Top 10 Japanese Souvenirs We Bought For Our Loved Ones: Teach Me, TOM Senpai!

Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, we're pumped to see so many more people enjoying Japan again! Whether it's your first or fifth time, after having your fill of visiting historical sightseeing spots, eating delicious Japanese food, and enjoying Japanese culture, buying souvenirs is the next logical step.

But with so many options, ranging from cheap and delicious convenience store snacks to Made in Japan cosmetic items, you might be finding it a little hard to choose. What would make your family, significant other, and friends at home really happy? Well, to solve that conundrum, we’ve asked TOM members from overseas what their tried-and-tested souvenir choices are. We hope these will help you when you’re stuck!

Note: The items recommended and shop information are accurate as of winter 2023.

☆ Katie (Indiana, U.S.A./Translation Team)

Recommendation #1: Shiroi Koibito, Kit Kat (Matcha), Tokyo Banana

My whole family loves sweet things, so Shiroi Koibito cookies make them the happiest! Matcha Kit Kats and other unique Kit Kat flavours also often get rave reviews. Honestly, anything with chocolate will just get eaten up (lol).

Personally, my favourite thing to take back is Tokyo Banana cakes. There have been quite a lot of times when I brought some home and just ended up eating like half of them on my own (lol).

Where to find it: I always end up going on a shopping spree at the airport.

Recommendation #2: Japanese trinkets and snacks from 100-yen stores

For the kids, I get trinkets like pouches and hair accessories that “look Japanese” from the 100 yen shop.

Also, the snacks that they sell there are usually cheaper and come in smaller portions than the regular sized ones. Even if it doesn’t seem like they would like it, they can at least get a taste of snacks that we don’t necessarily have in America. Sometimes I actually go out of my way to get things that I know my family won’t like (lol).

Where to find it: There are tons of 100 yen shops in the Tokyo metro area!

☆ Chris (Canada/Customer Support Team)

Recommendation #1: Pickled dried plum (Umeboshi), plum-flavored snacks

My mom really loves umeboshi, so I buy that and other plum-flavored snacks. There aren’t many stores in Canada that carry stuff like that and even if they do, they don’t have many varieties either. So whenever I bring some back, she’s always really happy, though the rest of my family doesn’t really enjoy them (lol).

Where to find it: I always get some from convenience stores near me.

Recommendation #2: Calorie Mate

After Calorie Mate was featured in Metal Gear Solid 3 as an energy bar, fans worldwide came to know of it. So now, I buy it for my gamer friends back home. Some of them thought it only existed in the game itself so when they came to know that it’s a real food, they were really shocked (lol).

Where to find it: I get it at the convenience store along with the umeboshi!

☆ Caroline (Singapore/Customer Support)

Recommendation #1: Chestnut cake (Kuri-manju) from Kogetsudo

My family and friends love Japanese sweets, but in the last few years, Japanese restaurants and chains like Don Quijote and Kushikatsu Tanaka have been opening up in Singapore, so they aren’t very novel anymore. So recently, I’ve been bringing back local specialities from the places that I’m living in.

The one that made my family the happiest was kuri-manju from a famous Japanese confectionery shop called Kogetsudo, when I was living in Kitakyushu City in Fukuoka Prefecture. The bean filling has a mellow taste and is soft to bite through, and each manju had an entire chestnut in it. Just thinking about it is making me salivate. If you get to travel to different regions in Japan, I definitely recommend buying the specialties of those places and bringing them home as souvenirs.

Where to find it: You can get them at confectionery shops around Japan.

Recommendation #2: Dried ramen (Bou-ramen)

My dad really loves ramen, but he’s thrifty so he doesn’t really go to ramen shops in Singapore since they’re pretty expensive. Knowing that, I got him 3-4 varieties of bou-ramen from a brand that does regional varieties of ramen, and included ones from Hakata and Kurume. A year after giving them to him, I received a message from him saying “I’m having the ramen you got for me for dinner. It’s the last pack…” I had no idea he had been saving them up like that (lol). Next time I’ll bring a whole bunch back!

Where to find it: They’re available in Don Quijote stores and supermarkets.

