A trip to Japan is always a special one. So special for me indeed that after visiting Japan six times, I finally decided to stay. During my travels I filled up my already bursting suitcase with loads of popular Kyoto souvenirs so I could always remember my experiences and also let my beloved ones at home taste a little bit of that Japanese atmosphere – or let them try the actual Japanese taste by bringing them sweets and snacks from around Japan.
Here I want to share some of my souvenir shopping knowledge and give you some ideas for great souvenirs that you can (only) get in Kyoto!
Yatsuhashi is a sweet souvenir that Kyoto is probably most famous for. You can find this sweet bean paste wrapped in triangle-shaped mochi (Japanese rice cake) at every bigger train station or shopping arcade. It comes with different flavors like chocolate, cinnamon, green tea or seasonal flavors like strawberry and sakura (cherry). Be sure to buy it towards the end of your Japan trip, since it expires within about two weeks! The fresh mochi is delicious though so don’t miss out on this sweet treat that is so beloved in Japan! Check out the local wagashi (Japanese confectionary) shops around Guest House hachi!
Kyoto is the city that will make every Kimono-lover’s heart skip a beat. There is definitely no lack of shops that sell or rent Kimonos and everything that comes with it. Therefore in Kyoto you can get the largest variety of second-hand Kimono or Yukata (a lighter summer version of a Kimono) for very affordable prices. Check out the Flea Market at Toji for antique Kimono!
How about bringing a piece of Japanese tradition back home with you? Kimono-style clothing is trending outside of Japan and also real Kimonos or Kimono coats called hoari are worn as a casual piece of clothing, bringing back the traditional fashion into the present!
You may have noticed small plaques called ema in Japanese at shrines and temples. They come in different shapes and forms, but only Fushimi Inari’s ema is shaped like a torii gate, which represents this famous shrine so well. Traditionally people write their wishes for the future on them and leave them hanging in the shrine, so that their hopes will come true. Many tourists recently though buy this small version of a torii gate as a very popular Kyoto souvenir! Not a bad idea I think (since I have one at home myself…).
In Arashiyama area you can not only walk through the bamboo forest, you can also buy a piece of handmade bamboo woodwork to take home with you at one of the various crafts shops. Chopsticks, bamboo bowls or fans are some of the most popular Kyoto souvenirs. Some of the shops even offer traditional bamboo knitting demonstrations by the craftsmen.
By the way, bamboo shoots are edible and many shops in Arashiyama or Nishiki Market sell them as pickled vegetables.
Kyoto and especially the town Uji (located between Kyoto and Nara) is famous for macha or “green tea” products. Matcha powder or leaves and all sorts of sweets made with green tea are available in Japan – from cake, chocolate to ice-cream or mochi.
Though sold all around the country, Uji is known for its superior quality of green tea and is home to the oldest tea house in the world. Matcha is becoming more and more fashionable overseas and who wouldn’t like to receive the original Japanese one?
Lucky charms are sold at every temple or shrine throughout Japan and made of beautiful brocaded silk. There are actually a lot of different ones for a lot of different usages, like: traffic safety, passing an exam, business success, love and marriage, easy childbirth and – of course – fortune. Usually the front shows the function of the charm, while the name of the shrine or temple is written on the back.
Thanks to the string they can be easily attached on to your belongings like bags, cell phones or also in cars. Another big plus of omamari as a souvenir is its small size and light weight that won’t add on your probably already heavy suitcase!