One of the joys of traveling is the memory of being there after you’ve returned home. Toward that end, most of us take photos and buy souvenirs during our travels. Luckily, gift-giving and souvenirs are a big part of Japanese culture too, so Japan has a wide variety of souvenir options that will help you remember your time there (and many won’t take up much room in your suitcase!). Japan also has an affinity for convenience, which means many of the best souvenirs can be found at Narita Airport (the ultimate in convenience because if you get your travel mementos at the end of your trip, you don’t have to haul them around during your travels, and sometimes, they’re duty-free too!).
Here is a quick guide to the six best souvenirs to get while you’re in Japan (and yes, they can all be found at Narita Airport!):
Souvenir Shop Like a Local.
Souvenirs (omiyage) are very popular in Japan. Whenever someone goes on a trip, it’s pretty much a given they’re coming back with souvenirs not only for their family, but also for all of their coworkers and possibly neighbors too. The most popular souvenirs in Japan are typically very small or consumable (or both), and ideally, are useful in some way (such as tea or stationery).
Sweets and candies are one of the most common omiyage options for locals, but other popular choices include items made with products specific to a region (such as lavender soap from Hokkaido or calligraphy brushes from Kumano, Hiroshima). These location-specific items are what the Japanese call meibutsu, or, local products of note. So if you want to shop like a local and get a really unique souvenir, find out what an area is famous for and buy omiyage that reflect that specialty. (And luckily, Narita Airport does carry many types of meibutsu.)
Where to Shop in Narita Airport.
While several floors of each of the terminals in Narita have shops, the most stores can be found on the 3rd, 4th and 5th floors of the Central Building in Terminal 1. From fashion and jewelry to stationery, confections and teas, stores there are packed with a wide variety of quality souvenir items. (There are also some great duty-free stores after passing through security, near the gates.) Remember though, that Narita shops are not open 24/7 (they’re typically open 0800-2000), so be sure to check your flight times before you decide to do all your shopping at the airport!
With that in mind, here’s a guide to some of the best Japanese souvenirs:
Candies and Confections
While food items are consumable, they are still a great way to experience a culture (just make sure they’re non-perishable of course). Two of my favorites are Tokyo Banana cookies and dark chocolate chili-flavored Kit Kat bars (neither of which are sold in the U.S.). Luckily, Narita Airport is a great place to get both of these (and you can often find them in train stations as well (Kit Kat more so than Tokyo Banana, which can be a bit harder to find).
Sake and Japanese Whiskey
To buy sake and whiskey, two of the spirits that Japan is famous for, check out the duty-free shops by the gates. Some of the best sake brands include: Juyondai, Nabeshima and Isojiman, while some of the best whiskey brands include: Hibiki, Nikka and Hakushu. In addition to not charging sales tax on purchases, these shops also usually have an expert on-hand to recommend the best options. Cartoon Figurines and Plushes
Spend any time in Japan and you’ll see cartoon characters of every shape, size and type imaginable – and they’re not just for kids. Cartoon characters are everywhere – from bus stop signs to trains, and they’re a part of Japanese culture. Because of that, Japanese kids and adults love anime and cartoon mascots, making figurines and plush dolls a popular souvenir choice. (A note: From what I have seen, Narita Airport does sell some of the most popular plush dolls, such as Anpanman, Hachiko, Kumamon and Funassyi, but if you’re wanting something really specific, it’s probably best to get it when you see it during your travels.)
Bento Box and Chopsticks
If you want a souvenir that will last, that you (or the recipient) will actually use, a bento box and chopsticks are great choices. Bento boxes are the traditional lunch boxes of Japan, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Bento boxes can be relatively cheap, or very expensive, depending on the material they’re constructed from and the amount of decoration they have (and the same goes for chopsticks).
Paper Goods and Stationery
Paper goods and stationery are some of the most popular omiyage in Japan because not only are they useful, they can be very beautiful – and even personalized. While one of my favorite (and highly recommended) spots for stationery, paper goods, and all things office is Itoya, a store in Chuo, Tokyo, if you’re looking for convenience (or just need a last-minute gift before you depart), Narita is a a great option for stationery and paper goods.
It’s practically a requirement that when you visit Japan, you bring back tea as a souvenir. This is because Japan is known for its amazing tea, and there are many coveted only-in-Japan brands such as Obubu, Ippodo and Fukujuen (which actually has a location in Narita Airport!). And if coffee is more your thing, don’t worry, you can get that at Narita too!
Souvenirs on the Narita Express Train.
As a bonus, if you plan to take the JR East Narita Express (N’EX) train to the airport, you can buy omiyage from the train attendant. While the selection is limited, it’s still worth a browse (and the size will definitely be suitcase-friendly).
So, next time you’re in Japan, be sure to pick up some authentic souvenirs to remember your trip. If you really want to shop like a local, one way is to find out what a region in Japan is famous for and get products that reflect that specialty. Another way is to get your souvenirs conveniently, because the Japanese prize convenience in every aspect of life, including shopping. Luckily, both of these are possible at Narita Airport!
Source: Narita Airport
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