Okay, you’re in Japan having the time of your life. Seeing some of the most beautiful sights, wandering through historical neighborhoods and sampling some of the tastiest food you’ve ever had. Now, at the end of the trip, you’re excited to tell your friends and family back home all about one of the best excursions of your life. When planning for your departure from Japan there is one crucial step you cannot forget; buy a bunch of souvenirs for your loved ones back home! Here at Arigato Travel, we love food and therefore consider edible souvenirs to be the best. Here is a list of our favorite food items and snacks for you to bring home from your trip to Japan.
Locality and Japanese Souvenir Culture
Japan has a long history of gift giving after trips, both long and short. Every region in Japan has their own speciality, some food or drink that they are known for. Some famous examples of this are green tea (famous in Kyoto and Shizuoka), street food like takoyaki and okonomiyaki in Osaka, apples in Aomori, shikwasa limes in Okinawa etc. Even if you’re new to Japan, you will most likely notice what the region you stay in is famous for since there will be loads of products around with local flavors. For example, if you find yourself in Aomori, you will notice apple-related goods everywhere, from the supermarket to the souvenir shop. This is not limited to fresh apples and apple juice, you’ll also find locally made apple chips, apple-flavored ice cream and even kit-kat! Finding souvenir snacks to bring back home is not the hard part, it is choosing what to get.
Our Favorite Edible Souvenirs
Japan is known for having a large variety of sweets and snacks. Some famous examples of unique Japanese sweets that make lovely souvenirs are kit-kat and hi-chew, both famous abroad but with loads of interesting limited edition flavors exclusively available in Japan. Other famous sweets that people love gifting each other in Japan are Royce chocolate, a super creamy and rich chocolate made to replicate belgian truffles, and shiroi koibito, a delicious cookie with thin, buttery wafers and a white chocolate middle. Both Royce chocolate and shiroi koibito are popular souvenirs from Hokkaido, using local dairy products. If you happen to swing by Kyoto on your trip, taste one of my favorite confections; yatsuhashi. Yatsuhashi is made from glutinous rice flour, sugar and cinnamon. Yatsuhashi is sometimes baked, making it crunchy yet sweet. Other times, yatsuhashi is enjoyed raw, with a variety of fillings such as red bean paste, chocolate and matcha. Raw yatsuhashi has a soft, chewy texture and the filling takes the delicacy to the next level.
Food to Bring Back from Japan
If you’re not a fan of sweets and prefer to let your loved ones back home enjoy some of the Japanese dishes you indulged in during your visit, we recommend bringing back some proper ramen for them to try. Many popular ramen restaurants sell ‘make-at-home’ sets that you can easily bring back and prepare with family and friends. Some popular restaurants that offer this are Ichiran, Tenkaippin and Ippudo. All three places specialize in the popular tonkotsu-style ramen, and thanks to their ‘make-at-home’ sets, you can still enjoy your favorite noodles when returning back home.
Another popular Japanese food item is Japanese style pickles, tsukemono. Japanese pickles are usually made of ginger, daikon radish, cucumber or Japanese plum, ume. Many visitors fall in love with Japanese pickles during their stay in Japan and although many attempt to recreate them at home, there is something that makes the pickles made in Japan unbeatable. There are many traditional pickle-makers in Japan that use recipes which were created hundreds of years ago. These shops have often been within the same family for generations and they take great pride in their craft. If you stop by Nishiki market in Kyoto, you’ll be able to visit some of these shops and sample their deliciously crunchy pickles. Many of these places sell their pickles in vacuum packages so that visitors from far away can bring some back to their home.
If you consider yourself a bit of a chef or if you know someone who loves cooking, bringing back some Japanese staple ingredients are a must! Stop by the local supermarket before you leave Japan and pick up some key features of Japanese cooking, such as wasabi or karashi, Japanese mustard, to add some Japanese-flavored kick to your home-cooking. If you enjoy the umami flavor present in Japanese dishes, don’t forget to get some dashi, a type of Japanese broth made from kelp and bonito flakes. Dashi is the key flavor to a lot of Japanese cooking so it is crucial for creating authentic Japanese flavor. If you’d rather keep it simple and prefer to spice up your regular cooking with some Japanese notes, I recommend bringing back some Japanese seasonings such as shichimi, a mix of seven Japanese spices, or furikake, a flavorful mix of seaweed, sesame and fish flakes which goes great on rice, salads and soups!
Whether you prefer to bring back something sweet to share with friends and family, or some ingredients to recreate your favorite Japanese dishes, remember that whichever you choose will most likely be a hit back home. Japan is a country rich in delicious treats and even the pickiest eaters are sure to fall in love with the local flavors!
Featured Photo by Tabimiyage