33 Japanese Gifts And Souvenirs That Reflect The Zen Culture
Japanese gifts maybe tricky if you are not familiar with the culture. Some of us may have a Japanese friend or someone we love. We may be thinking what to get them for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthday or for any occassion. For whatever reason you are looking for a gift to celebrate the day, these gift ideas will give you the heads up you will need to figure out an appropriate gift to give. If you are looking for a last minute idea, we recommend you to buy a traditional Japanese drink from a local liquor store, that may work too.
Kami Fusen is Japanese paper balloons made of sturdy waxed paper. The cute little balloons can be inflated (and reinflated) with a mere puff. They were originally designed as toys, but today they are also used for decoration purposes.
Kyo Uchiwa is an handheld fan representing an old Japanese handcraft. Therefore, the more artistic ones are offered as gifts and displayed for decoration on small stands. It’s a nice accessory for the weddings.
Practice the Japanese “Incense Ceremony” enjoying subtle fragrances of tiny pieces of different kinds of aromatic woods. There are multiple shapes of incense with many different fragrances to bring a Japanese atmosphere to your home.
Furin is a Japanese wind chime that tinkles when the wind blows. It is typical for Japanese summer. They make a light, and pleasant sound when hanging in front of a window or a terrace. Japanese wind chimes can be made of glass (edofurin), metal and ceramics and there are hundreds of variations.
Noh Masks are an essential element of the theater and more than 200 masks are very traditional gifts. They can be fixed on a wall as an exotic but beautiful decoration as well as a great traditional Japanese gift.
Tsuge Gushi is a traditional boxwood comb which has been used since ancient times by Geishas and noble woman to brush their hair or use as an accessory. It’s not only beautiful but it also does not produce any static, and your hair will fall in a very natural way.
Noren is a Japanese fabric used as a divider hung in doorways, in between rooms or windows. They mostly have one or sometimes multiple slits. They are available in many colors with various patterns and also are a nice decoration in a western home.
Every Japanse child played with these spinning tops. They are made of wood, often have colorful paintings. People not only use them as toys but often collect and use for decoration. They are the lovely practical gifts from Japan.
Kendama is a traditional ball game that people still practice. The competitions take place in all over Japan, and it recently became popular abroad too. It is a beautiful decorative accessory which also allows you to practice your agility.
Kokeshi are simple wooden dolls with a cylindric limbless body and an enlarged head. They also have paintings to describe a simple face and floral patterns on the body. They are handmade and carry the signature of the artist.
Chochin Lanterns are made of bamboo ribs, metal wire, and Japanese paper. These colorful lanterns not only make a great decoration but also give a nice light when you use as a lamp. Chochin is often custom made to reflect the purpose of their usage.
Kumamoto Zogan is a traditional Japanese handcraft with 400 years of history originating from the Kumamoto region. Artisans originally developed ornaments for samurai swords and armor. They later used these techniques to make day to day objects.
Fukusa is a square piece of fabric with a tassel at each corner, used to purify equipment during tea ceremony or wrapping gifts. They have embroidery with traditional motives and can be an excellent decoration element in a western home.
Jubako is a lacquered lunch box used for special occasions such as New Year’s celebration. 3 to 5 layers are stuck on each other and decorated with beautiful patterns. You can also use them as a decoration element or as a picnic lunchbox.
Tsunodaru is a different sake barrel used for celebrations. They are made of lacquered wood and make a static fan eye-catching decoration. They are often offered as a gift together with lacquered sake cups.
Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints are floating pictures. They first appeared during the Edo period between 1603-1868 and were woodblock printed images of geishas and celebration representations. Over the years, the images represented on Ukiyo-e prints became more artistic. It is especially famous for portraying noble families, celebrities such as actresses and singers but also sumo wrestlers and traditional landscapes. The Ukiyo-e prints are about describing the beauty of a moment, a part of history as it was.
Furoshiki is a traditional square piece of cloth used in many circumstances in Japan. They are mostly used to wrap presents, clothes or bento lunch boxes. They have been practiced in Japan for centuries and even now are popular. The patterns on furoshiki are numerous. It can be either traditional pattern, shibori tie-dying work or modern design; the materials also depend on it can be done in silk just like in cotton or synthetic cloth.
