Japan’s Top Omiyage

Japanese culture Trends & Culture - April 10th, 2013

What are Japan’s best souvenirs? The Charming Japanese Souvenir Contest 2013 has just announced the answer…

Bringing back souvenirs from a trip can be a daunting task, as the options are limitless; trying to pick the ideal present can give anyone a headache. Sweat no more, as the Japan Tourism Agency has picked the top Japanese souvenirs, also known as omiyage, for the year 2013.

Foreign judges from 15 countries and regions as well as experts from selected domestic sectors — including those of sightseeing and distribution — were appointed to a panel of the Charming Japanese Souvenir Contest, and the group picked the most appealing items for travelers. Here’s a look at some of the winners:

A lantern made of traditional washi paper, designed in Yosano-cho, Kyoto by Hirose Sosaku Kogei, picked up the Grand Prize. The lamp is a reused wooden frame measuring 15 centimeters square and 17 centimeters high, wrapped in washi paper decorated with real flowers on the outside, complete with a light bulb in the middle. Hirose-san has run a textile business for 40 years, and says that he hopes that this award encourages the languid textile town.

The Cool Japan category (following the curiously named campaign) featured a few winners, such as a kimono bottle cover, a bamboo-shaped glass, and an embossed lacquerware iPhone cover – to keep up with technology… Other interesting winners include a lucky cat (manekineko) designed in Aichi prefecture and some Tohoku-made Okiagari-koboshi wooden dolls – these are pictured above.

Interestingly, the International Prize section featured the winning souvenirs picked from different countries: for instance, China selected the colourful Mount Fuji soap, Australia a green tea gift set, and India some handmade daruma dolls. You can view the complete list of winners by clicking here. The contest is held annually, so keep looking for updates on the Japan Tourism Agency site if you wish to participate next time around.

If you want to buy the items, our friends Jcrafts.com, an online shop dedicated to educating us about and delivering us traditional products from the artisans of Japan, will sell many of the prizewinning items – including the pictured Tohoku-made Okiagari-koboshi, ‘bamboo’ glasses, Edokiriko shot glasses and the laquer-ware iPhone cover – from the end of this month – take a look at their website (it’s in English) for more information on the products described and more.