☆ Massiel (New Jersey, U.S.A./Translation Team)

Recommendation #1: Snacks

Snacks are the only answer, especially those seasonal snacks that are on sale for a limited time or in certain regions! Fridge magnets or keychains usually come to mind when people think about souvenirs, but it’s easy to get bored if that’s all people bring home, so I always bring snacks home. Also, the good thing about Japanese snacks is that there are so many varieties that I can choose different ones every time. For my parents, I often get rice crackers (senbei), and for my niece and nephews, Tokyo Banana. Sometimes I also get Japanese confectioneries like daifuku and yatsuhashi!

Where to find it: You can get them at the airport, but it’s definitely cheaper at Don Quijote!

Recommendation #2: Strawberry daifuku

My family loved strawberry daifuku the most. The first time I brought some back, my niece and three nephews, who were three to eight at that time, seemed so confused by them. To them, Japanese food meant things like ramen and sushi, so the mere fact that there were sweets was already something new. Moreover, American and Dominican sweets are entirely different from the textures and flavors of the mochi and red bean paste. When they first had some, the faces they made were so funny and cute that I will never forget them (lol). From then on, it seems like they’re always looking forward to what Japanese sweets I’ll bring them next.

Where to find it: Any Japanese confectionery store would generally have them!

☆ U (China/CHINA Operations)

Recommendation #1: DHC liver extract + Ornithine supplement

My father’s company has a lot of drinking parties and it’s quite a strain on his liver. Since DHC’s supplements are well-known and it’s cheaper to buy them in Japan, I always buy some to bring home when I’m visiting. My father even praised me, saying, “Look at you buying presents for your parents, you’ve grown up well!” (lol)

Where to find it: You can buy the packs at any pharmacy!

Recommendation #2: monpoké Waku Waku tableware set

monpoké is a line of Pokémon-themed baby goods, and I bought some to celebrate my cousin’s birth. It’s all microwave-safe, dishwasher-safe and it’s all stackable so you can store them easily. Plus, they don’t break easily so they’re really convenient to use. Above all, they’re really cute too! I heard that my cousin was so pleased with it that they started using it the very next day (lol).

Where to find it: I bought it online, but you can also find them at department stores and other places around Japan that stock monpoké items.

☆ Sam (China/Anime Merch Development)

Recommendation #1: Makeup

A lot of my friends in China really like Japanese cosmetic products, especially products from the well-known brand Shiseido. Of course, they’re happy to receive the expensive items, but they also really love products that are unique to Japan, like eye masks that will gently warm your tired eyes with steam!

Where to find it: You can get them at department stores or pharmacies.

Recommendation #2: Nattokinase supplement

I bought this for my grandmother pretty often. Thanks to this supplement, she got to know how good natto is for the body and was always telling me to eat natto every day. When she visited Japan, I let her try actual natto for the first time and it wasn’t quite to her taste. She ended up telling me, “I didn’t think it would taste this bad… I’m sorry I’m always telling you to eat it,” and it made me laugh so hard.

☆ Adrian (Alabama, U.S.A./Customer Support, Fanclub Management, MC)

Recommendation #1: Cup ramen

When my friend’s co-worker visited Japan, they brought back this cup ramen as a souvenir for the office but didn’t bring back enough. My friend missed out on it and bugged me incessantly to bring some back for him (lol). I visited him when his baby was still only a month old, and late in the night, while the baby was sleeping, we made 2 cups of it then stood in the kitchen furtively eating ramen together (lol).

Where to find it: Cup ramen can be found at any supermarket or convenience store!

Recommendation #2: Printed Japanese hand towels (Tenugui)

I bought a tenugui that was printed with purple flowers as a souvenir. When I gave it to my mother, she was surprised and asked, “Eh? How do you use this?” There are many uses for it, like hanging it on the wall or wrapping it around your head, but right now, it is spread out on our dining table at home.

Where to find it: Mine was bought at a department store.

What do you think? Snacks, supplements, tenugui and more! The foreign members of Tokyo Otaku Mode have recommended a wealth of unique, tried-and-tested souvenirs. We hope that this helps the next time you find yourself stumped at a souvenir store in Japan. Think of your loved ones’ smiles and we’re sure you’ll be able to pick a wonderful gift that's also perfectly you. Have a great trip!

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article by T. Hara


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