Looking for something quintessentially Japanese for that perfect gift or souvenir? We’ve selected our favorite handcrafted items from Omotenashi Selection, a project that brings together fine goods from around the country and shares them with international audiences. (Got time to do more Christmas shopping? Also check out our “Complete Luxe Christmas Gift Guide for GINZA SIX.”)
Maekake Japanese Traditional Apron By Anything Co.
While it may just look like a rectangular piece of fabric, the maekake apron serves a bigger role. Inscribed with a shop’s name or logo, it was traditionally viewed as the first step in customer interaction. It also guards from spills, and even serves as a lower back strain easer by supporting the pelvis when lifting heavy things. Through careful weaving using Meiji- and Taisho-era methods, and introducing original designs, Anything has revived the maekake in a variety of sizes and colors. From ¥5,900 (excl. tax), anything.ne.jp/english.html
Ryukyu Hanpu Okinawan-Inspired Bags By Okinawa-Wind Corp
Looking for a dose of summer spirit to get you through the approaching winter months? Well, these Okinawan-inspired hanpu textile bags will do the trick, while also serving as a great statement piece. The bags are all designed, cut and sewn by three female craftsmen, who bring their own personal touch to each unique piece. Tote or stroll bag, floral or butterfly prints, Ryukyu Hanpu offers over 70 types of bags featuring a variety of illustrations by well-known Okinawan artists. ¥7,000 (excl. tax), www.okinawa-wind.com
“Pandora” Yaki-Kiri Traditional Painted Box By Paulownia Furniture Azuma
Yes, a box. But not just any kind of box. In an era when low-margin, high-volume production is the norm, Azuma strives to produce only the highest quality items, one by one, using the best materials. The Pandora Box is made through a melange of old and new – the traditional manufacturing technique of yaki-kiri is combined with a new finishing method to bring out the smooth texture of the wood. While most lacquer items are created with artificial paint and an urushi coating finish, Azuma’s are made using only real urushi lacquer coating, leaving the delicate boxes with that gorgeous shine. ¥200,000 (excl. tax), azuma-kiri.jp
Handmade Home Fragrances By Parfum Symphonie
Ever wish your home smelled like Japanese gardens and sake? Made by a perfumer who trained at an acclaimed perfume institute in France, Parfum Symphonie’s handmade collection of fragrances includes eye-catching names such as Fleur de Wasabi and Mizubasho. Much like composing a piece of orchestral music, where sounds from each instrument combine to create music, these home fragrances are a beautiful blend of Japanese scents all coming together in perfect harmony. Whether you use them at home or while traveling, these unique and compact perfumes are a great way to always have a piece of Japan with you. And guests will love them, too. Violette Leaf ¥3,612, Cassis Wood ¥3,797, Shara ¥3,797, Aska ¥3,797, Mizubasho ¥3,797, Bamboo ¥3,982, Sandalwood ¥3,982, Crossover ¥4,167, Fleur de Wasabi ¥4,167 (all prices excl. tax), parfumsymphonie.shop
Wavelet Board Game By Kyouwa Precision Co.
Feeling nostalgic for the days when people played board games and simply enjoyed each other’s company? Allow us to introduce this intricately crafted reversi game. With a board carved using 3D cutting technology and gem-like brass and aluminum metal pieces, this is an advanced revival of a classic game. While its seamless design is enticing enough, Kyouwa Precision Co. hopes that the game will double as “a carefully created product for a precious moment.” Relax and slip back into the good ol’ days. ¥37,000 (excl. tax), teyney.jp
Artoletta Designer Toilets By Taikou Juken Corporation
Reversing the stereotype that toilets should be white or plain, Artoletta is taking Japan’s high quality loos to another level. People want to keep beautiful things clean, so the more artistic the toilet, the cleaner it will be kept, right? How about bright pink, leopard print, or perhaps Hokusai’s notable wave painting? The latest CG technology and craftsmen’s handwork make it possible for these designs to be added to the toilet bowl despite its curve. Spice up your bathroom with your very own designer toilet and hop on the futuristic bandwagon. ¥250,000 decoration fee, design and toilet fee separate, taikoujuken.com
Encase Envelope-Shaped Long Wallet By Tsurumiya Co., Ltd
Tired of carrying around a bulky wallet that doesn’t easily slip into your pocket? Fear not, for the thin and functional Encase wallet is here. Inspired by fukusa (a traditional textile used for wrapping or to clean utensils during a tea ceremony) and the humble envelope, this Italian-cowhide wallet is a stylish new alternative. With no clasp used, Encase manages to hold up to 30 bills and six cards, as well as a passport and a bank book. What’s more, the longer you use it, the more it molds to fit comfortably in your hand. Choose from black, dark brown, green, orange or blue to match and vamp up your outfit. ¥37,000 (excl. tax), munekawa.jp
Edo Kiriko “Hokusai Blue & Red” Glassware By Shimizu Glass Co.
