Japanese Food Souvenirs Guide | A Visual and Taste Extravaganza

Japanese Food Souvenirs | A Travel Guide
Japanese Food Souvenirs | A Travel Guide

Omiyage: An Important Japanese Tradition

The word omiyage (お土産) means “souvenir” in Japanese, and this is one word you can’t avoid seeing when visiting any Japanese tourist attraction or transportation hub.

At regional transportation hubs such as Tokyo and Shin-Osaka Stations, practically every other shop is an omiyage one. Instantly recognisable, too, thanks to stacks of colourfully wrapped food gifts and carefully arranged plastic sample displays.

Japanese Food Souvenir Shop
Japanese food souvenir shops are quite a feast for the eyes. Boxes are always colourful. The designs frequently feature local landmarks, cultural events, or folktales too.

The Japanese concept of “souvenir” is slightly different from the Western one, though. While you are most welcome to buy some for yourself, omiyage more accurately means “Japanese food gifts” and is culturally more meant for giving away than one’s own consumption. The Japanese society greatly values harmony amongst families, friends, neighbours, co-workers, etc. It is thus considered customary to bring back local delicacies and handicrafts for everyone after a trip.

Think of this custom as, sharing the joy of your vacation/trip with those you know and a tradition that began with the religious bringing back charms and talismans for their loved ones after a pilgrimage.

Sendai Yubeshi
Signature delicacies of shinise (老舗), or famous/established brands, are always very prominently showcased at Japanese food souvenir shops. (These are Sendai yubeshi cakes, btw)

As for the kanji characters of the word, they literally mean “produce of the land,” or “local products.” The omiyage industry is therefore also an important commercial avenue for cities and especially small towns to showcase their unique goods. With food being the representative product of many cities and regions, food souvenirs correspondingly dominate Japanese omiyage shops.

More often than not, there are way, way more food gifts in such shops than the typical keychains, fridge magnets, handicrafts, and so on.

Japanese Food Souvenirs and Gifts are Perfect for Immediate Giving Away

Japanese food omiyage are typically boxes of confections or savoury snacks, ready for consumption right away. They are instantly recognisable for the huge majority are packed in rectangular paper boxes wrapped with beautifully designed paper. The boxes themselves are always white and within them, snacks like mochi are carefully presented in plastic trays.

In other words, you can simply buy whatever catches your eye and that’s immediately ready for gifting—some shops will also give you a customised carrier. If you’re not buying, well, such gifts/souvenirs are still incredibly photogenic and attractive to look at.



Personally, I consider such food gifts amongst the most uniquely Japanese travel sights, right up there with the famous landmarks and cherry blossoms. Since many omiyage feature local produce or culinary specialties, they are also a great introduction to the region or city you’re visiting.

Japanese Ramen Boxes
Cities famous for certain types of signature Japanese dishes will often provide easy-cook versions of these dishes as souvenirs too. These ramen packs are sold in Fukuoka, one of Japan’s ramen capitals.

How Do Japanese Food Souvenirs Taste Like?

First and foremost, daifuku and manju still dominate the scene.

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An increasingly cosmopolitan tourist market has seen Japanese confectioners branch into biscuits, pies, jellies, cheese, etc., but these two classic Japanese confections are still a big part of the market.

Classic Japanese ingredients like matcha, oguri (chestnut), and red bean paste feature often too. I’m not exaggerating. Practically every Japanese region has its own version of daifuku or manju with red bean paste—some regions such as Ise also just sell the paste.

What’s important to know is perhaps this. Many Japanese souvenir sweets are quite sweet. Sometimes, even intensely sweet, as many are meant to be enjoyed with bitter green tea. If you’re not into this taste, they might not be enjoyable for you.

As for savoury products like rice crackers, many feature an umami or soy sauce taste. Similarly to sweet mochi, if you’re not into the taste of the ocean, these snacks might not appeal.

Chocolates and Japanese Kit Kat

Japanese cities with rich, Western heritages like Yokohama and Kobe often promote chocolates as souvenirs. Some of these chocolate-y offers could be a little pricey, too, as they are considered exquisite gifts.

There is also the bizarre case of Kit Kat. Though English in origin, the wafer snack is nowadays widely regarded as a must-buy when visiting Japan, largely because of the amazing variety of Kit Kat flavours available there, many of which are exclusive.



