10 (Non-Touristy) Souvenirs to Buy in Tokyo

10 (Non-Touristy) Souvenirs to Buy in Tokyo

the matcha Kit Kats and cheap kimonos; we’ve scoured the
Japanese capital to find Tokyo’s
more authentic souvenirs – from fashion and (affordable) art to
kitchenware and beckoning cats.

The best mementos from the Japanese capital

Handcrafted paper

Recognised by Unesco as an item of Intangible Cultural Heritage,
washi is an artisan-made paper that’s at once textured and robust.
It’s made of long mulberry plant fibres – as opposed to pulp, which
is the norm for regular paper – making it resistant to tear. A
cultural centre dedicated to the craft, Ozu Washi was established
in 1653 in Nihonbashi, and offers papermaking workshops, a museum
with historic artifacts and a shop with hundreds of washi sheets in
pastel colours.

Beckoning cats

The ultimate icon of Japan, maneki-neko (beckoning cats) are not
only cute, but ostensibly provide luck to the owner in the form of
money, love and a helping hand during testing times. They are
typically found next to cash registers at restaurants or the
entrance of establishments, summoning blessings inside. Gōtokuji
Temple in West Tokyo is credited as being one of the locations
these cats originated and is covered in thousands of white kitties
with their paws raised next to their face. A popular site with
Instagrammers, the temple also sells auspicious ceramics cats.


To most, chopsticks are simply two pieces of wood used to pincer
food together. Yet for Japanese food connoisseurs and chefs they
are tools used not only for the eating of food, but essential to
its enjoyment. Daikokuya Edo Kibashi in downtown Tokyo crafts
beautiful wooden chopsticks in a variety of sizes, lengths and
thicknesses as well as for diverse purposes.

Second-hand books

Jinbōchō is a bibliophile’s dream neighbourhood with over 150
stores dedicated to printed matter in all forms. The large majority
of shops specialises in second-hand books and it is one of the best
places in Japan to find first-edition art titles, those dedicated
to rare photography and exquisite prints. Among the cornucopia of
treasures are bookstores featuring miniature-sized books,
cat-themed tomes and old-school fashion magazines such as the 90s
The Face issues.

Rice sampler packs

Anyone who has spent time in Japan will know understand its
obsession with rice. The country’s variety is sticky and chewy than
its neighbours, and is often enjoyed as is or with a small pickled
garnish. Each region of Japan grows its own rice varieties and,
owing to the regional climates, there are subtle differences in the
taste and texture of the grain – the Northern Tohoku region is
known for its translucent, dewy rice. Many of Tokyo’s shops sell
small sampler bags, perfect as a souvenir.

Uirō herbal medicine

A panacea with hundreds of years’ history – even appearing in
Edo-era woodblock prints and kabuki theatre plays – Uirō is a vegan
herbal medicine known and trusted by Japanese people for its
near-magical ability to treat many ailments. The small balls will
aid general digestive issues and are fabulously soothing when
dissolved in the back of the mouth for hoarse throats or for an
after-flight gargle. True believers in quality over quantity, the
company does not mass-produce their product and it is only
available in its store in Odawara (40 mins by bullet train from
Tokyo, but well worth the ride).

Cast-iron teapots

Crafted in the Iwate region of Northern Japan, cast-iron teapots
last a lifetime and improve with use. Boiling water in these
durable pots gives the water a silky texture and is suitable for
both green tea and coffee. Skilled ironware artisans also make
other items such as frying pans, wind chimes and paperweights that
are widely available in Kappabashi, the kitchenware district of
downtown Tokyo. Asides from ironware, Kappabashi has a plethora of
food-related shops selling ceramics, Japanese knife and coffee
siphons and the like.


Be@rbricks are collectable figurines made by Japanese company
Medicom Toy and serve as a form of affordable art. While the shape
is basic – a humanoid bear with a little belly and movable limbs –
the company often collaborates with famous designers and artists to
create limited-edition designs. Past projects include work with
character brand tokidoki, designers Karl Lagerfeld and Vivienne
Westwood and artists Konatsu and KAWS. There’s a dedicated shop
inside the Tokyo Solamachi, the shopping mall below the Tokyo

Furin wind chimes

These delicate glass wind chimes made in downtown Tokyo emit a
soothing, tinkling sound – compared to their mass-produced
counterparts, the bottoms are serrated, so that the tone is
high-pitched and melodic (rather than the “thuddy” sound of wind
chimes made in a factory mold). There are just two ateliers left in
the city that have the skill to manually blow the glass, before
artisans paint them from the inside (so the patterns don’t peel
easily) with motifs such as goldfish and cherry blossoms.

Stylish sneakers

Japan is one of the world’s trainer meccas, with a plethora of
famed designers and home-grown brands such as ASICS and Onitsuka
Tiger. Global sneaker companies regularly release kicks that are
only available in the Japanese domestic market, as well as
limited-edition collaborations with Tokyo-based designers and
artists. A kicks emporium for those in the know, Mita Sneakers in
Ueno is a former traditional footwear shop. Asides from selling a
selection of the hottest footwear, creative director Shigeyuki
Kunii also designs beautiful sneakers (often with local Ueno
themes) such as the Air Force 1 Nikes that feature laser cut cherry
blossom motifs and are presented in a wooden box.

Manami Okazaki is the author of
Takumi, Downtown Tokyo Artisans, and Land of the Rising

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