Street, you’ll see a lot of shops selling snacks, traditional gifts, and accessories which are all perfect Japanese omiyage gifts. However, I do recommend buying omamori from one of the vendors here!

     

    Omamori is a beautiful amulet, meant for various forms of protection, which are sold only at the temples you plan to visit. There are a lot of different styles for omamori, I definitely recommend checking out a store with them if you go! 

    2. Oriental Bazaar

    The Oriental Bazaar is a popular one-stop Japanese omiyage shopping center located in Harajuku, where you can buy a variety of Japanese omiyage relating to authentic Japanese culture.

     

    Here you can find a lot of different antiques like kimonos, ceramics, fans, accessories, and more! The prices here are very budget-friendly and I definitely suggest coming here if you’re looking for a unique gift for someone on your list. 

    3. Daiso

    Daiso is a well-known 100-yen store chain all throughout Japan and worldwide. Despite everything being 100 yen, the quality of the items is very high in comparison to many dollar stores in the US. At any Daiso, you can find a wide array of Japanese goods like snacks, stationery, cosmetics, clothes, household items, and more! 

     

    You can find almost anything at a Daiso. Therefore, this will be a great Japanese omiyage one-stop-shop for you if you’re on a budget and have a lot of people to get gifts for.

     

    If you’re looking for gifts to give to family or friends back in your home country, I definitely recommend going to a Daiso and getting Japanese snacks here. The price at a Daiso is much better than at any convenient store, and at least you can search for non-food items to give as Japanese omiyage gifts as well!

    4. Matsumoto Kiyoshi

    Matsumoto Kiyoshi is a well-known drugstore all throughout Japan. They are known for their extensive selection of affordable Japanese cosmetics like makeup and skincare products. The cosmetics here are not only affordable but of great quality as well! 

     

    If you have people on your list who are interested in cosmetics, I definitely recommend going to Matsumoto Kiyoshi! Japanese skincare and cosmetics are very good quality and it is fun for makeup enthusiasts to play with makeup from other countries! Who knows, your omiyage gift might end up their holy grail product. 

    5. Tokyu Hands

    Tokyu Hands is a popular retail store that sells a wide range of Japanese stationery and household goods! This store offers a range of nice magnets, notebooks, stickers, or pens that would make any stationery enthusiast super excited! 

     

    There are multiple stores all throughout Japan. There is one in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and one right at Tokyo Station! I definitely recommend going here if you have someone on your list who is looking for stationery or simple non-food item Japanese omiyage gifts.

    Beautiful Japanese Temple

    Japanese Omiyage in Kyoto

    Kyoto is one of Japan’s most famous cities as it is well known for its historic sites and beautiful landscape. It’s a huge contrast from modern-day Tokyo as Kyoto has a more traditional feel with its temples, buildings, foods, and streets. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, Kyoto is a must!

    1. Shinkyogoku Shopping Street

    Shinkyogoku Shopping Street is a very popular street for local foods, souvenir shops, and fashion of different price ranges! You can also find the Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcade which is a frequently visited arcade with specialty stores selling tons of omiyage! You can find anything from clothes to baked goods. 

     

    If you stop by this street, stop by Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcade for London-Yaki! London-Yaki is a castella sponge cake filled with white bean paste that is only sold at this location. Watching them make the cakes in person is pretty entertaining as you wait for fresh London-Yaki to take home with you. Most of these are individually wrapped which makes them much easier to take home with you!

    2. Kyoto Handicraft Center

    Kyoto Handicraft Center is a shopping center dedicated to traditional handmade items like swords, prints, and pottery. This is a convenient one-stop souvenir shopping destination for those who are looking for Japanese omiyage in Kyoto. Definitely check this out if you’re trying to buy handmade crafted pieces as Japanese omiyage gifts! 

     

    You’ll find all of the Japanese omiyage on the 3rd floor of Kyoto Handicraft Center filled with tons of Japanese omiyage shops! Here you can find things like folding screens, incense, woodblock prints, kokeshi dolls, and more!

    3. Crochet

    Crochet is a popular candy shop located in Kyoto that specializes in a traditional Kyoto candy called kyo-ame. Kyo-ame is a handcrafted candy shaped into a ball. You can typically find them all over Kyoto in beautifully wrapped packaging and vibrant colors. 

