A temple arch in the water in Japan

Top Souvenirs from Japan: Unique Gifts to Bring Home

Japan is a timeless destination that many travellers are hoping to visit at some point in their lives. It’s the perfect fusion of tradition and modernity, featuring breathtaking landscapes, gorgeous mountain scenery, exquisite temples, incredible local cuisine, politeness like you’ve never experienced before, and, of course, one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

From traditional crafts to unique snacks and futuristic gadgets, Japan’s shelves are stacked with some of the best souvenirs you can find. But you’ve been warned: you’ll probably be coming home with an overweight suitcase.

Travel to: Japan

Top ten places to visit in Japan

Japan might seem small compared to other countries, but don’t be mistaken—there’s plenty of different places to see. Each city, town and village is a unique experience, often varying in aspects such as culture, climate and cuisine. To help narrow things down, we made a list of the top ten places to visit:

A temple arch in the water in Japan
The wide range of experiences to be had in Japan will leave you breathless | © Azlan Baharudin/Unsplash
  1. Tokyo: Japan’s ultra modern and fast-paced capital city. Go for incredible shopping, urban sightseeing and an all-around good time.
  2. Kyoto: Where stunning scenery and Japanese tradition thrive. You’ll step back in time and experience the country’s historic beauty.
  3. Kanazawa: Recognised as the City of Crafts and Folk Arts by the UNESCO Creative City Network thanks to its many artisan workshops. Go for incredibly fresh seafood and the cool cultural sights.
  4. Nara: A city famous for deer that greet humans by bowing. Go for historical temples and Nara Park, home to hundreds of freely roaming deer.
  5. Kobe: The city between the sea and the mountains. Go for world-famous Kobe beef and scenic harbour views.
  6. Hokkaido: Japan’s gorgeous northern island. Go for some of the best food and views in the entire country. Don’t leave without eating everything laced with made Hokkaido milk.
  7. Hiroshima: An important piece of global history. Go for an incredibly educational and unforgettable experience.
  8. Okinawa: Made of over 150 islands. Go for local culinary specialities and world-class diving.
  9. Fukuoka: The birthplace of tonkatsu ramen. Go for street-side eats, charming culture and its large red light district.
  10. Osaka: The country’s industrial core. Go for modern architecture, great nightlife and hearty street food.
Snowy mountains in Mikasa, Japan
Head to Japan’s north island for world-class skiing | © Graeme Cross/Unsplash

When to visit Japan

Japan’s natural landscape is admired around the world for a good reason. But if you’re looking for a specific month to visit, late spring (March to May) and late autumn (September to November) are generally considered the best times.

In the springtime, delicate cherry blossoms (also known as sakura) begin to bloom and a sea of pink surrounds you. During autumn, foliage from maple and gingko trees transform into vibrant shades of red and yellow as the leaves begin to fall. Regardless, both seasons are prime opportunities for those interested in outdoor photography.

Cherry blossoms in front of a japanese temple
Springtime means one thing in Japan: cherry blossoms! | © Galen Crout/Unsplash

Top things to buy in Japan

Sweet snacks

Japan’s candy scene is impressive in all aspects from variety to flavour and packaging. Whatever you can imagine, Japan probably has. Take home traditional sweets (also known as wagashi) such as fresh mochi—stuffed sticky rice cakes—or dorayaki—red bean-filled pancakes. And don’t forget all the crazy twists on well-known classics, such as cheesecake, sake and sweet potato-flavoured Kit Kats.

Rows of japanese beer bottles
Unique food and drink can be a great souvenir | © Corey Silva/Unsplash

Unique stationery

If you are—or know someone—obsessed with stationary, Japan has some of the best. Not only are the designs beautiful and thoughtful, but the quality is impeccable. Even better, you can personalise journals from start to finish for an ultra-tailored souvenir. Besides paper, Japan is also a hugely popular place for purchasing high-quality pens. Once you’ve tried one, you’ll never be able to go back.

Affordable ceramics

If you’re looking to buy Japanese ceramics, look no further than Tokyo. The art of pottery and ceramics is integral to Japanese culture, so you’ll find incredible and affordable pieces in almost every corner of the city. Discover ceramics in every colour and size imaginable, costing you three times less than they would at home. A few personal favourites stores include Oedo Antique Market, Dengama and all around Nakamise Shopping Street in Asakusa.

three small teapots
Take home some beautiful ceramics to remember Japan by | © 童 彤/Unsplash

Matcha & tea

Matcha might seem like a trendy food to some, but it has been a Japanese staple for centuries. This finely ground vivid green powder has a deep taste, and it’s packed with nutrition, used to help boost metabolism, detoxify, and calm the mind. Although you can now find matcha in most health food stores, where better to stock up on matcha than in its birthplace? And if matcha isn’t your thing, then opt for the countless other varieties of tea leaves instead.

Japanese beauty products

Sheet masks, sheet masks, sheet masks. If you haven’t tried one, your skin is definitely missing out. From skincare to cosmetics and makeup accessories, Japanese beauty products are some of the most highly regarded. Shop brands ranging from high-end (Shu Uemura) to drugstore (Daiso) look for playful product packaging that features cute cartoons, bold graphics and bright colours—in true Japanese fashion.

Vials of skincare products in a box surrounded by pink peonies
Japan is famous for its beauty products | © Brittany Neale/Unsplash

Photo booth pictures

Enter the bizarre and adorable world of Japanese photo booths, also called purikura. This is not a typical old-school photo booth. There are a ton of different types of booths, and each booth usually has its own style and setup. Personalise your background and facial features before editing your photos with little drawings. If you’re interested in going the extra mile, some purikura booths even offer costume rentals.

Quirky gadgets

These are random kind of things you see while scrolling the internet–the sort of stuff you look at and wonder, “who made this?” Well, the answer is probably Japan. As much as Japan is known for cutting-edge technology, the country is equally known for strangely ingenious Japanese trinkets. If you can dream it, it probably exists. Sandwich shapers; butter graters; umbrella ties; eye-drop funnels—the list goes on.

Anything from a vending machine

This one is a no brainer. From groceries to hot coffee and even full meals, Japan’s vending machines seemingly offer everything. Since food and beverages aren’t be something you can easily pack, go for a quirky Japanese trinket or toy instead.

Colourful Japanese vending machines
You’ll find absolutely everything in Japanese vending machines! | © Flickr

Have you recently visited Japan? What kind of souvenirs did you bring home? Let us know in the comments below!

Stephanie is a content creator and adventure seeker who recently returned from a three-month solo trip across Asia. When she's not writing, she spends most of her time shopping, dogspotting, and planning for her next big trip.

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