You want to take home the perfect souvenir, gift and/or memento from your travels in Japan, but there’s so many choices! Here’s a list of popular souvenirs we recommend, good for a wide range of people you may be shopping for, including yourself!
Table of Contents
- Japanese Words to Know for Souvenir Shopping in Japan
- Best Food Souvenirs in Japan
- Best Gift and Memento Souvenirs in Japan
- Bonus: Best Regional Souvenirs in Japan
- Where to Buy Souvenirs in Japan
So you’re in Japan, overwhelmed by all the amazing food and products and wondering what to take home. Well we’re here to help and offer suggestions for (mostly) practical things you can take home with you as both gifts and mementos.
But before that, here’s some Japanese terms to keep in mind when buying souvenirs in Japan.
Souvenir or gift is お土産 (omiyage) in Japanese. If you’re in a touristy area, keep an eye out for signs with this word on it. Japan has a huge gift-giving culture, so whether you’re a tourist or living in Japan, knowing about it and the different types of gifts you can get is important.
季節限定 (Kisetsu Gentei) / 期間限定 (Kikan Gentei)
Wanted to get something cute or interesting you saw on social media? There’s a big chance it’s not available anymore. Japan loves season exclusive (季節限定 kisetsu gentei) and limited time offers (期間限定 kikan gentei), as well as character collaborations. As popular as these things are at the moment, they’re usually gone in a few weeks with no guarantees of returning. This is great if you’re looking for something unique and one of a kind, but it also means you might never get it again.
地域限定 (Chiiki Gentei) / 名物 (Meibutsu)
If you’re visiting a particular area in Japan, keep an eye out for 地域限定 (chiiki gentei - region exclusive) or [name of place you’re visiting]限定 (exclusive to the place you’re visiting). Another word used similarly is 名物 (meibutsu) ‐ literally “famous thing” - but this also refers to local dishes you have to try. Some souvenirs will be related to these meibutsu for sure! These gifts will definitely be more personal as they are famous/popular in that region, or unavailable anywhere else in Japan.
ラッピングサービス (Wrapping Service)
Gift-wrapping is sometimes an available service so keep an eye out to see if they have this written near the register. The cashier staff may ask you 「自宅用ですか？(Jitaku you desuka? Is it for personal use?) プレゼント用ですか？(Purezento you desuka? Is it a present?)」if they have a “wrapping service”. If you say it’s a present, they will offer to wrap it nicely for you. Depending on the store and/or material of the wrapping, this may cost an extra fee. We don’t recommend this if you’re short on time as it may take at the very least 5-mins, or way longer if there’s a queue.
For general shopping phrases in Japanese, check out our article here.
Alright, without further ado, here are the best souvenirs to get in Japan!
駄菓子 dagashi are very cheap Japanese snacks. They’re very nostalgic for many Japanese people, as they would often buy and eat them as children with their precious allowance.
There’s shops called 駄菓子屋 (dagashiya) and even an entire street (駄菓子屋横丁 Dagashiya Yokocho in Coedo, Kawagoe) dedicated to these fun and affordable snacks.
Popular choices include
ベビースター (Baby Star)
キャベツ太郎 (Cabbage Taro)
風船ガム (Fuusen Gum - bubble gum)
ラムネキャンディ (Ramune candy)
and many more! There are also sweets like small chocolates, mini donuts and such included in the category of dagashi. The fun and slightly retro-looking packaging makes it a unique (and cheap!) gifts.
煎餅 (senbei) are Japanese rice crackers. There’s many kinds, from savory to sweet. You can buy them at grocery stores and convenience stores, but it’s always fun to go to senbei shops to get the local specialty. Some even make the senbei on the spot so you can get it hot off the grill.
You might think potato chips (or crisps, if you prefer) are the same everywhere but no! Japan gets super creative with their potato chip flavors, shapes, sizes, etc. There’s new flavors every month at the convenience store, regional flavors, as well as the beloved staples.
Need something sweet with the salty? You can also find chocolate covered potato chips here!
There’s a huge variety of Japanese sweets, from traditional to innovative, super sweet to just enough to put it into the sweets category. You can go for the unique flavors, such as the seemingly ever growing list of Kitkat flavors, or you can get something very quintessentially Japanese, like matcha green tea flavored things.
和菓子 (wagashi) are traditional Japanese sweets. This covers a huge range of traditional sweets, including the famous mochi and dango. These often have matcha or azuki (red bean paste) filling. Some of them are also known to be very beautiful to look at (or their packaging is!), and good to give as gifts.