     

    Crochet offers 21 different versions of Kyo-ame and is definitely a must-try if you are in Kyoto! They have a variety of flavors ranging from sakura to simple flavors like strawberry. From kids to adults, this would be a great Japanese omiyage gift to bring home with you!

    4. Teramachi Kyogoku Shopping Arcade

    Teramachi Kyogoku Shopping Arcade is located in the main tourist district called Teramachi Street Shopping District. This arcade is lined up with tons of different omiyage shops and restaurants nearby. I definitely recommend this spot if you’re looking for a one-stop entertainment and shopping area! You will definitely be able to kill more than 2 birds with one stone at this arcade.

    5. Mangetsu

    One of Kyoto’s popular sweet stores, Mangetsu has an array of baked goods that are perfect for omiyage gift giving! Mangetsu offers a lot of baked goods like mochi, sweet buns, or bread that contain ingredients specialized only in Kyoto! 

     

    If you plan to visit Mangetsu, I suggest getting ajari mochi. Ajari mochi is a type of mochi with a soft outer layer and a sweet red bean paste filling. I definitely recommend coming here if you’re looking for traditional Japanese sweets! 

     

    Osaka Castle | Japanese Omiyage

    Japanese Omiyage in Osaka

    Osaka is a region of Japan, only a half-hour train ride from Kyoto, which is known for its busy Dotonbori street filled with tourists of Japan and all over the world. This city is a must-see destination for lovers of Japanese food since Osaka is well known for its takoyaki (fried octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savory pancake), and kushikatsu (deep fried skewered meat and vegetables). 

    1. Osaka Castle

    One of Japan’s most famous landmarks, Osaka Castle is a beautiful tourist area, surrounded by cherry blossom trees, with some of the best shops for Japanese omiyage nearby. Definitely check this spot out if you haven’t added this to your itinerary. Just outside of the castle grounds you will be able to find a line of shops with both food or non-food Japanese omiyage items. 

     

    On the grounds just outside of Osaka Castle, you’ll be able to find lots of ninja and samurai related goods! You will be overwhelmed with the number of swords and ninja swords you can find at these little shops nearby.

     

    There are a lot of different sizes and styles for each item and the prices vary as well! If you have someone who is into samurai or ninja culture I definitely suggest stopping by Osaka Castle to check these Japanese omiyage gifts out.

    2. Dotonbori Street

    Known as the most famous street in Osaka with neon lights and shops filled with tourists on every corner. If you haven’t gone to this street yet, this is definitely a must-visit! You will find a variety of different omiyage shops here, from sweets to packaged savory snacks, you are sure to find a gift for anyone on your list. 

     

    On Dotonbori street, you can find Kuidaore Taro Pudding which is a very popular omiyage gift only found in Osaka. This pudding is found in Nakaza Kuidaore and goes for about 1,150 Yen for 3 puddings! The packaging is very cute since it comes with little small hats on the puddings. Check this Japanese omiyage out if you’re buying for someone younger or who loves pudding! 

    3. Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street

    Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street is another popular tourist destination in Osaka which is known to be dedicated to selling house-related goods, kitchenware, pottery, and tools. If someone on your list is into any of these household related items, I definitely recommend going to this street to bring back some cool Osaka related household items as a Japanese omiyage!

    4. Rikuro Ojisan’s Cheesecake

    Rikuro Ojisan’s Cheesecake is a staple of Osaka Japanese omiyage. The bakery chain is only located in Osaka and is very well known all throughout Japan! There is often a long wait for the cheesecake but it is definitely worth it.

     

    These cheesecakes are found near major train stations in Osaka like Hankyu Umeda Station or JR Shin-Osaka Station. If you have someone on your Japanese omiyage list who loves desserts or jiggly cakes, I suggest checking this shop out!

    5. Takashimaya

    Takashimaya is a very well-known department store in Osaka which also has locations in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nagoya. Here, you can find many different omiyage gifts, more on the high price range. 

     

    A great Japanese omiyage gift you can get from Takashimaya is Pocky made by Baton d’or La Recolte. This is another edition to the pocky family where the pocky is more luxurious and in beautiful packaging in comparison to the normal pocky flavor packaging like green tea, strawberry and chocolate.

