You may think that in order to find the best Japanese gifts you have to book a flight to Tokyo, but we’ve found a much less expensive way to shop for the coolest presents that will delight your inner “shinnichi” (that’s Japanese for Japanophile). And since we can’t travel internationally these days (due to you know, the whole global pandemic situation), products that remind us of our favorite destinations are all the more comforting.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Japan many times because my brother lives in Osaka, Japan with his wife and their newborn son. And while the country has so much to offer (some of the best food on the planet, the gorgeous cherry blossom season, etc.), one of my favorite parts of visiting Japan is the incredible shopping. I’ve dropped a lot of yen on shopping sprees there and scored some of the coolest, most unique finds.
Japan has a very big gifting culture, and so I called up my brother, Alexander, and his wife, Chiyo (who is Japanese and grew up in Kyoto), for some direct insight. “Presentation is very important in Japan,” they explained. “It’s not necessarily just about the things inside the box. It’s considered polite to open a present slowly and carefully because of all the care that went into wrapping it.”
Below, we’ve pulled together some of the best Japanese gift ideas that will make a perfect present for anyone on your list.
Cool Japanese Gifts
Snoopy is super popular in Japan, essentially as iconic as Mickey Mouse is in the United States. I’ve been to the Snoopy Café in Kyoto, which is a restaurant dedicated to the classic Peanuts character. I bought this exact bowl set at the gift shop, and I love it because at first glance it looks like classic china—but only at very close examination do you realize it’s Snoopy-themed.
Japan is known for its quality chefs’ knives, and if you’re looking for a higher-end gift to give to a foodie, then this 8-inch blade handcrafted in Japan is the perfect present.
Goldbelly is a website where you can buy famous regional foods and have them shipped to your door. If you’ve ever been to Japan, you know that their baked goods are out of this world. The lines round the corner at Keki’s Chinatown, New York bakery with people waiting for this jiggly cheesecake influenced by traditional Japanese desserts. It’s hard to describe its deliciousness in words—you just have to taste it for yourself.
When it comes to gifting in Japan, presentation is everything. Invest in some specialty wrapping paper with this set of 12 x 18 inch sheets.
Hello Kitty is arguably the most famous character to come out of Japan, and she’s beloved by children and adults alike. You can find a lot of Sanrio (the Japanese company products that created Hello Kitty) products that aren’t necessarily toys targeted at kids, like this Hello Kitty water cooler.
“Miniatures” are very popular in Japan, particularly tiny replicas of food. They’re not meant to have any function other than decoration. The last time I visited Tokyo, I bought a tiny replica of an ice cream sundae and have it displayed in my living room.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Lost In Translation,” you’ve heard of Suntory Japanese whiskey. It’s an iconic brand, but you don’t have to fly to Japan to buy it; just order it online.
Ever been to college? Then you appreciate ramen. Cup Noodles originated in Japan, and there’s actually an entire museum devoted to the snack in Osaka.
Apartments in Japan are typically small, and so you need to reduce the amount of bulky appliances you have to just the essentials. That said, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any Japanese home that doesn’t have a rice make; it’s the number one kitchen staple.
Kawaii culture is a phenomenon in Japan, and the term “kawaii” essentially translates to “cute.” So this T-shirt from the brand “Aesthetic Milk Cute Gift T-Shirts” is quintessentially Japanese.
Japan is known for its unique flavored Kit Kats, and this pack of sake Kit Kat bars is the perfect gift for your sake-loving friend with a sweet tooth.
If you’ve ever been to Japan, you know the glory that is Kewpie mayonnaise. If you haven’t been, trust me—it’s your new favorite condiment.
When it comes to Japanese food, most people immediately think sushi, but it’s not actually as commonly consumed as you would think. It is however, still popular (and delicious), and this sushi-making kit comes with everything you need to master the art.
These stainless steel chopsticks are a modern take on the classic Asian utensil.
Slippers are important in Japan because people don’t wear shoes in their homes. Uniqlo is a Japanese brand, so these cozy Uniqlo slippers are the perfect gift for your Japanophile friend.
Shiba Inu is a super popular Japanese breed of dog, and this plush puppy pillow is just too cute (aka “kawaii”) to resist.
This DIY Japanese candy-making kit is perfect for the tween or teen on your gift list.
These days, wouldn’t we all rather be in Japan? This mug makes a great gift for your favorite globe-trotting friend.
Japanese Gifts for Her
These are by no means, exclusively for women, but since some of you may be searching, we’ve compiled a list of Japanese-themed gifts perfect for your female partner, friend, or family member (or, honestly, just anyone).
When it comes to Japanese beauty products, niche, luxury brands are hugely popular. This multi-purpose elixir serum from RE:ERTH is ideal for achieving “mochi skin,” a Japanese term that means supple and dewy. Give this fancy serum to your favorite beauty -obsessed friend.
Gutatama is a popular Sanrio character that roughly translates to “lazy egg.” Removing your shoes before entering a home is an important practice in Japan, so these Gudetama socks make a perfect present.
If your friend is toying with the idea of getting into a new hobby, buy them this book about the art of Japanese flower arranging.
“Blotting papers” are sheets of paper that you swipe over your face to absorb oil. The concept originated in Japan, and Tatcha has some of the best.
Cherry blossom (aka “sakura”) season is one of the most beautiful experiences on earth each spring. While you may not be able to travel to Japan when the cherry blossoms are in bloom (April-May), this candle will transport you.
Check out more of our gift guides as you do your holiday shopping this year!