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soc.culture.japan FAQ [Monthly Posting] [2/3]
Section - (6.3) Gifts to and from Japan

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Last update: 1/96

To Japan: Don't expect to find anything that your recipient can't get in
Japan; these days you can get almost anything from any part of the world in
Japan, provided that you're willing to pay for it. Having said that, there
are still many items not commonly found in Japan that would make perfect
      Calendars--"Cute" or "artsy" calendars are rare in Japan, where most
    households and businesses keep track of dates using boring, generic
    calendars with corporate logos imprinted, handed out by businesses for 
    promotions. My mother always used to ask for a Peter Rabbit calendar for
    Christmas. (And then she found a store that sold Peter Rabbit calendars
    in Tokyo. But let's not get into that.)
      Mugs and T-shirts--Creative patterns are not as common in Japan. For
    T-shirts, take into consideration that Japanese people do not wear
    T-shirts too often and, when they do, they generally like to avoid
    flashier-colored clothes.
      Alcohol--Up to 3 bottles of spirits are duty-free upon entering Japan.
    Just remember that, if you need to travel before meeting your recipient,
    you're going to lug 3 liters of water with you during those legs of your
These are just a few examples. Email me if you have any other wildly
popular/successful ideas.

From Japan: The great thing about Japan is that practically every region
has some unique product to offer. Consult your travel guides for appropriate
gifts from wherever you traveled. In general, I find that room decorations,
accessories, etc., are more convenient for you (and more appreciated by
the recipient) than food. 

Michiaki Masuda <> suggests the following items:

 1. Art prints - Inexpensive copies of traditional wood printings {Ukiyo-e}.

 2. Baseball caps (*) - Those of Japanese professional baseball teams.

 3. "Basukurin" - Scented powder for a hot bath tub. {You can reproduce
                  some of the famous Japanese hot springs at home.}

 4. Books (*) - Books on Japan written in English, "Manga" (comic book), 
                other magazines, and photo books showing scenaries in 
                (For those who are interested in Japanese language) Books 
                written in plain Japanese and books on "kanji." 

 5. Calligraphy set - "Fude" (brush), "sumi" (a block of ink) and "suzuri"
                      (ink plate) for "shodo" (Japanese calligraphy).

 6. Ceramics (*) - Tea set, "sake" set, etc.

 7. Chopsticks - A nice pair of lacquered chopsticks.

 8. Crafts (*) - Paper crafts made of "washi" (traditional Japanese paper).
                 Small ornaments that could be used for a Christmas tree.
                 Origami, kites, a little statue of Buddha etc. One netter 
                 has mentioned that a book titled "Gateway to Japan" by June
                 Kinoshita and Nicholas Palevsky (Kodan-sha) contains a good 
                 description of Japanese crafts.

 9. Dolls (*) - Kokeshi, Daruma, Hakata doll, etc.

10. Fake food (*) - Food samples made of plastic or wax that you can see
                    in front of restaurants. {Available at the pro shops
                    in Kappabashi, Tokyo.}

11. Footgear - "Zouri" (Japanese sandals), "tabi" (Japanese traditional
               socks), ets. {"Geta" might be good, too.}

12. "Go" (*) - Go stones in the bowl and the board.

13. "Hanko" - A sealing stamp (for Japanese-American friends). {If you can
              write other American's name in Kanji, it would be possible to
              order a custom made hanko, too.}

14. "Kabuki" program and other "kabuki" goods. 
              {kabuki = one of Japanese traditional theater plays.}
15. Liquors - Whisky and brandy of a Japanese maker in a miniature bottle.

16. Music - Japanese music CDs and cassettes.

17. "Noren" - A small curtain for an entrance of a restaurant or a doorway.

18. "Omamori" - A small lucky charm tag, especially the one for a car 
                {"Kou-tsuu Anzen" [Safe Driving]}. Available at shrines
                and temples.

19. "Sake" (*) - Preferably in a bottle of a "strange" shape (e.g., "Tokkuri",
                 bottle made of a dried squid, etc.) or traditionally wrapped.

20. Snacks (*) - Dried fish, rice crackers (e.g., senbei, kaki-no-tane), etc.

21. "Soroban" - Japanese traditional calculator. {It was probably invented
                in China, but the Japanese model seems to be different from
                the Chinese model.}

22. Stationaries (*) - Mechanical pencil + ball point pen (e.g., Sharbo),
                       stationaries with fancy patterns, etc.

23. Sweets (*) - Traditional "wagashi" (Japanese sweets), candies, cookies,
                 and other "okashi."

24. Toothpicks - Ones with unusual carvings.

25. Towels - Japanese "tenugui" towels with sumo wrestlers, "Kamikaze",
             "Ichi-ban," etc.

26. Toys (*) - Electronic toys and traditional Japanese toys (e.g., kendama,
               daruma-otoshi, etc.)

27. T-shirts (*) - Ones with a logo in "Japanglish." {Ones with "Ukiyo-e"
                   print might be fine, too.}

28. "Yukata" (*) - A casual "kimono" for summertime. Can be used as a bathrobe,
                   or a nightgown as well. 

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