The hardest part about travelling is reaching the end of your journey. The moment you begin packing your bags to go back home, you experience a sense of nostalgia thinking about the marvellous memories you made on your trip. That is until you remember all the delicious treats, snacks, and souvenirs that you can bring back home to share with your friends and family.
So, grab a drink, sit back, and relax as I guide you through all the seasonal bucket-list items to pick up while you are in Japan, including an assortment of creative and cultural activities!
Japan’s humidity and scorching summer heat can sometimes feel like a nightmare, but don’t worry, you can find amazing summer products that will keep you cool throughout the season.
For starters, summer is lemon and watermelon season in Japan, so make sure to tour the local fruit markets and explore all the different lemon and watermelon flavored ice-cold drinks and candies!
The most famous soda in Japan is called ‘Ramune.’ In fact, it is like a symbol of summertime in Japan as you start seeing ‘ramune’ flavored goodies everywhere you go. You can purchase it at any convenience store, supermarket, or vending machine and be instantly refreshed.
Another delicious summer treat is ‘warabimochi.’ This is a cool, gelatinous type of mochi that is sprinkled with a sweet brown powder and syrup. If you are someone who loves mochi, definitely give it a try!
Finally, going on a local summer festival food quest is a must on your to-do list. You can experience Japanese culture and enjoy all kinds of food (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian), from yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), to yakisoba (noodles) and ‘kakigori’ (shaved ice dessert).
As for unique ‘omiyage’ (souvenirs) in the summertime, you can easily find traditional ‘sensu’ (hand fans) or wind chimes to decorate the exterior of your home or hang on your balcony.
Originally a Western holiday, Halloween has become increasingly popular and is usually celebrated by costume-loving individuals in Japan. In foreign countries, children spend the day trick or treating to later devour bags full of candies and chocolates. Even though trick or treating is not practiced in Japan, the country is well-known for its diverse range of KitKat flavors. That includes exciting halloween-themed chocolates for this spooky season. In fact, you can create your own KitKat at the Kitkat Chocolatory in Shibuya to take back home!
Speaking of treats, let’s talk about ‘wagashi.’ This is a traditional Japanese dessert that is meticulously crafted into various shapes and sizes, so not only are they little masterpieces, but also incredibly delicious! You can enjoy it with some green tea or ‘houjicha’ (roasted green tea).
Moving on to traditional snacks, ‘senbei’ are famous savoury, yet sweet rice crackers that you can find anywhere in Japan. In autumn, you can find them shaped and pigmented like the leaves of the season’s foliage.
Needless to say, nature in Japan is stunning in the autumn. If you wish to bring a part of it back home to cherish, you can get Japanese Bonsai Maple Tree seeds to plant in your garden for your next exterior DIY project.
Japan is also known for its ‘kawaii’ culture and that includes cute stationery items and origami crafts. These items will make the perfect ‘omiyage’ (souvenir) for your creative friends and family members.
Last but not least, autumn is sweet potato season!
It’s the time of the year where the smell of roasted sweet potato fills the air and melts our hearts. Trust me when I say that you won’t even think twice before stopping by a roasted sweet potato stand to grab one for the road.
If you happen to be cafe-hopping and exploring the Aobadai area (Meguro city), make sure to stop by the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo so that you can try their Japan-exclusive menu, which includes sweet potato and other autumn-inspired beverages.
Like many places on earth, winter temperatures in Japan can be challenging, but what if I told you that a single item could save you from those shivers and all-around coldness?
Found at any local ‘konbini’ (convenience store) is an essential winter product known as ‘kairo’ (heat packs). Attaching these to your clothes will undoubtedly keep you warm and cozy for hours so that you can explore as much as you want without having to worry about the cold. It’s a dream come true.
However, if you have cold hands like me (even with gloves on) and find yourself desperately in need of a hot drink, just pop by the nearest vending machine and choose from a variety of warm beverages. The options are endless: from traditional tea, coffee, hot cocoa and even sweet corn soup that you can drink on the go!
Wondering what to eat during the most wonderful time of the year? Christmas in Japan is usually commemorated with some crispy fried chicken and fluffy Japanese strawberry shortcake which you can buy in any bakery or order online before the festivities.
New Year’s Day in Japan is not the same without the much anticipated ‘fukubukuro’ (lucky bags) hauls. As a New Year’s Day custom, local vendors and stores in Japan offer these special packages for a discounted price. With these bags, be prepared to expect the unexpected as they are filled with random, limited edition items!
Visiting a temple or a shrine is another typical New Year’s tradition in Japan. If you happen to stop by one, make sure to purchase an ‘omamori’ (lucky charm) for yourself or for your friends and family in order to wish them the best of luck and good fortune in the upcoming year.
Side note: you might feel a little overwhelmed by the diverse range of amulets available, so make sure to do some preliminary research!
Springtime in Japan is surreal, both in anime and in real life.
Imagine sitting under a picturesque cherry blossom tree at the peak of ‘hanami’ season, which is the brief period where the flowers are fully bloomed. You feel a delicate breeze brush through your hair; pink petals start cascading down onto the freshly cut grass. Life’s good.
What better way to enjoy these blissful scenes in Japan than with a scrumptious picnic? You can buy freshly made sandwiches, seasonal fruits, and drinks at the nearest convenience store. Most importantly, don’t forget to check out all the beautiful sakura-themed picnic items, souvenirs, drinks, and food to make the most out of your ‘hanami’ adventure.
The perfect springtime drink is the country’s heavenly ‘matcha’ (green tea). At this time of year, keep an eye out for green tea inspired desserts, beverages, as well as irresistible soft-serve ice cream. If you are looking to have an authentic cultural experience, I highly recommend reserving a traditional tea ceremony to learn about “the way of tea” and its ancient history.
Another popular activity in spring is strawberry picking, which you can do with your friends and family or even as a solo traveler. While doing this activity you will not only learn more about Japanese agriculture, but also get to spend some quality time in nature. Alternatively, you can take a Japanese ceramics class in which you will have the opportunity to design and hand-make your very own bowls and dishes like a professional.
In any case, whether you plan to visit Japan in the summer, autumn, winter or spring, I can assure you that you will never be disappointed with what the country has to offer. Each season in Japan is an adventure to behold, promising you a wonderful experience.