     

    Each box comes with only 8 sticks, as opposed to the 20-40 sticks that are normally in a Pocky box. And each box of Baton d’or Recolte Pocky retails for about 1,051 for one box! If you’re looking for a more luxurious but not too expensive gift, definitely grab a box of these in Osaka!

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    Most Popular Japanese Omiyage to Give in Japan

    With so many different options to choose from, choosing a Japanese omiyage can be very difficult, especially when you are trying to get a lot of gifts for people close to you. It can be very confusing whether a certain gift can be considered omiyage since there is a lot of different etiquettes when gifting an omiyage to a person. 

     

    Therefore, we'll help you clear the confusion and list some of  the most popular omiyage to give in Japan. Many Japanese people will often ask for these Japanese omiyage and so it helps by understanding what someone likes and avoids that careful consideration for a gift. Some of the Japanese omiyage listed here comes from different regions of Japan, so be on the lookout for that! 

    Omiyage | Japanese Omiyage

    General Food/Snacks

    The best omiyage gifts are often non-perishable food items, such as chocolate-covered macadamia nuts or foreign-flavored potato chips. To be specific, regional food specialties technically make the best omiyage.

     

    It is important that the omiyage you choose includes items grown or manufactured in the place you visited. However, it is not difficult to find food that would be the best omiyage. Shelves in Japan are stacked with a vast array of sweets and snacks, all of which make perfect Japanese souvenirs.

     

    Each region and prefecture of Japan takes pride in their very own unique snacks and sweet treats. These can be found at any shop or stall in these areas. Wherever you are, it will not take long to discover and find an area’s specialty.

     

    Conveniently, many of these snacks and sweets can also be picked up in major Japanese airports. Japanese food, especially sweets and snacks, get excellent reviews for being affordable as well as high quality. You can buy them at convenience stores and supermarkets in the area you visit to bring back home.

    Shiroi Koibito (Hokkaido)

    In Hokkaido, Shiroi Koibito is the region’s most popular omiyage. It has attained almost mythical status among Hokkaido’s visitors. Shiroi Koibito is a simple, European-style sweet consisting of white or milk chocolate sandwiched between two buttery cookies. The snack is produced by the Ishiya Company in Sapporo and is normally only sold in Hokkaido or in limited shops across Japan.

     

    The package design has a white and light blue base with a picture of Rishiri Island's Mount Rishiri arranged in the center. Most Japanese people, or at least those in East Japan, can recognize Shiroi Koibito with this package.

     

    The love for Shiroi Koibito goes well beyond just the snack; the celebrated cookie even has its own theme park in Hokkaido. It is easier to understand its popularity after trying some of it. This sweet is available at major souvenir shops in tourist spots across Hokkaido and some variations in size are offered from nine to fifty-four pieces per package depending on how many you may need for your omiyage. 

     

    Chinsuko (Okinawa)

    Chinsuko is a traditional and very popular sweet made in Okinawa since the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It is a small biscuit made of mostly lard and flour, with a mild and sweet flavor similar to shortbread.

     

    The name chinsuko can be translated as an "expensive, rare, or precious confectionary," originating Japanese history in which only royalty and aristocrats of the Ryukyu Kingdom enjoyed it.

     

    However, nowadays, it is enjoyed by virtually everybody. It is a local favorite that can be found in practically every omiyage shop and convenience store in the Okinawa area. It is widely popular with both children and adults, in the area and tourists.

     

    Chinsuko comes in a variety of flavors such as matcha, black sesame seed, brown sugar, chocolate, and, most recently, Okinawan sea salt. It is normally eaten with tea or coffee or used as a heavenly ice cream topping.

     

    Chinsuko comes packaged in pairs, with normal-sized packages containing either eighteen or twenty-four packets. It is also reasonably-priced, only 1080 yen for 18 packets in most Japanese shops. 

    Hagi Ware (Yamaguchi)

    Hagi ware is a type of Japanese pottery traditionally originated from the town of Hagi, Yamaguchi, in the former Nagato Province. The subtle form and natural, subdued colors of Hagi ware are highly regarded. Specifically, the beautiful contrast between the bright green color of matcha and the warm neutral tones of Hagi ware is aesthetically notable when drinking green tea from it.

