Japan seems to specialize in everything, which is why trying to be minimalist in souvenir shopping there was just not going to happen. I had heard so much before going about the specialty stationery stores, the crazy-weird beauty products at convenience and dollar stores, and the cutest snacks and candies, that I couldn’t wait to fill my daytripping backpack (which then turned into a whole extra suitcase that we got at Muji).
Beauty – There are plenty of department stores and high-end makeup counters in Japan, but I was interested in the drugstore-equivalent finds. I recommend checking out Ainz Tulpe and Tokyu Hands for a great selection, and these places are located all over Tokyo. I saw lots of girls wearing a popsicle-esque lip stain, so I picked up several Canmake Cream Cheek pots, which are supposedly favored by J.Crew makeup artists as well. Sheet masks seem to be huge, so I picked up a few called LuLuLun, since I liked the packaging.
Treats – If only all cookies and candies could be this cute and pop-art-worthy. I knew I already loved Pocky (biscuit cookie sticks dipped in a candy coating), but I had the worst time locating the jackpot of flavors that the internet had promised would be there. Maybe next time… Also, I almost completely forgot about KitKats, which are big there and have such unique flavors that are exclusive to Japan like Kyoho Grape and Sakura Matcha, but I was able to scoop some up at the airport.
Colorful candies – Japan, and especially Kyoto, has a long tradition of candy making, and while I did not make it to one of the candy artisan shops like I had hoped (check this page out to see what I mean), there were plenty of pretty candies for sale.
Bonsai scissors and cutters – I went to Japan with the hope I would find a great chef’s knife to bring home. I ended up selecting a super sharp pair of bonsai scissors and little snips that I am keeping handy for trimming bouquets, cutting flowers from the garden, as well as giving houseplants a trim. Tip for scissors: water can dull a blade over time, so keep your snips dry and wiped clean of debris when you store them. There are also endless shape options for bento cutters which I will use for cookies and cake decorating. If you don’t make it to Kappabashi Street, you can find a good variety at Tokyu Hands.
Ceramics and saké glasses – I found these beautiful hand-blown antique saké glasses at a shop on Kappabashi-dori for only a few hundred yen each ($5). I was pretty pleased with myself when I saw almost the exact same glasses at the airport for the equivalent of $50. I wish I could have filled my suitcase with a thousand more ceramic pieces like the blue and white bowl I found in Kyoto, handmade in Japan. There was also a curated selection of gifts by local artists at our hotel. I selected a few gold and white pieces from a Kyoto ceramics artist: a ring dish, bud vase, and a round vase.
Stationery – Itoya is the only place you need to go to cover every category of desk and art supplies, but of course, there are plenty of other places to peruse as well. I found some great washi tape options at Tokyu Hands, and when we were walking to see the Nara Park deer, I stopped into an old paper shop where I found this paper-wrapped calligraphy brush pen. Muji is another place I highly recommend; it is a minimalist Japanese lifestyle store, kind of like Ikea, but less emphasis on furniture and more on clothing and home goods with a phenomenal stationery section. My favorite pens come from here, and I’m glad I can get them on Amazon.
Fabrics – A very popular souvenir available everywhere is a traditional square piece of fabric used for wrapping gifts now and traditionally for carrying clothes and other goods is called furoshiki. Many are printed in traditional patterns and there are many ways to use it beyond wrapping a gift like as a scarf, hot pad, dish towel, framed art, belt, and much more!