Popular wagashi include ichigo daifuku (strawberry and red bean inside mochi), dango (mochi balls), nerikiri (colorful beautifully crafted confectionery with white red bean paste).
Popular region specific ones include yatsuhashi from Kyoto, momiji manju from Hiroshima, and castella from Nagasaki are some of the popular ones. Check near the end of the article for more regional favorites.
Japan makes chocolate sweets and snacks very well.
Some favorites you can pick up even at supermarkets, but also at convenience stores and miscellaneous stores like Don Quixote include
Alfort Chocolate Biscuits
Takenoko no Sato / Kinoko no Yama
Kitkats in many different flavors; make sure to see if there’s any regional ones like Hokkaido Red Bean & Strawberry or seasonal ones like sakura cherry blossom, marron chestnut or sweet potato.
And what better to go with wagashi and other Japanese snacks than tea. Japan is celebrated for its tea and tea ceremonies. While matcha is usually the most popular, especially with overseas tourists, the country has a long list of other teas to choose from as well like Hojicha. And as Japanese teas are usually sugarless, they’re known to be good for your health as well. Tea specialty shops will have especially beautiful wrapping for their tea boxes and tins.
Even the instant tea products are really good in Japan, so don’t feel like you have to spend a lot just to get nice tea.
Seasoning & Condiments
Sometimes you can’t bring back a whole dish from Japan, but you can buy the seasoning! Some shops sell their original sauce and flavoring packets of their most famous dishes, including the more famous ramen shops (you can even find instant cup noodles for some of them if you’re lucky!). Especially if you don’t have a Japanese or Asian market near you back home, or if you know it’s much cheaper to get in Japan, pick up things like:
Soy sauce, wasabi, mirin
Shichimi (chili flakes)
Yuzu Kosho (yuzu citrus and chili paste)
Instant Dashi Soup Stock
Furikake (flavoring to sprinkle on top of rice)
Note for food souvenirs in Japan: Of course everyone has their own preferences as well as what’s available already in their home country from Japan. But listed are things that are popular and are mostly a hit whether it’s for yourself or someone else. Just make sure to check for expiration dates!
Some people recommend buying kimono, the most famous Japanese garment, but unless you know how to put it on or have occasions to wear it, it’s a pricey thing that will most likely gather dust.
We recommend getting a yukata, which is the light cotton summer version of a kimono (Jinbei is the shorts version, which is also recommended!). Or perhaps a haori, a slip-on jacket worn over a kimono, would be easier to get daily use out of. Happi, worn at festivals, or hanten, worn to keep warm in winter are also easy to wear over your clothes.
Lucky Charms (omamori) from Temples and Shrines
At temples and shrines in Japan, you can pray for something good to happen or for protection against bad things happening. And you can purchase お守り (omamori) which are small charms, amulets or tokens that you or your loved ones can keep with them. These range from good luck for romance, education, jobs, as well as protection against accidents, bad luck and illness. Each temple and shrine usually has unique and often beautiful tokens.
Another amulet you can put in your house to invite good luck in, 招き猫 (maneki neko) are cute gifts you can get. Certain temples and shrines are particularly famous for them, but you can also pick them up at many souvenir stores. There’s different meaning based on their color and which paw is raised, so read our article on them to find out the details.
Yes, this sounds very generic but hear us out. No matter where you go in Japan, they have keychains as souvenirs, including small ones as phone straps. But these aren’t simply keychains with the place name or even a photo of the place, although they have those too. Japan has local mascots as well as famous characters so lots of the keychains feature them. So you can get a keychain (and many other goods) of, for example, of Hello Kitty, Snoopy, Gudetama, popular anime characters with the local monument (See Jujutsu Kaisen characters with Mt Fuji above), or the prefecture mascot - or sometimes even the monument mascot - with the famous food or landmark of the area.
Chopsticks and Chopstick Rests
Chopsticks are a great gift, because you can get everything from cheap but perfectly usable ones at 100 yen shops, to nicer ones at tourist locations. And to go along with chopsticks, you can get 箸置き (hashioki) or chopstick rests in various beautiful and cute forms. (The chopstick rests are used to prop your chopsticks on before, during and after your meal.)
Mugs & Ceramics
Mugs are also something we recommend! You can get everything from your typical mugs - for example, popular ones here are the regional Starbucks mugs, one for each major city - or 湯呑 (yunomi), Japanese mugs with no handles used specifically for tea. You can get a variety of beautiful designs.
