Friday, September 13, 2013

The Japanese Art of "Omiyage" Souvenirs

If there's one thing the Japanese are good at, it's gift-giving, and one of the most enjoyable kinds of gifts to give and receive are おみやげ omiyage (pronounced oh-me-yah-geh), or souvenirs given to friends, family and coworkers after returning from a journey. The other day I caught one of Japan's popular "ranking" shows on TV, which introduced the most popular omiyage gifts from each region of Japan. These included the top brand of "castella" cake from Nagasaki, those oddly named but delicious "chinsuko" cookies from Okinawa, and a delicious eclair sold only in Tokyo's Haneda Airport with the odd name of "Samantha Tabitha." (J-List's home prefecture of Gunma is much less famous, but we do have Initial D cookies.) Japan is experiencing a huge boom in yuru-chara or anime-style mascots who promote tourism in Japan's rural cities. One of the most popular is Kumamon, the official mascot of Kumamoto, Kyushu, and there are plenty of products bearing his cute face for sale these days.

Japanese are masters at the art of gift-giving.