There’s no shortage of cheap souvenirs in Japan that will make everybody happy. Many of us rely on Daiso, the massive 100 yen emporium, to bring our friends and family back home a memory of Japan. But, where do you go to find a special and more elaborate product that is uniquely Japanese? The following guide will highlight the places where you can find a special present or memory of Japan.
Ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) are quintessentially Japanese. They were created between the 17th and the 20th century and feature landscapes, scenes from the theatre and historic tales. S Watanabe Color Prints is a specialist store where you can find genuine prints, reproductions, and also contemporary works by famous artists. Yokoyama is the branch of a famous art dealer in Kyoto. They carry both contemporary and antique ukiyo-e, and can also produce original screens by request. Finally, Hara Shobo is famous for their collection and illustrated books.
Magatani specializes in antiques than span the range between the early Edo period all the way through early Showa. All their items are handmade, and you’ll be able to find antiques from elsewhere as well. Motai specializes in interior accessories that add an Asian touch to any room, while Interior Collection deals in furniture with an “East meets West” concept. Fuji Tori is also a famous antique dealer, with goods in all price ranges. For pottery, head to Nishikawa Antiques, where they stock the famous Imori-yaki plates, in addition to other products. Finally, for a store that emphasizes functionality in its line of products, head to Okura. They are known for pieces that blend into living spaces.
For kimonos and traditional clothing, head to Maruara-Watanabe, where they specialize in kimonos, yukatas and footwear, in addition to other small souvenirs, all of which are priced quite competitively. Other places include Hayashi Kimono in Ginza or Kimono Art Sunaga, where they also make crafts with kimono cloth. Meeko has taken kimonos a step further and creates modern fashion pieces with traditional cloth. If you like festival-clothing, head to Myoga-ya or Bunodo, where you’ll find all the happy jackets, tabi-socks and more, and most items are available in children sizes as well.
The Oriental Bazaar is one of Tokyo’s most popular souvenir stores, easily recognizable for its Chinese-style building. They carry kimonos and all kinds of accessories, in addition to pottery, fans and a wide selection of products.
If you like fans, Bunodo is the place for you. They’ve been making them for over 100 years, and many kabuki actors source theirs from them. Finally, for traditional hair combs, head to Yonoya, which is one of the few specialist stores, and has been in business for over 300 years.
Though a noren is not a piece of clothing, these traditional Japanese curtains feature beautiful prints and can be hanged just about anywhere you need a partition. Drop by Bengara where they carry over 500 shapes and sizes with both traditional and contemporary designs.
Japanese food has become global, and amateur and professional cooks alike recognize the quality and craftsmanship of Japanese knives. Aritsugu is one of Japan’s most reputed blacksmiths with more than 400 years of history, and many of the country’s top chefs use their knives. You can also head to Kiya near Tokyo station, where they make excellent knives. If you’re in Kappabashi, which is the restaurant supply district, drop by the Union Commerce knife store, where the owner speaks English and stocks a wide range of Japanese and Western knives, including their own kappabashi brand.
For top-of-the-line Japanese lacquerware, head to Yamada Heiando. Even the Japanese Imperial Household gets their wares from them. For chopsticks, you can try Hashi Choh, where they make lacquered chopsticks, or Nihonbou near Hiroo station.
For Japanese tea, Lupicia offers one of the biggest collections in the country, and the sealed packages make it easy to carry.
Finally, definitely take a walk along the kappabashi district (to get there, take the Ginza Subway line to Tawaramachi station and walk back a few minutes in the direction of Ueno). This district is about ten blocks long, and features stores that cater to restauranteurs and foodies alike. You’ll be able to find just about every culinary utensil ever invented, plus the stores that sell the plastic food models outside many restaurants in Tokyo.
Kyugetsu is one of Japan’s most famous doll makers, and they are particularly well known for their special line up for Japan’s children holidays. Yoshitoku has also been in business for more than 300 years, and makes stuffed animals as well as traditional dolls.