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Beyond Seaweed: 10 Souvenirs from Japan

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I flew to Japan with a list of things to do and to buy including the things for people back home. I am one of those people who enjoys buying souvenirs for those i love. The different choices make me think of what kind of person they are and what would they like to get from a crumpled little souvenir store thousand miles from home; which is not something we likely do more than once or twice a year while sitting at our homes.

Here is my Japan souvenir list, hope it helps you to get something for people you like other than dried seaweed (which actually is a good souvenir) :


1. Yukata

The eastern equivalent of t-shirt and blue jeans combo. I have been obsessing over it since I saw Jessa from Girls wore it. I want to take pictures in it, buy it and walk around Japan in it.

Yukata

We got to try it once we reached the hotel and I made Yin take pictures of me in it and straight away sent the picture to my parents with a text: “I look adorable in kimono, no?“. No reply. They probably were sleeping. 

I like wearing Yukata, it is comfortable and airy and pretty. Finally, I caved and bought one, a black Yukata with beautiful pink flower design. For 5000 yen. Yes, Yukata is not cheap, but if you want to splurge on something in Japan, other than the blue label Burberry, get yourself a Yukata. Imagine walking around the house, greeting your guests in an elegant Geisha like style. Oh, YES! I have been trying to come up with a reason to throw a party just so I can do it.


2. 
Maneki Neko

On my first day in Japan i learnt that Japanese love cats and I love the fact that Japanese love cats because i love cats. It made me felt like I belong there. It’s another reason why I want 

Maneki Neko to live in Japan other than friendly people, fun TV shows, manga, culture, _____ [ insert 100 more reasons here]. Okay, back to the cat  Maneki Neko, it’s a good luck symbol in Japan in a form of beckoning cat with an upright paw.

You can see this cat almost everywhere in Japan in many forms and sizes. They are ADORABLE. I didn’ buy it though because I just got one from Yin as a birthday present and I am the only cat-lover-crazy-cat-lady-to-be back home. Maybe another time. Maybe I can start collecting cat figurines and stuff and become famous for it and be interviewed in 2020 by the person who replaces Oprah.

 

 

3. Dorayaki

I grew up watching Doraemon. A Japanese cartoon about a cat from the future with pocket that can produce lots of fancy gadgets. Doraemon lives with Nobita (a loser kid) and his family. Every week Nobita would face problems or misfortunes and Doremon would come to rescue. Every single week! I remember thinking Doremon should just come and live with us, when i was a kid. Anyway, Doraemon is crazy about Dorayaki (no, not a female cat but some kind of Japanese pastry).

Dorayaki

His obsession projected into my obsession. By now I believe that you already found out that half of my life decisions are dictated by Television. 

On our last night in Tokyo when my friends were resting in the room, I wandered around Shinjuku to find it. I was embarrassed to ask anyone where i can get Dorayaki. Wouldn’t it be too obvious? An adult tourist with a child’s mind. So i roam and roam until I find a pastry shop. I took what i thought as Dorayaki to the cashier and found to courage to check whether the one I am holding was really a Dorayaki. It’s not ! Gaah.. but the lady was nice enough to point at another one as Dorayaki. “It doesn’t look like the one on the TV“, I told her. She looked at me confused, not understanding what i was whining about. So I said “Domo Arigato“, bought that one. Victory! Then I ate the Dorayaki. It wasn’t as good as Doraemon made it felt like for 10 years. 


I still think it’s a lovely gift to bring back home for your siblings, cousins and neighbours or whoever watched the cartoon with you every week, but make sure you can give them soon though because Dorayaki has a short life span.

4. Geta

Geta

Geta is the traditional Japanese footwear. It looks like a hybrid of wedges and sandals. My   best friend, Nilcha, sent me off with reminders to get one of these for her. “Don’t come back without it !!”, she warned me.

It’s very easy to find Geta in Japan. I saw people in traditional Japanese dress and geisha wearing it everywhere. The thing was that it didn’t look comfortable, and I wasn’t sure to get it for a girl who follows Oprah’s rule of comfortable shoe UNTIL I found the home version, the padded one which we wore inside our hotel. It’s soft and comfortable. I contemplated to steal the one from the hotel for her and me (Ross Geller, i am with you in this) but before i committed the crime i saw the similar ones in Asakusa, so I got her and Bolbol a pair each. I hope they like it. 


If you are getting Geta for your friends, please take note that Japanese feet are really small. So get your girl friends boy size (the rectangular shape) and your guy friends something else like..

