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Ultimate Guide On What To Buy In Japan

Japan, “The land of the rising sun”, is undoubtedly a dream destination and never fails to impress travelers. Not only famous for its rich culture and distinct tradition through generations, Japan is also well known as a shopping paradise. For many people, shopping may be one of the most exciting things to do on their trips. So if you are planning to visit Japan soon and wondering what to buy in Japan that makes the best of your experience, this blog is for you. Let’s get ready and scroll down to discover top things to buy in Japan.

Ultimate Guide On What To Buy In Japan

1. Food & Drinks

1.1.  Sweet & snacks

1.1.1. Dorayaki

If you are a fan Doraemon – the very first national anime ambassador, then you must always remember his favorite food. It was Dorayaki, a pair of round, fluffy pancakes with sweet red bean paste filled in between. It may look simple but the perfect combination of irresistible sweetness and soft texture will definitely win your heart.

The popularity and affordable price of this cake makes it available in almost every corner of Japan. While spending your time here, don’t hesitate to serve yourself with Dorayaki and a cup of hot tea or coffee!

What to buy in Japan

Dorayaki is a perfect combination of irresistible sweetness and soft texture.

1.1.2. Kit Kat

It is no exaggeration to say that Kit Kat is one of the best things to buy in Japan. There are more than 300 different types of Kit Kat for you to choose, ranging from the best selling flavors like matcha, strawberry to the weirdest flavors as wasabi, apple vinegar….. These chocolate bars have been around for more than 30 years and became an inevitable part of Japanese modern life. In Japanese, Kit Kat sounds like “Kitto Katsu” which means “You will surely win”. Given that, people believe that it is a good luck gift for students taking entrance exams.

What to buy in Japan

Kit Kat is one of the must-buy local souvenirs in Japan

1.1.3. Mochi

Mochi is a popular traditional Japanese sweet cake. It is normally made from red bean paste wrapped in glutinous rice flour shaped like a round ball but also came in with various shapes and flavors, such as cherry, matcha, strawberry, and so on.

It is not only a snack in daily life but also an indispensable item in Japanese families on the occasion of the New Year.  The soft, moisture texture of sticky rice combined with the sweetness from the filling will keep your stomach warm and full during the cold weather of Spring.

What to buy in Japan

Mochi is a popular traditional Japanese sweet cake

1.1.4. Dango

Still craving for some other Japanese treats? Then Dango is a perfect suggestion for you. Dango is mocha related treat made from rice and usually served with green tea.  Even though this lovely dumpling looks similar to Mochi, the ingredients and how to make it is totally different. The most common way to distinguish these two probably is the appearance. Dango is often served as 3-4 tiny round balls with sweet sauce or honey poured over. Simple but high quality, Dango is definitely a wonderful choice for your day. All beautiful flavors are combined just in one bite, how wonderful it is!

What to buy in Japan

Dango is mocha related treat made from rice and usually served with green tea

1.1.5. Anko

“Anko” – or “an” in short – is undoubtedly the key to open the world of desserts in Japan. Though made from various ingredients including beans, sweet potato or sesame, “Anko” is often used to refer to “red bean paste”. Appears in almost every Japan sweets, it brings out the best flavor by its magical taste. It may be a little bit cliché to say but Japanese confectionary would not be the same without Anko. If you are into a bakery, this is no doubt one of the best thing to buy in Japan.

What to buy in Japan

“Anko” is the key to open the world of desserts in Japan

There is also a movie called “An” released in 2015 highlights the beauty of this incredible ingredient. You may want to check it out in below link:

1.1.6. Wagashi

Wagashi is considered the symbol of the art of Japanese confectionary. The most wonderful feature of this cake is how artistically all four different seasons can be portrayed in each creation. For example, in the fall, it is easy to see the orange, red Wagashi cakes shaped like fallen leaves. When spring comes, colorful Wagashi looks like many different kinds of flowers, especially sweet pink cherry blossoms.

Wagashi is more than a dessert because the soul and essence of Japan seems to be packed in these tiny but extremely delicate cakes. When you are in Japan, do not miss your chance to have your very own experience of these amazing cakes!

What to buy in Japan

Wagashi is considered the symbol of art of Japanese confectionary.

1.2. Tea

If you are a tea drinker, your trip to Japan would not be complete without visiting some of the finest local tea houses. Japan has a wide selection of high-quality green tea for you to choose and bring home as gifts for your family, friends, and colleagues.

Among all kinds of tea, Matcha probably is the most famous product.

What to buy in Japan

Among all kinds of tea, Matcha probably is the most famous product.

1.3. Japanese Drinks

1.3.1. Sake

Claimed to be National drink, Sake plays a vital role in Japanese life and culture over the past 2000 years. Sake is made from rice and water, under the influence of a bacterium called koji. The taste of wine will vary depending on the temperature. You can enjoy it perfectly in both cold and hot style. And if you are looking for a luxurious and elegant gift for your boss, a bottle of Sake may be the right answer for you.

What to buy in Japan

You can enjoy Sake perfectly in both cold and hot style

1.3.2. Melon soda

Melon soda is one of the most unique drinks in Japan. Its toxic green color may make you hesitate at first but once you try it, you’ll see why it is loved all over Japan. The taste of it is the combination of soda’s lightness and melon’s sweetness which can be easy to get addicted to.

You can find melon soda from various brands in almost every convenience shop in Japan.