To share, I have only ever once bought Kit Kat when in Japan; I’m not fond of the snack and anyway, Don Don Donki Singapore sells them. However, I have tried several fruity Japanese varieties and it’s an interesting taste. Not exactly very oriental or “Japanese,” but pleasant and likable.

I would thus recommend that you buy some for yourself or friends when visiting Japan. But do consider getting some other sweets and snacks too.


Glico

While perhaps less “famous” than Kit Kat nowadays, Glico snacks are also widely promoted as food souvenirs and gifts. The city where this happens most is, of course, Osaka, where the Glico Running Man billboard at Dotonbori continues to be a top photo spot.


List of Japanese Snacks, Sweets, and Pastries Often Sold as Souvenirs

This is not a comprehensive reference, I omitted several less-known regional specialities. However, the following are generally the types of Japanese souvenir snacks you’ll encounter.

Do note that kanji characters for many of these snacks have quite different meanings in Chinese. If you read Chinese, don’t be confused.

  • Arare (あられ): “Snow pellet” crackers made from glutinous rice and flavoured with soy sauce.
  • Baumkuchen (バウムクーヘン): The German “tree log cake” enjoyed great popularity in Japan ever since it was introduced to the country a century ago. Less sweet than many other Japanese-made Western pastries, Japanese baumkuchen is often pricey but exquisite.
  • Cake (ケーキ): Sponge cakes, madaleines, etc, are often promoted as food souvenirs in Japan, too.
  • Castella (カステラ): Castella is the signature food souvenir of Nagasaki; you cannot avoid seeing it at Nagasaki attractions. Portuguese in origin, Castella is a type of sponge cake with a moist texture and a coarse sugar base. Compared to traditional sponge cakes, they are also denser.
  • Cheese (チーズ): Cheese and cheesy pastries were not widely sold in Japan till the modern age. However, they now enjoy much popularity. Outside of Hokkaido, where Japanese cheese was first made, regional cheese-based delights are also sold in cities like Osaka.
  • Daifuku (大福): Daifuku are simply mochi with fillings/stuffing. Nowadays, daifuku can also be topped with preserved fruits.
  • Dorayaki (どら焼き): Made famous throughout Asia by Doraemon, dorayaki consists of two pancake-like patties with a sweet filling in between. Can be quite filling.
  • Financiers (フィナンシェ): These French pastries are quite popular in Japan and not just sold in the larger cities. They are usually a little bit more expensive too.
  • Kaki no Tane (柿の種): Bags of bar snacks consisting of senbei fragments, peanuts, and sometimes, other savoury snacks.
  • Kintsuba (きんつば): Square, traditional mini cakes stuffed full of sweet bean paste, and with a chewy outer layer. Will somewhat remind you of Chinese mooncakes.
  • Konpeitō (金平糖): Small and colourful sugar candies. Usually spherical in shape and with bumps all over.
  • Manju (饅頭): Smaller, steamed bun snacks with sweet fillings. Though very similar in nature to Daifuku, the “skin” is made with flour-based ingredients. There are many, many varieties.
  • Mochi (餅): Small, soft, and chewy glutinous rice cakes. Comes in a variety of shapes and colours, and is the base ingredient for many other Japanese snacks.
  • Monaka (最中): Sweet paste or fillings sandwiched between two wafers. Can be ice cream-like.
  • Okaki (おかき): Smaller rice crackers made from mochi rice cakes.
  • Pudding (プリン): Pronounced as “purin” in Japanese, Western-style dessert puddings enjoy quite a fan base in Japan. Those sold as souvenirs are often prepared with locally grown fruits.
  • Senbei (煎餅): Rice crackers that come in various sizes and shapes, and are usually baked or grilled. Senbei can be sweet or savoury.
  • Uiro (ういろう): One of the two signature omiyage of Nagoya, the other being miso paste, Uiro is a sort of steamed cake made with glutinous rice and water. It has a harder texture than Mochi. It is milder in taste too.
  • Wagashi (和菓子): Wagashi simply means “traditional Japanese confectionery.” Today, it also often refers to exquisite, elaborately crafted artisanal pastries meant to be served with green tea. (The more accurate term for such pastries, though, is Namagashi) Wagashi made by top confectioneries can be expensive.
  • Yatsuhashi (八つ橋): The signature pastry of Kyoto. There are two versions. “Normal” yatsuhashi is cracker-like and resembles a cut bamboo slice. Nama yatsuhashi(生八つ橋), on the other hand, is a folded, triangular piece of mochi-like skin with a sweet filling. Both versions contain cinnamon.
  • Yōkan (羊羹): Yōkan is block-like and made with red bean paste, agar, and sugar. There are two types, neri (練り) and mizu (水), with the latter containing more water. Yōkan looks very similar to Uiro.
  • Yubeshi (ゆべし): Round or square cakes made with miso, rice powder, udon flour, and other ingredients. Often contain walnuts or yuzu.
Nagoya Castle Food Souvenirs
Kintsuba and Japanese baumkuchen cakes on sale at Nagoya Castle. Both are themed after the signature motifs of the famous castle.
Kyoto Nama Yatsuhashi
Kyoto nama yatsuhashi; Yuko (夕子) is one of the most famous brands for this classic snack. Practically all food souvenir outlets will have transparent mihon (見本), or samples, for you to have a look at how the actual snack is.
Osaka Takoyaki Snacks
Osaka is the “Kitchen of Japan” and the birthplace of takoyaki. Many Osaka food souvenirs and snacks thus feature a “takoyaki” taste. (More accurately, it’s the taste of the sauce)
Japanese Hassaku Cake
I bought this hassaku mini cake years ago at Fukuyama Station. It looked and tasted more like a madeleine.
Dojo Kikui Manju
These unusual manju are sold in the Izumo (Shimane Prefecture) region. They are based on the Hyottoko face used for the Dojou Scooping Dance and called “Dojo Kikui.”
Japanese Omiyage Prices
Price-wise, food omiyage usually ranges from 500 to 2000++ yen. Not that there aren’t any, but I seldom see any that cost more than 3000 yen.
Odawara Seasoned Nuts
Seasoned and flavoured nuts are sometimes sold as Japanese food gifts too. The highlight is not so much the nuts but rather the flavouring or the process of preparing the nuts. The packets in this pictures nuts were sold at a modern food supermart next to Odawara Station.
Kuni Zakari Sake Gifts
Naturally, many Japanese sake, whiskey, and liqueurs are sold as souvenirs too. And not just at the airport. (These are Kuni Zakari Sake, a specialty of Aichi Prefecture)