     

    The beauty of the pottery is appreciated not only for its earthy colors but also for the glaze. The translucent beige glaze is to draw out the natural, deep colors of the clay. There are fine cracks on the surface called a craze that gets to look more mature as you use it, and the color of the bowl gets more intense.

     

    There are a lot of Hagi ware vessels with simple designs, so it is a recommended souvenir that everyone can use for a daily basis. Though its designs are simple and unique, the pottery is not hard to find. Hagi has many pottery stores and workshops. As a result, there are many places and items to choose from when shopping for your omiyage. 

     

    This gift is on the pricier side of omiyage options. However, it would be a gift that would be used and appreciated for its worth. 

    Senbei

    Senbei are crispy rice crackers from Japan, coming in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and flavors. Soy sauce-flavored senbei was the first one to be popularized, but later, other varieties of senbei were invented.

     

    Traditional types of senbei include sweet senbei and rice candy senbei (savory). Rice-based senbei can be either baked or fried. Baked senbei include flavors such as salted, soy sauce, chili pepper, and sarame, characterized by a coating of granulated sugar. Fried senbei are most often flavored with a combination of soy sauce and sugar. Today, senbei are traditionally served alongside green tea and consumed as a snack.

     

    Because senbei is not specific to a particular region in Japan, it can be found at any rice cracker shop across the country in a variety of tastes and flavors. They are typically sold in small, bite-sized packages.

     

    Common flavors of senbei are often sold at cheap prices, around 50 yen per piece. However, if you decide to choose a much fancier flavor for your omiyage, you should expect the price of the piece to reflect that.

     

    Omiyage to Buy From Overseas to Give to Japanese

    If you’re going to Japan from a different country, it will probably be a lot more difficult for you to find a suitable omiyage gift for your coworkers, friends, family, or host family. While other countries may not have specialty stores that sell omiyage, don’t let this discourage your search for a suitable gift to give to people. 

     

    Remember that omiyage is often inexpensive items that represent the place you’re coming from or the place you’re visiting. While each country can be different, here is a list of good and bad omiyage gift examples to steer you in the right direction as you’re trying to find an omiyage to bring to Japan.

    Chips | Japanese Omiyage

    Good Omiyage Ideas From Overseas

    Think of the items that best represent your home country or the place you’re visiting. If you’re coming from Canada, maple syrup would be an awesome omiyage present! Or if you’re coming from Australia, a kangaroo stuffed toy would be a perfect omiyage gift for your host siblings or younger recipients. 

     

    Japanese people often appreciate small food items as typical omiyage gifts since they’re not too expensive or inexpensive. Small snacks are also an amazing way to experience your country’s food and flavors that are unique to Japan! Here is a simple bullet list of general items that would make great omiyage gifts…

     

    • Candy Bars made in your country (KitKats, Godiva, Ferrero Rocher) 
    • Unique chip flavors and brands 
    • Hats 
    • Biscuits/Cookies
    • Unique tea/ coffee flavors
    • Native dried fruits 

     

    These gifts are most likely not going to be individually wrapped. I definitely recommend finding some wrapping paper or bag to individually wrap these goodies in. Part of the joy in receiving these gifts is being able to enjoy the wrapping and presentation of the gift itself. By putting in the extra effort, the people receiving the omiyage will definitely feel special! 

    Omiyage From Overseas to Avoid

    Some omiyage gifts are a little overplayed and while they will definitely be appreciated and accepted, some Japanese people will not be able to actually eat or use them. Depending on the recipient, some may be burdened by an expensive omiyage. Japanese people will feel this burden as they feel that they are obligated to give you something back of the same value. Try to stay away from expensive items! 

     

    Another thing to avoid when giving omiyage, are homemade goods, or Japanese food items that they can easily get in their area. While homemade goods are definitely appreciated, don’t try to give mom’s best chocolate cake as an omiyage. It is best to buy it from your home country, wrap it, and present it as an omiyage. 

     

    Also, don’t try to give something that is easily attainable in the recipient's area. Omiyage is something that you bring from the place you came from and so this will look as if you forgot and tried to buy something on the spot! Try avoiding this situation. 