If cups or mugs are not your thing, there are many other ceramic items you can get in Japan, including plates, bowls, vases, etc.
Read all about beautiful Japanese ceramics and famous pottery towns in our article here!
Anime & Cute Goods
Do you need an explanation? Whether you’re into a particular anime, or really love a certain character (and not necessary Japanese either! For example, Snoopy is really popular here!), you’re bound to find Japan exclusive merch for it. Also you’re in luck if your favorite anime or character is having a collab with other brands or products!
From pens to stickers to notebooks and more, Japan is a stationery lover’s paradise! There are entire floors of shops dedicated to stationery, guaranteeing a long visit so you don’t miss anything!
Japanese skincare and makeup products are loved around the world. Pick up facemasks, hand lotion, sunscreen, high quality makeup, hair & nail products, etc. for yourself and others. Electronics related to beauty and skincare are also popular and reliable.
Supplements and Vitamins
There’s vitamins for all sorts of things in Japan, and they’re quite popular to buy to bring home to family members. Pain relief patches such as Salonpas are also popular.
Certain regional sweets/snacks are known all over Japan as the souvenir to bring back if you go there. These include:
Tokyo Banana (sweets from Tokyo)
Unagi Pie (cookies from Hamamatsu)
Shiroi Koibito (cookies from Hokkaido)
Momiji Manju (wagashi from Hiroshima)
Yatsuhashi (wagashi from Kyoto)
But let’s look at some of the major regions and some more specific gift ideas. These are all still highly recommended, even in 2022.
Tokyo Banana is the popular choice (a soft spongey sweet with banana cream inside), and with constant character collabs, you can get cute designs in addition to the original. If that particular sweets is not your thing, Tokyo Banana also offers other sweets like cookies. A popular choice is the Sugar Butter Sand(wich) Tree series.
Other Tokyo ideas include:
Anything from Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea (although technically it’s in Chiba Prefecture)
Youkan (a type of wagashi) from Toraya
Hiyoko (a type of wagashi that looks like a baby chick)
Osaka’s famous souvenirs that immediately come to mind aren’t ones that you can easily bring back home if you live overseas - pork buns from 551 and freshly baked cheesecake from Rikuro’s.
However, we suggest looking for the following as things easier to bring back:
Takoyaki Flavored Snacks (such as Jagariko)
Omoshiroi Koibito, Osaka’s parody souvenir of Hokkaido’s famous Shiroi Koibito. However the cookie itself is completely different from Hokkaido’s
Kyoto’s most popular souvenir in Japan is yatsuhashi, a cinnamon flavored snack that comes in two forms - soft like mochi, or hard as a baked cookie. Definitely try it out and consider buying some as souvenirs (the cookie type lasts much longer). There's many flavors for the soft type on top of the original flavor, including green tea, strawberry and chocolate.
Other Kyoto souvenirs:
Matcha Tea and anything matcha flavored, from cake, cookies, chocolate, etc.
Senju Senbei - a type of sweet senbei sandwich with cream inside which is more like a wafer sandwich
Kyoame which are traditional candies made in Kyoto. You can find them in beautiful designs such as colorful temari and other traditional shapes
Hokkaido’s most popular souvenir by far is Shiroi Koibito, a cookie made with white chocolate. It’s so popular that there’s a whole theme park facility around its factory that you can visit.
Other Hokkaido Souvenirs:
Beer: There are several major breweries in Hokkaido, such as in Sapporo and Otaru, and you can get distinct beer from each of them
Jaga Pokkuru - a potato chip snack that looks like thick cut fries
Marusei Butter Sand(wich)
Last but not least, you can get some great souvenirs in Okinawa. There’s actually several major ones that come to mind:
Saata Andagi which are like large, dense donut balls
Chinsuko, a light buttery cookie that comes in many flavors
Beniimo Tart, a purple sweet potato tart
Awamori, a very strong local alcoholic beverage
So where do you get all these things? Check in the following places:
Shops near or leading up to famous temples
Festivals and markets
Supermarkets, convenience stores
Pharmacies, drugstores, department stores
Miscellaneous stores like Don Quijote, Village Vanguard, Loft, Tokyu Hands, 100 yen shops (read all about them here) and such
Major train stations where you can board Shinkansen, like Tokyo Station
Airports - the best places for regional souvenirs and last minute shopping - tax free!
Check out our article about where to go shopping in Japan!
We hope this article gave you lots of good ideas! Happy shopping!! And remember…you can only buy certain things in Japan so might as well get it!
Originally posted: Jan 17, 2022
Updated: Nov 18, 2022