Japanese Food Souvenir and Gifts – A Showcase

The following pictures were taken at various malls and transportation hubs in Japan in November 2023. These are not the only places where such gift boxes and packs are available, too, larger departmental stalls such as Isetan and Sogo often sell them as well.

Haneda Airport Garden

This modern mall, which opened in January 2023, is directly connected to Haneda Airport Terminal 3. There are several souvenir stores at the passageway connecting the mall to the terminal. Prices are a little bit higher than usual but there are some unique products here.

Haneda Airport Garden Souvenir Shop
The selection at this shop is orientated toward foreign tourists. There’s Kit Kat, Hi-Chew candy, and a selection of ramen packs. There’s also matcha baumkuchen and Fuji no Shirayuki custard cakes.
Haneda Airport Garden Gifts
Aren’t these boxes simply gorgeous and gift-perfect? The ones with the cats contain shrimp crackers sandwiched with cheese. The artistic-looking ones are inspired by the collections of Tokyo National Museum. Both are exclusive to Haneda Airport Garden.

Haneda Airport Terminal 1 (Land Side)

Haneda Airport Terminal 1 Food Souvenirs
The land side shop at Haneda Terminal 1 sells a lot of chocolates, financiers, and cookies.

Asakusa Nakemise Dori

Nakamise Dori Food Souvenirs
I already shared this picture in my Visiting Asakusa Guide. Re-sharing as it has everybody’s favourite Doraemon and different Tokyo banana snacks.

Shin-Yokohama Station

I visited the following gift kiosk while on my way to explore the Yokohama attractions featured in Yakuza: Like a Dragon. There were a lot of chocolate products. A lot of “Chinese” products by famous Yokohama Chinese restaurants like Manchinro (萬珍樓) too.

Yokohama Rose Colore Financiers
These Shin-Yokohama Station exclusive pastries by Yokohama Rose Colore are utterly gorgeous, aren’t they? And no, they are not pies. They are financiers.
Shin-Yokohama Station Omiyage
Other pastries and omiyage at this Shin-Yokohama Station gift kiosk. Lots of chocolates, pies, and Chinese tea/seasoning products. I love those panda baumkuchen.

