The list starts off with the most obvious choice, a folding fan. Sure, it doesn’t get any bonus points for originality, but that’s just because it’s such a tried and true choice. Lightweight and easy to pack, a folding fan is instantly evocative of Japan, plus a real lifesaver for visitors to the country during the humid summer.
Another artistic choice is a furoshiki, a patterned cloth used for wrapping and carrying bundles. The versatile furoshiki can also handle the duties of a tablecloth or tapestry, and many stores that sell them also stock inexpensive hanging frames.
Similarly, you could go with an assortment of washi, paper produced using traditional Japanese techniques. Washi is a bit trickier to find a use for than furoshiki, but the variety of designs and textures available make it a unique and beautiful decorative covering. It is also used in making paper crafts such as origami.
A less delicate item that instantly says “Japan” is a bokutou, or wooden sword. Be advised, though, that despite what anime and Japanese role-playing games may have told you, few, if any, bokutou have the power to cut through concrete, even if the wielder raises his chi levels first.
However, as these suggestions come from Japanese nationals, it stands that the majority of the suggestions follow the conventional logic in Japan that the best omiyage is something that the receiver can eventually use up, thereby precluding the need to store it permanently in his home.
As a result, food is by far the most common omiyage. Some of the gifts that got the happiest reactions were Japanese takes on Western staples, such as uniquely-flavored potato chips or Kit-Kat varieties.
Of course, Japan also has a rich culinary heritage of its own for gift givers to draw on. One choice is yatsuhashi, a traditional confectionery from Kyoto. The dough used for yatsuhashi is either folded into a triangle, with a dollop of sweet bean paste placed inside...
or baked until it has the consistency of a cracker.
Another high class delectable on the list is yubeshi. Made of sticky rice flour and commonly flavored with the Japanese citrus fruit called yuzu, yubeshi has been a popular treat in Japan since the 12th century, and is sliced thinly before eating.
Another pan-generational favorite of Japanese with a sweet tooth is uiro, one of the many variations of the Japanese rice cakes collectively called mochi. Uiro, which comes in flavors such as sweet red bean and green tea, may not be able to match yubeshi’s lengthy history, but it has been around for at least 300 years.
Should you need a gift for someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth, there’s always a nice bottle of sake. If you can't come up with any ideas, you can check out our articles on Japanese alcohol here.
Or, if the person you’re shopping for isn’t a drinker, you could go with one person's unique recommendation of a bottle of yakiniku sauce, like the kind used at Japan’s ubiquitous grill-your-own-meat restaurants.
Whether you choose to go for something sweet or useful, like the multipurpose furoshiki, in the end, it's the thought that counts. Right?
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