What to buy in Japan

Melon soda is one of the most unique drinks in Japan

          FURTHER READING

2. Traditional Items

2.1. Japanese Wind Chimes (Furin)

Along with Hanabi (fireworks), Furin wind chimes have become the symbol of summer in Japan. With its healing and relaxed sound, Furin is believed to have the power of protecting people and banishing evil spirits. Given that, it is considered a meaningful blessing gift for anyone who receives it.

What to buy in Japan

Along with Hanabi (fireworks), Furin wind chimes have become the symbol of summer in Japan

2.2. Folding Fans

Sensu—Japanese traditional folding fan—a kind of Japanese accessory that has been around since ancient time. In the past, Sensu was usually used as an elegant decorative item to go with kimonos and as a tool in Noh drama or Tea ceremony.

Nowadays, you can buy a modern Sensu anywhere in Japan. These fans are cheap, easy to carry around and therefore became one of the most favorite souvenirs for foreign visitors.

What to buy in Japan

Sensu—Japanese traditional folding fan—a kind of Japanese accessory that has been around since ancient time

2.3. Lucky Charm

Omamori is the name of lucky charms that are often seen at shrines and temples throughout Japan. Omamori symbolizes Shinto gods and is believed to bring protection and luck to the keeper. Especially, most Japanese students bring charms to the examination room to wish for high results.

These charms are often designed specifically in different areas.

What to buy in Japan

Omamori symbolizes Shinto gods and is believed to bring protection and luck to the keeper

2.4. Daruma

This doll is usually made of wood and painted in red. Its most characteristic feature is the face which has empty eyes and a large black mustache. The never-fallen Daruma doll symbolizes the resilient will of Japanese people. Besides, Daruma also represents luck so people often give it away as a good luck gift.

What to buy in Japan

The never-fallen Daruma doll symbolizes the resilient will of Japanese people

2.5. Wagasa – Umbrella

Wagasa is a type of umbrella which is mainly made of paper and bamboo. It has been associated with Japanese culture and beauty for more than thousands of years. You may be surprised to know that different from typical Western umbrellas, Wagasa is not made of fabric or plastic but a type of paper called Washi. However, Japanese people make these umbrellas waterproof by covering it in oil. So throw away your worries! You can totally enjoy rainy days in Japan.

What to buy in Japan

Wagasa has been associated with Japanese culture and beauty for more than thousands of years

2.6. Maneki Neko – The lucky cats

Seems like almost everything in Japan has a meaning for luck. Along with Daruma, Maneki Neko is also considered a symbol of luck. Nowadays, these lovely cats can be seen in many stores, companies or banks here. Maneki Neko comes in different shapes and colors but has the same gesture with a paw upward to beckon customers. Commonly, people believe that Maneki Neko is originated in Tokyo. So if you are thinking about what to buy in Tokyo, Maneki Neko is a good option for you!

What to buy in Japan

Along with Daruma, Maneki Neko is also considered a symbol of luck

2.7. Wooden Kokeshi doll

One of the top things to buy in Japan is Kokeshi (こけし, 小芥子, kokeshi). These simple wooden dolls with no arms or legs are among the most widely recognized dolls in the world. Having been around for more than 150 years, Kokeshi with its rich historical origin and the cultural association has become popular with foreign visitors.

What to buy in Japan

Kokeshi is one of the most popular dolls in the world

2.8. Koinobori

If you’re in the mood for a more festival-specific and seasonal gift to give someone, search Koinobori. The flags shaped like carps and traditionally flown in Japan to celebrate Children’s Days in May. Ancient people believe that boys are like the carps, can overcome any difficulty to transform into a dragon. Therefore, this reflects the virtue of a samurai that Japanese people want future generations to inherit.

3. Manga & Anime Stuff (Comics & Cartoons)

You are a huge fan of Naruto? One piece? Conan? Then you should not miss the chance to collect the coolest limited editions of your favorite manga books and fantastic kinds of goods that can only be found in Japan.

Japan offers you a wide range of anime and manga products

Akihabara district of Tokyo is truly the paradise for any manga and anime lover (Otaku). Even if you are not an Otaku, visiting this place can still be an exciting and fun part of your trip to Japan.

4. Cosmetic Products

For women, cosmetic products are undoubtedly on top of the list of what to buy in Japan. The cosmetics industry in Japan is booming.  Nowadays, there are many Japanese skincare brands, and a lot of them are recognized as top brands in the world such as SKII, Shishido… You can easily find some of the best beauty products in department stores or drug stores across Japan.

What to buy in Japan

For women, cosmetic products are undoubtedly on top of the list of what to buy in Japan

5. Fashion Wear

Japanese people have the most unique and amazing fashion sense. In fact, there are a lot of trendy areas in Japan but Harajuku still remains its leading position of Japanese street fashion. Here, you will be overwhelmed by all kinds of creative and unique fashion items.

Beside luxurious brands, top fashion retailers like Uniqlo are also a wonderful stop to shop. Let’s drop by the famous Uniqlo flagship store in Ginza and complete your look with the finest outfit at the most affordable prices!

Fashion items are undoubtedly one of the best things to shop in Japan

Conclusion

Japan is absolutely a dream destination for any traveler. If you have a chance to get here, do not miss any unique and cool stuff that only can be found in this country.  Hopefully, the list above can help you to decide on what to buy in Japan.

About Yuu Hiasa

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.