May I call your attention to one of the omiyage in the top right picture, the one with rabbits and the kanji characters 半月(Hangetsu). These aren’t from Yokohama; they are from the famous Kamakura Gorō shop in nearby Kamakura. The historical city is about 30-minute local train ride from Yokohama City.



These Hangetsu snacks are described as senbei with cream in between; the ones in my picture use apple cream. Pretty interesting fusion snack for a shop from a historical city, yes? By the way, Hangetsu means “half moon.” The rabbit motif is probably inspired by the oriental myth of the Jade Rabbit.

Sendai Station

Sendai is famous for zunda (ずんだ), a sweet paste made from Japanese Soybeans*. The green paste is similar to azuki-based red bean paste but lighter in taste and creamier. (Some say nuttier, too, but I don’t feel so)

Zunda products and omiyage are thus all over Sendai Station; and I mean all over. You cannot avoid seeing green when walking into any omiyage shop here.

* You might be more familiar with these as Edamame.

Sendai Zunda Snacks
The hiragana for zu (ず), the first syllable for zunda, features prominently at every souvenir shop. The themed displays give a good idea of what Zunda snacks and pastries are all about too.
Hagino Tsuki (萩の月) | Sendai Specialty
Other than zunda products, Hagino Tsuki (萩の月) is promoted everywhere too. This elegant sponge cake is inspired by the Moon over the field of Miyagino and is another famous specialty of Sendai.
Ready-to-cook Sendai Gyutan
Oh, I forgot about this. Gyutan (牛たん), or “cow’s tongue” is THE representative meat dish of Sendai. Ingredients and ready-to-cook versions of this delicacy are thus sold at the station too.
Sendai Omiyage
Visual roundup of other Sendai food gifts and souvenirs sold at Sendai Station. I visited on a Thursday afternoon and the station was crowded. Business was brisk as well.

Just to share, I bought a couple of zunda snacks and they are delicious. They are less sweet than other types of mochi and daifuku, and have a “leafier” taste.

HOWEVER, what I bought differed greatly from the freshly made zunda shake and dango paste I enjoyed at Aoba Castle Site. The freshly made versions tasted much better. Sharing this so that travellers know what to expect.

JR Nara Station

The one must-do activity for all visitors to Nara is to buy some deer crackers and be chased by adorable little gangsters all over the park. But at JR Nara Station, you can buy some for yourself too.

Nara Oguri Kintsuba
Exquisite Nara kintsuba.
Nara Food Souvenirs
Be mobbed at Nara Park by deer for crackers. Then buy some for yourself at the train station.

Notice the persimmon display and gift in the top right segment of the above picture? This is a jelly snack with a slice of persimmon within. I bought this and it was yummy! Very refreshingly, just mildly sweet, and a great dessert when eaten chilled.

Nagoya Station

Much like Sendai Station, omiyage at Nagoya Station are all about the signature snacks and dishes of the city. In other words, uiro is everywhere. Ogura toast (小倉トースト) too. As well as seasoning for making your own tebasaki (手羽先) chicken wings.



Nagoya Station Omiyage
Omiyage sold at Nagoya Station. The bottom left picture features DIY packs for Taiwan mazesoba. Despite the name, my favourite Japanese dry noodle dish originated in Nagoya.

Nagoya Chubu Airport

Last but not least, pictures from one of the land side souvenir shops at Nagoya Chubu Airport. The selection is mostly the same as that at Nagoya Station. The only difference is a wider selection of more expensive chocolate and Western pastries.

I also recommend the prawn crackers sold here. I bought a pack and it has gotta be one of the best prawn crackers I’ve ever had. Thick slices just bursting with shrimp flavours!

Nagoya Chubu Airport Japanese Food Souvenirs
Omiyage for flying home with at Nagoya Chubu Airport.
Nagoya Tebasaki Gifts
So many types of ready-to-cook tebasaki packs.

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Japanese Food Souvenirs | A Visual and Taste Extravaganza
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Japanese Food Souvenirs | A Visual and Taste Extravaganza
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A guide to the many types of Japanese Food Souvenirs you can buy as Omigaye when visiting Japan. With pictures of the often lovely packaging.
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