Thursday, May 26, 2011

in tokyo:: omiyage demystified

this little word is something interesting that i learnt after living in japan - omiyage. simply put, it's a souvenir or something that you bring home for people that didn't get to travel with you. its such a no-brainer and obviously not a unique japanese concept. but they take their omiyage so darn seriously!

when i travel, i always buy little knick-knacks for people i love. sometimes local treats but most of the time... pretty things, items that they requested for or something that i know they'll use. i love gifting jewellery, stationery, magazines and underwear! but the most random souvenir - matt gold leggings. (hah!)

but in japan, you buy souvenirs for everybody and their mothers. especially your co-workers. and just another one that i found the most baffling... i started receiving souvenirs from tokyo disneyland and ikea, both were a mere 30 mins away from tokyo and both very common weekend hangouts. but each time someone went, it was souvenirs all round!!

this omiyage business really makes the japanese economy go round...

my favorite local omiyage - tokyo banana...
i buy them as a treat each time i pass the train stations! :)

as a side-note, omiyage-s are not always cheap. specifically in japan, they are always packaged individually and exquisitely wrapped, so they can cost up to 500 yen each piece. so when you have an large team of co-workers, it all adds up!! but when in japan, do as the japanese do so we've become avid omiyage-givers.

here are some tips from our (limited) omiyage experiences:: 

1. food items are sure winners (especially meibutsu)
2. at least one piece for everyone
3. individually packed
4. buy something awfully stereotypical (eg. reeses pieces - usa, timtams - australia)
5. don't go all authentic. 

when we came back from india, we got everyone local beer snacks which proved to be too spicy because the local indian cuisine is watered down in spiciness so everyone was rudely awakened. on hindsight, we should have stuck to the boxed sweet treats with japanese writings, obviously targeted at the japanese market! and as for point four, some people are just plain rude. if you bring an omiyage that is out of the norm, they'll tell you that you 'should have gotten ... instead." tough crowd!

flying out of narita this trip, we noticed something real interesting specifically targeted for this booming trade! an omiyage booth! displaying all the typical gifts that you buy from each country like macadamia nuts from hawaii, maple syrup from canada so even before you check in for your flight, you can order it and have them shipped to your home in time for your return flight for a mere 315 yen! that way you don't need to hunt high and low for it while you're on vacation and no hand carry or temperature worries... isn't that innovative?

gotta love the japanese! 
they really do think of everything!



  1. I bought Tokyo Banana too! Hehe. But it's not as awesome as I thought it would taste. :(

  2. @Yi Lian

    seriously!? awww... that's a shame!!!

    im really a huge fan!! i just had one today on my way to ikea! :)

  3. @phibo

    naturally that would be the first thing you notice, hon! :) haha!! :)

    i think china is a popular destination with the japanese and they are crazy about pandas! just like you!! :)

  4. omg I did a search for "Tokyo omiyage" and your blog came up 6th in the google search list!!! how awesome is that!


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