     

    Here are some omiyage gifts to avoid giving out to Japanese people…. 

     

    • Licorice 
    • Alcohol 
    • Clothing (unless you know their sizes) 

     

    Basically, snacks, where they do not have an equivalent in Japan or something similar, is usually a miss like Licorice

    Japanese Omiyage Etiquette

    Didn't realize that omiyage isn't just a souvenir or gift? There's a lot of different intricate rules to giving a good Japanese omiyage to someone. You don't want to make them feel uncomfortable or bothered by your gift. Especially when you're not familiar with the culture behind it, take the opportunity now to learn more about proper Japanese omiyage gift giving! 

     

    We have compiled a couple of tips and essential etiquette formalities when giving a Japanese person an omiyage. Follow these important etiquette tips and you will be on the right path for giving your omiyage out! 

    Wrapped Omiyage | Japanese Omiyage

    The best omiyage is food!

    Think of the items that best represent your home country or the place you’re visiting. If you’re coming from Canada, maple syrup would be an awesome omiyage present! Or if you’re coming from Australia, a kangaroo stuffed toy would be a perfect omiyage gift for your host siblings or younger recipients. 

     

    Japanese people often appreciate small food items as typical omiyage gifts since they’re not too expensive or inexpensive. Small snacks are also an amazing way to experience your country’s food and flavors that are unique to Japan! Here is a simple bullet list of general items that would make great omiyage gifts…

     

    • Candy Bars made in your country (KitKats, Godiva, Ferrero Rocher) 
    • Unique chip flavors and brands 
    • Hats 
    • Biscuits/Cookies
    • Unique tea/ coffee flavors
    • Native dried fruits 

     

    These gifts are most likely not going to be individually wrapped. I definitely recommend finding some wrapping paper or bag to individually wrap these goodies in. Part of the joy in receiving these gifts is being able to enjoy the wrapping and presentation of the gift itself. By putting in the extra effort, the people receiving the omiyage will definitely feel special! 

    The wrapping is as important as the Japanese omiyage itself

    You may have noticed how omiyage packaging is famous for being gorgeously wrapped and beautiful. One part of the omiyage and gift-giving culture of Japan is the presentation of the gift.

     

    As a result, attractive and neat wrapping is incredibly important for any omiyage gift. If you are buying your omiyage in a Japanese shop, the retail workers will wrap your gifts for free. They will wrap it nicely with paper and ribbon and put it in a store bag.

     

    When you are bringing omiyage from your home or another country, you will have to wrap the gift yourself. However, if you are not as crafty or good with wrapping gifts, you can pack your omiyage in a little gift bag with some pretty tissue paper to spruce it up.

     

    To make sure that the presentation remains clean and attractive, we suggest you wrap or bag your omiyage after unpacking it from your suitcase. This way, the omiyage in gift bags will not get squished in your suitcase and come out looking sloppy and disheveled. 

     

    It is also important to keep in mind that colors have a lot of meaning and are something to be aware and cautious of. For example, red is used on tombstones and funeral notices, thus you would not want to use them as Christmas cards to friends and family.

     

    Black can mean death or bad luck as well so it is best to avoid this color too. White can mean holiness so it is normally best to use this color for baby showers and weddings. The best colors to use for omiyage wrappings are green and purple. The color green means eternity and good luck, which makes it perfect for all occasions. Purple is a wonderful color as well as it can mean celebrations and decadence., making it a good color for festivals and holidays.

    Homemade goods are bad!!

    When picking out an omiyage for people you would like to give a gift to, it is best to avoid homemade goods. Such goods include treats that you have baked or scarves that you have knitted yourself.

     

    The only time it is acceptable to give a homemade omiyage is if you are giving it to a very close family member or friend. The general rule is that if you do not know the person you are giving an omiyage to very well, it is better to not bring anything homemade.

     

    While this may seem like a random rule or custom, there is an explanation behind it. It is important to remember that presenting homemade goods as omiyage actually defeats the purpose of the whole process. Omiyage are supposed to be small, individually-wrapped gifts that take a lot of time and consideration to pick and can be given to everyone.

