The Starter Guide to Omiyage

If you’ve told others about your travel plans to Tokyo, chances are you have someone eagerly waiting for you to come back with an exciting souvenir. Unsure of what exactly to get? Don’t worry, we have you covered 🌟

But first, let us introduce you to the world of Omiyage. 

What is an Omiyage?

Omiyage (お土産) can be broken down into land (土) and birth (産), referring to speciality items that were born in or are unique to a specific geographic location. It’s the souvenirs you get for your family and friends after returning from a trip or vacation. In Japan, these gifts are typically snacks or treats that can easily be distributed. One thing you may be surprised to hear is that Omiyage culture in Japan extends further to include even your colleagues and workplace!   

Now for the fun part, here are our top 4 recommendations for you to put on your Omiyage purchase list the next time you visit Tokyo!

1. Tokyo Banana (東京ばな奈)

Looking for something old-school? You can’t go wrong with Tokyo Banana. This fluffy, yellow, banana-shaped, sponge cake has been a huge hit amongst tourists and locals since 1991 when it was first introduced. Filled with their classic banana-flavoured custard, the original version, Tokyo Banana Miitsuketa (東京ばな奈「見ぃつけたっ」), is without a doubt their bestseller. As one of Japan’s most beloved souvenirs, you’ll most likely come across this delicacy more than once during your trip. 

And if you want to spice things up you can go on a hunt for other flavours, designs, or limited-edition versions!

2. Traditional Crafts

Maybe you’re in the market for something more traditional or possibly a decorative piece. 

If you’re looking for a seasonal item, the Japanese wind chime or furin (風鈴) might be for you with the approaching summer heat. These chimes are typically placed by front porches of homes, shops or temples during the summer months. While furins were initially made with iron or brass, glass is perhaps the most popular and abundant material today. Shinohara Furin Honpo and Shinohara Maruyoshi Furin are the only two official makers of the Edo Furin–wind chimes made with distinct Edo practices and characteristics–right here in Tokyo. With each one being blown and painted individually, there is no doubt these chimes will make for an impressive gift. 

Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) or Japanese woodblock prints are another popular souvenir item amongst art-loving tourists. Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa was also in fact a woodblock print. Shops like Sakai Kōkodō sell popular Ukiyo-e prints as postcards and even original prints from as far back as a hundred and fifty years ago!

If you’re seeking a more personal touch for your souvenirs, you can always join in on the fun by signing up for various workshops. This includes furin and ukiyo-e classes of course. But other examples include Kintsugi or washi paper-making workshops. You get an extra activity out of your trip, and the receiver of your souvenir gets a personalized gift! 

3. Cosmetics

Luxury cosmetic brands like SK-II, Shiseido, or Koh Gen Do make excellent gifts as brands that originated in Japan. Many of these brands take inspiration from their Japanese roots. In fact, Pitera, a core ingredient used throughout SK-II’s products, is a by-product of the sake fermentation process!

On the other end of the spectrum, drugstore brands like Heroine Make (ヒロインメイク) are a popular purchase as well. The beloved illustration of the heroine, Elizabeth, adorns the package of each product. But it isn’t just her that we fell in love with. Heroine Make products have gone viral on multiple occasions for their strong performance. 

If you want a cosmetic item exclusive to Tokyo, Lululun’s sheet masks may be a great option. Lululun is a Japanese sheet mask brand known for their prefecture-limited skincare masks which use ingredients and packaging inspired by each location. Take a look below, the Tokyo edition does not disappoint.

4. Stationery

Stationery in Japan can range from innovative and sophisticated to quirky and cute. Ginza Itoya is an excellent store to check out if you’re looking for exceptional craftsmanship. An entire day can be spent looking through their Ginza store with a whopping 12 floors and even a cafe at the top. If fun everyday stationery is what you’re hoping to find, Loft is a great place to look. It’s also where you can get the adorable Mt. Fuji eraser! 

Many of these gifts can be found right by our apartment-hotels. Ginza Itoya is only 13 minutes from Section L Ginza East (on foot 👣) and a Loft branch can be found in the same neighbourhood. And for those intrigued by Shinohara Maruyoshi Furin, it’s just a quick train stop away or a pleasant 12-minute stroll from Section L Ueno-Hirokoji! Happy omiyage hunting!