So fellow travelers, it is a tradition in Japan to bring gifts when visiting. It would be a terrible dishonor to arrive as a guest empty handed.
Gifts given from a trip, whether the trip is across the city on the subway or across an ocean are called omiyage and have special significance. The tradition is so deeply rooted there are omiyage shops in even the smallest of train stations. Large department stores have an entire floor of specialty counters offering a variety of goods, mostly food. Every item is packaged in decorative boxes and sales clerks carefully wrap each purchase.
So when Favorite Youngest Daughter returned from Tokyo the very first thing she unpacked when she got home were these treasures which she gathered from the islands of Okinawa, her last adventure in Japan before coming home.
For Okasan (Mom, that’s me ) regional wildflower honey and purple yam KitKat bars. For Otosan (Dad, my husband) chili oil made with local peppers and coffee. She knows us so well.
Food is the most popular and more deeply appreciated omiyage. With the compressed accommodations in which even the wealthiest of Japanese live, gifting something which permanently takes up space is almost rude. Consumable gifts, particularly regional specialties are the best offerings to bring. Oh and one would never bring something home made. Two or three pieces of beautifully wrapped fresh fruit would be a far better choice. With apples in Tokyo selling at Y350 (about $3.00) a piece they are not cheap gifts by any means.
During our travels last August (was it really only eight months ago?) I loved seeing omiyage wherever we went. It’s uniquely Japanese, a memorable part of my heritage.
Train station omiyage shop offering traditional Japanese sweets.
The hidden treasure in the omiyage from Favorite Youngest Daughter is the opportunity to write a bit more about our time there. By far, of course, the best gift is having her home, even if it is only for a little while before her next adventure.
All wrapped up, resting on our couch.
Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.