Hokusai’s famous woodblock prints of Mount Fuji have been reproduced in various ways, but none as delicately and exquisitely as in Shimizu Glass’s collection. The red and blue glassware based on the prints are a modern take on the classic designs. Asymmetrical patterns and V-shaped engravings make it look as though Hokusai’s entire image wraps around the glass. Beautifully catching the light, these Edo Kiriko glasses make for the perfect practical gift and Japanese memento. ¥18,000 (excl. tax), tokyoteshigoto.tokyo/en
Fujiyama Mount Fuji Sake Cup By Yotsui Co.
Nothing sounds better than sipping on a glass of sake with a view of Mount Fuji. A collaboration between Fujiyama and Osaka Suzuki Co., Ltd, these sake cups will let you do just that, but from the comfort of your home. The tin cups are carefully and individually manufactured by skilled craftsmen. Available in a variety of urushi-lacquer colors, the cups are designed to resemble the iconic mountain when placed upside down, and can be a neat little decorative item when not being used. What’s more, the small indentations on the inside help to form fine beer bubbles, enhancing your drinking experience. For those of you with other drinks of choice, there are different sized cups for sake, beer, whiskey, shochu, and mineral water. Guinomi sake cup ¥5,000, guinomi sake cup pair set ¥10,000, tumbler (small) ¥8,000, tumbler (small) pair set ¥16,000, tumbler (medium) ¥12,000, tumbler (large) ¥15,000 (all prices excl. tax), www.421art.com
Log More Trees Leather Speaker By Syrinx
Unlike conventional wooden or metal speakers, this audio system is encased with soft Yezo sika deer leather from Hokkaido. This not only helps to reduce vibration, reverberation and resonance, but also spreads the sound evenly to give you that live music feel. Sleek, innovative and stylish, the speakers fit well into all kinds of décor. Over 100,000 Yezo sika deer are captured every year to protect the forests, so the product is in fact utilizing leather that would otherwise go to waste. ¥90,000 (excl. tax), syrinx.audio
Kataribe Paper Stencil Andon Lantern By Akari Co.
Create a relaxing Zen atmosphere in your home with these traditional andon lanterns. Bringing back the art of ise-katagami (making and using paper stencils to dye traditional patterns onto kimonos), the lamps create an elegant silhouette of kimono patterns on your walls. The urushi lacquer painted onto the frame prevents damage or color fading. ¥170,000 (excl. tax), k-akari.co.jp/en
Top 3 Christmas Stocking Buys
1. Organic Cotton Mask By Way-Out Inc.
Say goodbye to foggy glasses and breathing difficulties with these gentle, gauze-woven, organic cotton masks that are eco-friendly, reusable, and available in six pastel shades (using plant-derived dyes). Being ill never looked so good. From ¥1,600 (excl. tax), way-out.sunnyday.jp
2. Fumfum Tabi Shoes By Gennai Seiyaku Co.
What do you get when you cross traditional Japanese shoes with kids’ fashion? Fumfum’s animal tabi shoes. Developed by pharmaceutical company employees, the shoes help to prevent common foot problems, and provide stability and strength. ¥2,759 (excl. tax), tabi-fumfum.jp
3. Kizara Kyogi Wood Shavings Memo Pad By Forestfeeling Co., Ltd
Made with pieces of kyogi (thinly shaved wooden material) between 0.15mm and 0.25mm thick, these memo pads take writing to a whole new level. Unbelievably smooth and beautifully textured thanks to the tree’s natural oils, your pen will positively glide across the page. From ¥480, kizara.org/english
4 Gifts For Foodies
1. Osechi Set By Aussie Foods Co., Ltd
Osechi ryori refers to traditional Japanese New Year foods, and this special set features 17 carefully selected ingredients all with distinctive meanings for celebrating the occasion. ¥20,370 (excl. tax), www.aussie-fan.co.jp/lp/kin-osechi.html
2. Gift Popcorn By Nagasakino Rojiura Café
Castella-sponge-cake- or chanpon-noodle-flavored popcorn, anyone? Made from healthy ingredients such as tea leaves and veggies, with no artificial coloring, Gift Popcorn promotes Nagasaki Prefecture’s unique flavors and culture. ¥500 (excl. tax), nagasaki-no-cafe.com
3. Bun-Yemon-Gura Japanese Seasoning Series By Shoda Shoyu Co., Ltd
Including flavorful soy sauces, stock and seasonings, these condiments seek to accentuate the richness of Japanese ingredients. We also love their mosaic-patterned packaging inspired by Japan’s terraced rice fields and stone-paved paths. From ¥500 per item (excl. tax), bunyemongura.jp
4. Organic Japanese Green Tea Powder By Nodoka
Did you know that most of the nutrients in green tea are in the leaves? Instead of throwing them away, Nodoka crushes them to create a 100% organic tea powder, ensuring you receive all the health benefits. From ¥1,200 (excl. tax), nodokatea.com
For more information about these products as well as the Omotenashi Selection project, visit omotenashinippon.jp.