5. Weird flavoured snack

This is of course ever popular souvenir choice from Japan. I think is a perfect for guy friends. It is food, it is weird, it is interesting. It will tickle their macho side to try it. I bought green tea, mint, banana, latte flavoured chocolate, chocolate flavoured chips and various kit-kat for Hulk. He liked some and threw some but still, he was amused by it, mission accomplished.


6. Katsuobushi

Katsuobushi is dried, fermented and smoked tuna that’s usually served shaved. It was introduced to me by Fia who bought takoyaki for a snack to class. Weird looking ball with squid inside, ummm.. but it was warm and smelt nice so i ate it. It ended up being delicious. *I wouldn’t mind some hot balls now*.

Katsuobushi


in Japanese restaurants, they keep Katsuobushi in a tin as a side dish like chilli flakes or cheese. For whatever scientific reason Katsuobushi looks like it’s dancing when it’s put on something hot. Fun to watch and fun to eat, let’s pack and bring it home i say. We saw it at Nishiki market, but i guess we could get it at the traditional market in Japan. We can eat Katsuobushi with bread, hot noodles and rice. Try it! and If you need to top up your kitchen supply, you can order it online.

7. Horse Oil

I made an ugly frown face when i heard those words from my coworker whom seconds ago i shared my Japan plan with. I thought “isn’t it inappropriate to ask your female colleague to buy manhood booster ?? even if it’s from Japan !?!” but yeah.. no! Horse oil is a lotion like beauty product that’s believed to be very good for the skin. It has been used in China and Japan for centuries. I am well aware of my Chinese friends’ flawless skin, so I was intrigued. 

When i asked him where i could get it, he said anywhere. Usually i don’t appreciate generic answer like anywhere, anytime, anything because it felt like a very lazy answer, but this time “anywhere” really turned out to be anywhere, with a drugstore on every corner of Tokyo (kinda like Starbucks in Seattle). I tried for myself and I must say it’s good stuff. It keeps the skin hydrated for a long time. I got one for a friend. It was worth the cheap price I paid when I passed it to her with suggestive hints. Muahahaha..


8. Kami

Kami

Kami is a God or spirit according to Shinto religion. There are eight million Kamis in Japan taking forms of many things; for example, the mount Fuji, is one of the most important Kami. They sell these Kami symbols in tiny shapes as a good luck charm. You can use it as keychain, keepsake, phone charm, etc. 

We got one each for ourselves at Kyoto market because, you know, we need good luck in pretty shapes. I also got one for Mom. May she live a long and happy life. I love the idea of this as a souvenir. Small, easy to carry, inexpensive and it brings good luck. “What did i get you from Japan?” you asked. “Well my friends i got you success, wealth and good luck“.


9. Japanese Tea

If you live in another part of Asia like I do, when you ask for green tea in a restaurant, you will probably get the Chinese green tea in a bag. This type of green tea is nice, but it’s so much different from the real Japanese one, which is richer in flavour. 

We had our first try at the sushi joint we went to on our first night dinner. They put a cup of green tea powder and gave a small glass filled with water. We could put the tea powder on the water as much as we liked and believe me half spoon was more than enough.

Japanese Tea

Japanese tea comes in many flavours and pretty packages. It is a good last minute souvenir if you forget to buy something for someone and can’t think of anything else. Which was exactly what happened to Yin and I. We got this for our managers. We almost forgot about them until the very last minute of being at the airport to fly back home, when the pilling task waiting at our desk flashed on our mind. Mountain of paperwork –> boss’s face –> Japanese green tea at the airport duty free.

10. Origami

Origami is the art of folding paper originated from Japan. The most famous one is the paper crane. I had been trying to convince my friends to get something of it. “It won’t be complete if we don’t go back with any origami-y item“, i nagged at them. They ignored me but Origami spirit must have heard me. When we went back to Asakusa to collect Vi’s phone on the last day (Vi left her phone at our first ryokan and the owner was kind enough to keep it and return it to her), i was given a paper crane by a shop owner. “For good luck“, she said. 

I was getting many well wishes in Japan, and I love it. One crane and 999 to go. I didn’t buy mine, but I think it’s a good keepsake or souvenir to give to others.


Now, If you think these souvenirs aren’t not eccentric enough and blow up doll is not your thing;  How about air from mount Fuji?

Mt Fuji O2


These cans filled with air “collected” from mount Fuji area. Oxygen inside cans; It could’t get more Japan than this. If you can’t go to mount Fuji, the mountain air will come to you.

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