First, I must say that Japan is an extremely interesting place with many interesting things. However, there are some things that are really as souvenirs. Sometimes, it is according to how much money you have, but even the people who don’t have a lot of money for souvenirs can find good things. Here are some things I recommend.
First of all, if you are someone with a lot of money, get a brocade kimono. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. Both men and women wear kimonos in Japan. To go along with the kimono, you may want an obi, the belt that is warn with the kimonos. You can buy them already tied and east to put on or ones that you have to learn to tie for yourself. If you buy the ones that are not already tied, you will have to have a Japanese teach you how to tie it. Perhaps I should blog about how to tie an obi one day. You choose the kimonos color by your age and gender. I am not sure what color is for men except black. Young women wear the peach colored or some other innocent looking colored kimonos. Older women wear dark blue, black, or deep purple. There is also a kind of black and white suit the men could wear that is expensive with big wide legs in the pants. They are usually worn at weddings and places like that.
If you don’t have a lot of money, kimonos are not completely out. Get yourself a yukata, a summer kimono. They are much cheaper, and I have had several. I have two hanging in my closet right now. You are actually supposed to fold them, and I know how, but I am a bit lazy and put mine on a hanger. The Japanese wear the yukatas at home. They are made from cotton. They have big flower, fish, dragons, etc. all over them. Again, the young girls can get the brighter, lighter, or more festive colors. The men and older women should wear the traditional colors, the dark blue and white ones. They wear them when they practice kubuki, Noh, and Japanese dance as well as around their houses. I use my yukata as a robe. It is great for carrying in the suitcase because it is lightweight and doesn’t take up much room. If you use a big fuzzy robe, when you travel, it is a pain in the neck to pack, but yukatas don’t take up much room at all, and in the summer, they are not too hot.
Something all the Japanese get to take to their friends when they travel is O’mochi. O’mochi are Japanese rice cakes with sweet red beans in the middle. They are delicious! Some of them are white on the outside. Some are green, and some are pink. The green one have either green tea or some kind of healthy grass ground up and added to the rice cake. The pink ones have cherry blossoms ground up and added to them. According to which area of Japan you go to, these are made especially as souvenirs for you to take back to your friends, and they are very nice.
Another good thing to get as souvenirs in Japan are kokeshi dolls. For every area of Japan you go to, they have a different kind of kokeshi that is specific to that area. They are small wooden painted dolls, and they aren’t very expensive. They travel well in the suitcase because they don’t break. I heard a couple of different stories about the origins of kokeshi dolls. One said that there was a war, and many of the children were killed, and their parents made replicas of them out of wood to remember them. The other thing I heard was that when the parents were working in the fields, the children were bored, so they began carving dolls out of wood for their children to play with when they were in the fields. Regardless, these make a great decoration in your house. As I said, each one is different, according to which part of Japan you visit. Each one represents their part of Japan.
There is another kind of dolls that makes great souvenirs, but they are more expensive and don’t travel as well as kokeshi. Some of them are in glass cases, and they wear the brocade kimonos. I had a samurai doll in a glass case for a long time with a red brocade kimono and a replica of a small samurai sword in the case with him, but someone broke it. Now a days, I have a tall very regal looking Japanese lady in a blue brocade kimono holding a fan, but she isn’t in a glass case. These dolls are very beautiful, and can get very expensive according to which one you guy. You can shop around and find the one you like in the souvenir shops for the price you want.
Fans are another great souvenir of Japan. Both men and women in Japan use fans. There are many different kinds. The dance fans are the biggest ones. The dance fans are used in Kabuki, Noh, and Japanese dance. Kabuki and Noh are traditional types of Japanese theater. some of he fans come on special stands so you can put them up for display in your house.
The last time I was at Osaka castle, I saw some samurai helmets for sale. They were small replicas, but they would also make nice souvenirs. They also had small replicas of samurai swords for sale. It is hard to get a real samurai sword and take it out of the country. My son had a wooden Gumdo sword from Korea, and he had to put it in a special box and have it shipped separately because even though it was wooden, they didn’t want it on the plane. (Gumdo is a Korean martial art of sword fighting.) In Japan, the counter part to Gumdo is Kendo. You could also probably find the sticks they use to beat one another with in Kendo as souvenirs, but again, it would be more complicated to ship them out of the country. You couldn’t take them in your suitcase.