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What to Buy in Japan: 18 Unique And Fun Souvenirs

Updated September 17, 2023

Wondering what to buy in Japan as souvenirs or gifts? Locals in Japan tell us that picking up one or two of these items is a definite must-do in Japan—they're so fun! From candy to traditional knives, check out these 18 cool things to buy in Japan: 

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#1: Sake

Sake | Xtra, Inc./Unsplash

No trip to Japan is complete without a few sips (or bottles) of sake, a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. Buying a bottle of sake—whether a fancy one in a sake brewery or at the airport on your way home—is totally worth your yen. 

Local Tip:

Locals in Japan tell us that some sake is unique to particular cities or locales. For instance, Tokyo locals recommend the ritzy sake list served at Kozue in the Park Hyatt Hotel, while Kyoto locals sing the praises of the classic sake at Fushimi Castle.

#2: KitKat bars (the flavors!)

Kit Kats | jpellgen (@1179_jp)/Flickr

Whether it’s your first time in Japan or your sixth, you can’t miss out on Japan’s specialty KitKats. Because the name “KitKat” sounds like “kitto katsu”, a Japanese phrase for wishing good luck, the KitKat bar is one of the most popular candies in Japan. From green tea to strawberry and espresso, stores carry hundreds of different flavors of the brand on their shelves year-round. 

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#3: Hanko: Japanese name stamps

To really experience Japan like a local, purchase a name stamp (hanko) and some ink—it’s how everyone in Japan signs their names! Used in Japan since 57 CE, hanko are handmade and personalized just for you, the perfect way to support local businesses while immersing yourself in Japanese cultural history. 

#4: Kimonos

Women in kimonos | jackmac34/Pixabay

The kimono is probably the best-known Japanese garb and is worn by locals and tourists alike. Made for both men and women, kimonos are available in may of Japan’s popular places to go, including Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto (which happens to be Japan’s geisha capital, and thus the perfect place to see stunning kimonos). 

Local Tip:

In Kyoto, you can rent a kimono to wear while you explore the ancient part of town. 

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#5: Vending machine toys

Vending machine toys | shankar s./Flickr

Japanese vending machines are unlike anything you’d find in America. Toys, games, hot foods, and even underwear pop out of Japan’s machines, ideal for random gifts with a good story to tell.

Vending machines are pretty much on every corner in Japan’s best places to visit, neighborhoods, and train stations. Seriously. There are about five million vending machines in Japan

Local Tip:

You can even buy SIM cards from vending machines, usually in airports or train stations. 

#6: Wagashi candies

When it comes to foods to bring home from Japan, you can’t go wrong with wagashi candies. These colorful rice flour candies are super-sweet morsels of bean paste and sticky rice, shaped like fanciful flowers and plants. Share them with everyone back at home—or keep them all for yourself.

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Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal
Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal

#7: Japanese cosmetics

Cosmetics | JAPANKURU/Flickr

Locals rave about Japan’s cosmetics industry—they highly recommend treating yourself to some of the best makeup, skincare, and hair products in the world. Budget travelers in Japan will be happy to know that there’s no need to spend crazy money on the latest and greatest products.

Save money with local suggestions—our trip planners suggest shopping at conbini (convenience) stores like 7-11 or Lawson. 

Local Tip:

For an unforgettable time, getting a Japanese makeover is a total must-do in Tokyo and other big cities.

#8: Sensu folding fans

Japanese fan | JY Guillou/Flickr

Sensu—Japanese folding hand fans—are ancient Japanese accessories, weapons, and art pieces (talk about a multi-purpose tool!). Locals say you can find handmade sensus almost anywhere you go in Japan.

#9: Everything green tea

Matcha green tea in Japan | owencarver/Pixabay

Green tea is an incredibly popular drink in Japan, and you’ll encounter different flavors depending on where and when you go to Japan. Our locals in Japan say there's tons of places to find unique green tea treats and candies—if you know where to look

#10: Tea sets

Tea set | Jirreaux/Pixabay

And speaking of tea...Japanese tea sets make for a lovely souvenir. Complete with handmade whisks and glazed teacups, they're classic and beautiful! 

In any case, you'll fall so deeply in love with tea while visiting Japan that you’ll want to keep making the best tea possible at home. 

#11: Japanese knives

Japan is home to some of the world’s best cookware, but it's their knife-making expertise that really cuts to the point. Traditional Japanese chefs’ knives are beautifully-crafted but can be a little pricey (like $200+). (If you’d rather just watch a Japanese chef wield such a knife, locals suggest checking out these incredible Japan foodie destinations.)

Local Tip:

If you're feeling adventurous, you can even make your own knife at a traditional Japanese blacksmithing class

#12: Kendama toys

If you’re looking for some games and toys to bring home for kids and adults alike, take a gander at kendama, traditional Japanese toys that have been around for ages. A kendama (Japanese for “sword and ball”) is similar to a yo-yo but is much more challenging and fun. Seeing kendama masters at work is a total must-do in Japan.  

#13: Unique Japanese instruments

Koto player | Jim Epler/Flickr

From the biwa (a traditional lute) to the koto (a type of string instrument), Japanese musical instruments provide beautiful and unique sounds that can’t be found anywhere else.

If you're looking to get off the beaten path in Japan, see what locals say about where you can catch a koto performance. 

#14: Randoseru bags (they’re not just for kids)

Japan’s iconic randoseru backpacks might look like they’re just for kids, but they’re seriously a must-have accessory. Very kawaii (cute) and practical, randoseru allow you to make a fashion statement in Japan and beyond.

Locals in Japan gave us a great Tokyo travel tip: buy a randoseru at one of the city’s 100-yen stores, where these chic backpacks are inexpensive and super cute. 

Local Tip:

Buy a randoseru at one of the city’s 100-yen stores, where these chic backpacks are inexpensive and super cute. 

#15: Toe socks

Guides to Japan consistently rave about toe socks (tabi)—and our local trip planners confirm they're a lot of fun. Locals say you can find tabi at almost any 100-yen store, department store, or marketplace. Not only are toe socks affordable and adorable—they’re also worn by Japanese rickshaw drivers, so you know they’re the real deal. 

#16: Anime, manga, and beyond

Train in Japan | FranckinJapan/Pixabay

Japan could very well be the geek capital of the world, with Tokyo as its proud capital. The nerdiest places in Tokyo inevitably sell anime, manga, toys, and action figures geared to the otakus of this world. Even if you’re not a huge fan, you’ll definitely want to catch a glimpse of anime culture, which has taken the world by storm. 

Local Tip:

When sightseeing in Tokyo, don’t miss out on exploring Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori for some awesome anime and manga cosplay.

#17: Omamori (for good luck!)

Omamori | Japanexperterna.se/Flickr

For traditional, meaningful, and spiritual gifts to give, go to a Shinto shrine to find omamori, Japanese charms used for prayer. If checking out a shrine is already on your Japan itinerary, get an omamori as a gift for your friends back at home.

#18: Chopsticks

Chopsticks in Japan are beautiful and artistic. Depending on where you go in Japan, you’ll be able to find chopsticks unique to certain places.

Local Tip:

Above all, remember your chopstick etiquette—like tipping in Japan or visiting onsens (Japanese hot springs), there might be rules you’re unfamiliar with. Locals in Japan can answer questions about cultural dos and don'ts in Japan.

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