Geta are the traditional Japanese wooden flip-flops. They are made of wood with a fabric thong to held the feet called “hanao.” The wooden base differs according to the styles. It can have one, two or three heels. The Hanao can also be made with many different materials, from silk and cloth to vinyl or leather. Geta is a casual type of footwear to wear with yukatas or regular clothes without socks. The shoes wore with beautiful kimonos are zori.
Cellphone Straps are almost everywhere in Japan. You can find them in any shop with any design, from the most traditional to the most eccentric. It is very common to see Japanese people with a lot of phone straps attached to their phones. At some point, it is even bigger than the phone itself. However, the choice of mobile phone straps in Japan is so exceptional that it is okay to want them all. It may not be the first thing people think about when searching Japanese souvenirs but it is extremely representative of Japan.
Usually composed of at least a carafe called “tokkuri” and one or two cups, Sake sets have the ideal shape to keep the hot Sake at the perfect temperature and are supposed to hold the exact right amount of sake. Usually made in ceramic to keep the heat of hot sake, you can find them in many different materials, shape, and designs. It is one of the strong symbols of Japan as it is very traditional.
Omamori Lucky Charms are another popular item in Japan. They can be bought in Temples but also in souvenirs shops. They exist in many kinds, to successfully pass an exam, to find love, to be healthy, to become wealthy and so on. In souvenirs shop, they are found with popular characters such as Hello Kitty and are mostly destined to tourists. They have beautiful colors and are often wore as much for the luck as for the beauty of it.
Zori is a kind of Japanese flip-flop. More formal than Geta, people wear the zori with beautiful kimono. They can be made of various material from lacquered wood and straw mat to leather or synthetic fabric. According to the material, the zori is more or less formal. Usually, people wear with the white Japanese socks called Tabi. The thongs called hanao can also be made with various materials, colors, patterns. The zori is, along with the kimono, one of Japan’s oldest fashion item.
Calligraphy set is also a perfect gift. The Japanese calligraphy is called “Shodou” and has become an important part of Japanese’s zen. Every ink sticks, every brush, are designed for a particular use.
Bento Boxes are one of the most famous Japanese traditions. They have become hugely popular all over the world. The Bento are individual lunch boxes that people brings to their workplace. Japanese are famous for making incredible, beautifully decorated lunch boxes. The boxes are made to contain the right amount of food. There are boxes for men, women, and children. Also, the number of bento cooking classes or website about bento recipes have increased a lot in the past years. It is now really easy to find delicious recipes for bento box making.
Karakuri Box is a traditional Japanese woodcraft. People call the Karakuri boxes as “Magic boxes” or “Secret boxes”. They are made in a certain way that you cannot open it quickly, you need to use logic to accomplish a certain number of moves before opening it. Some are very simple with only one or two steps to open them, but some are incredibly complex and need hundreds of manipulations. It is perfect to store all your precious belongings as no one can open it quickly. Made of natural wood, they are also charming ornaments.
Masu Cups are traditional wooden cup usually, use during big ceremonies such as weddings or launching of a new company. They are made of wood and have geometrical shape, most often squares. They can be decorated with drawings or Kanji characters such as 寿 meaning good fortune and happiness. It’s also common to personalize Masu Cups with logos or a message for business events or parties for weddings and anniversaries.
Tatami Products are a great gift idea. Unfortunately, not everybody can have a tatami room in his house. However, you can find the Tamami feel with small as well as decorative items. They are very traditional but yet with modern, innovative designs.
Japanese T-Shirts are also an excellent gift idea. Japan is full of beautiful design and patterns. It’s very common to see people wearing t-shirts with Kanji character or Japanese drawings. Also, with a real Japanese t-shirt, you can be sure of the quality. There are many kinds of tee shirts with more or fewer colors, large drawings or discrete ones; everybody can find one they like.
Bamboo Bags are a Japanese specialty, usually wore with kimonos or yukatas in summer, these bags are charming. They are made of Japanese bamboo and usually, have an inside cover made of cotton. Both useful and esthetic, a bamboo bag can also be wear with a modern, western outfit.
Chirimen called crape or crepe in English. It is a cloth with a gauzy appearance. Artians use various materials such as silk, wool or synthetic fiber to make them so it has a very precise feel. It’s often used in Japanese souvenirs such as little dolls, handkerchief, zori shoes or small coins purses; the Chirimen is using to cover just any item. The Chirimen cloth usually has very bright colors and floral patterns, however, light colored, discrete one also exist especially for men.