     

    By opting for a homemade good, you are giving the gift receiver the impression that you took the cheaper route in the omiyage process, which will leave a bad taste in their mouth. That is why it is best to avoid homemade goods. There are many Japanese shops that have a wonderful array of omiyage gifts which could be beautifully wrapped in the store itself so it would for the best to stick to those. 

     

    Respectful Behavior

    Another important factor of the omiyage gift-giving process is how you give the gift to the omiyage receiver. The correct etiquette is to present the omiyage by holding the gift with both hands when giving it to them to show respect. While this should be done with all gift-receivers, this is especially true for your boss or someone older than you. It is the most respectful way to present an omiyage. 

     

    It is considered rude to present only one person in a large group with a gift. As a result, it is important to make sure that you have enough gifts for everyone if you are giving omiyage in the workplace. Also, do not expect or pressure the people receiving your omiyage to open the gift at that moment or in front of you. Most Japanese people wait until they are alone at home to open their gifts, in case their reaction is not satisfactory. 

     

    When you are giving a gift to a close friend or family member of yours, however, most of these rules do not apply. Because of your close relationship, it is a much more casual affair. Thus, while you should still put in some work and effort to get your close friends and family omiyage, do not stress about every single detail. 

    Beware of fours and nines

    Though it is not as common of a superstition nowadays, giving four or nine of anything is considered very unlucky. In Japanese, the pronunciation of the number four is the same as “death”. Four (四) and death (死) are both pronounced as shi. For the number nine, the pronunciation of the number is the same as bitter or suffering and pain. The number nine in Japanese is read as ku (九). Ku written as 苦 can the aforementioned suffering and pain. 

     

    As such, it is impolite and best to avoid giving hair combs as omiyage gifts. In Japanese, comb is read as kushi. Just as it was previously mentioned, ku means suffering and shi means death, so giving a comb as a gift means “suffering and death”. Because of that reason, you should not give a comb as a gift to Japanese people.

    Insist on gift-giving

    When receiving a gift, Japanese people will initially refuse the offer. However, do not be put off, this is a normal practice so keep insisting that they take the gift. In Japanese culture, it is considered polite to modestly refuse any gift or omiyage up to three times before finally accepting it. They expect the gift, want the gift, and expect you to push until they break down and take the gift. Again, it is just polite for them to decline a bit before giving in. 

     

    As mentioned above, an omiyage is an obligation. Japanese people are actually expecting some omiyage when you return from your trip as a common courtesy. As such, they feel obligated to politely refuse the gift at first. But make no mistake — they do want it and will greatly appreciate the gesture, so keep on insisting until they accept it. Think of it as a little formality included in the omiyage tradition. 

     

    You offer, they decline, you insist, they accept. Repeat the second and third steps until they finally accept.

    Do not compliment your omiyage, downplay it!

    When you are presenting your omiyage, do not talk about how much the recipient is going to love it. While this is common practice and expected in other countries, it is not the same in Japan. In fact, Japanese people do the exact opposite: practically apologizing for the omiyage they are about to give.

     

    In Japan, it is considered arrogant to compliment the gift you are giving before the recipient has opened it. Instead, you should humbly downplay the sentiment of the omiyage you are giving. Here are some common phrases you can use when addressing your omiyage: 

     

    • “I hope you like it.”
    • “I'm not sure if it suits your palate, but…”
    • “It isn’t much, but…”
    • “I heard it was a very popular gift in the area.”

    Japanese omiyage are for foreigners too!

    If you are a foreigner in Japan, do not assume that you are off the hook and do not have to buy or give omiyage. While you may get off easier than Japanese people with a lot of the customs and traditions in the culture, omiyage is not one of them.

     

    Giving omiyage will go a long way toward building good relationships with the people that you know in Japan. In addition, by giving omiyage, you will earn respect from the people around you and help remove the stigma around your foreignness.

     

    Do not be afraid to give omiyage and mess something up. The Japanese people who you are presenting omiyage to will very much appreciate your effort and will most likely not get scrutinized for any mistakes you may make. 

    Where to Find Great Deals on Japanese Omiyage

    Planning to buy Japanese omiyage for your whole family, office, and friends back at home too? While Japanese omiyage are typically inexpensive, the price does add up when you're buying a large quantity for the people on your list. 

     

    When traveling, it can get pretty expensive even paying for your expenses on your trip. Japanese omiyage is another expense to pay for while you are there! Depending on the location and the nature of the gift, you might have to narrow your search to stay within budget.

     

    Keep reading for more tips on where to get great deals on Japanese omiyage and how you can save money or stay within your budget!    

    Japanese Snacks

    UNIQLO

    The most popular fashion retailer to shop in Japan is UNIQLO. Not only is it insanely popular in Japan, but across the world as well. There are over 800 stores in Japan and over 900 abroad in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

     

    UNIQLO provides simple and casual designed clothes with inexpensive prices, yet great quality for men and women of all ages. Their clothing lines are not viewed as trendy but they carry clothing staples that are easily coordinated with any look. 

     

    UNIQLO is the best to shop in Japan. You will find many products only available in Japan and usually, prices are much cheaper than abroad. In addition, UNIQLO Japan offers decent deals every single weekend. This store offers relatively cheap but good quality clothes which can be good and used as a wonderful omiyage gift.

    LOFT

    LOFT is a franchised variety store in Japan. The store provides a wide variety of goods such as stationary, kitchen utensils, accessories, cosmetics and furniture in the most stylish and modern style. It is located in many areas across Japan, operating 117 branches nationwide.

     

    There are no known locations outside of the country, however. The store is extremely popular among young Japanese people and attracts many foreigners nowadays as they can find the coolest souvenir products from Japan. Its most famous location is in Shibuya, Tokyo. 

     

    Just like MUJI, LOFT offers plenty of options for gifts or omiyage at their stores. Not only are their products trendy, but they are great quality products as well. The products at these stores are relatively affordable and will not break your wallet. One perk with shopping at LOFT is that some of their locations in Tokyo offer tax-free shopping for foreign customers.

    MUJI

    MUJI is a Japanese retail company that has a number of stores in Japan and abroad. It has been really popular worldwide as their products are simple, reasonable, and reliable quality. They sell a wide variety of household and consumer goods while supporting a minimalist philosophy and a no-logo or “no-brand” policy.

     

    It is often described as a reasonably-priced brand, keeping the retail prices of products lower than usual by the materials it selects, streamlining its manufacturing processes, and minimizing packaging.

     

    MUJI is a great place to shop if you are looking for simple gifts that do not cost too much money. There is such a variety of items to choose between, from stationery to furniture to health and beauty. It is a store that will carry things that many people can enjoy. While sales do not run as often as UNIQLO, the products are already pretty cheap, which makes them easy buys for omiyage. 

    DAISO

    DAISO is the largest franchised 100-yen store in the world, with over 3,000 branches in Japan and 1,500 in abroad. The stock of products retailed at each shop varies pretty frequently in order to keep customers interested in coming back to their store. But this does not mean their variety is small. Each store carries up to 50,000 different products to choose from! DAISO sells their products at multiples of 100 yen, such as 200, 300, 400 or 500 yen.

     

    DAISO is the best place to shop on a budget! The store offers various kinds of items including food, snacks, households, stationery, beauty products, etc. Even more surprisingly, some of the products are to be sold at only 100 yen. While DAISO is a great 100-yen store to shop at, it is also important to acknowledge that there are many other 100-yen stores across Japan due to its popularity. Any 100-yen store would be a perfect place to shop for a wonderful omiyage for your friends, family, and co-workers.

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    Final Remarks

    To many newbies to omiyage gift-giving,

     

    This custom may seem like a pain. Having to shop for co-workers, family, and friends every time you travel can feel taxing in the beginning. However, it is important to remember that omiyage is an integral part of Japanese culture and society. 

     

    So, while you peruse through the colorful aisles of omiyage shops in Japan, remember that this is not just a simple gift-giving exchange, but rather a form of relationship building. And do not forget that what goes around, comes around. Every single person who you give an omiyage to will most likely give you an omiyage in the future.

     

    We hope we helped you understand the cultural practice of omiyage a little bit better! Good luck and happy travels!

     

    Check out these other articles if you're looking for more on Japanese culture! 

     

    Guide to Japanese Culture Shock

    Top 40 Japanese Slang to Know 

    Guide to Making Japanese Friends

    Guide to Japanese Language Exchange

    Guide to Japanese Study Tips

     

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