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Mar 4, 2013 05:07 AM

Food Gift for a Japanese Person

I will be visiting Japan in the near future (Tokyo and Kyoto). I would like to bring back food gifts for my Japanese teacher who is originally from Japan but living in the United States. She is in her late 20s. I have no idea what she likes as far as food is concerned.

Any suggestions would be helpful.

Thanks in advance

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  1. I would ay the best things to take back for your friend would be either some sort of sweets (okashi) or maybe some sort of local sake, either nihonshu or umeshu, or, if your friend is from kyushu, some shochu. The best would be something from her home region that she cannot get in the US.
    US customs is, in my opinion, one of the worst in the world for food item. However, if you are carrying something like crackers or cookies, there is usually no problem. Just refer to it as cookies or crackers. And as long as you are not carrying too much alcohol, as in more than three bottles or so of nihonshu or an equivalent of shochu, you should be OK. But with the US, you never can tell.

    4 Replies
    1. re: edozanmai

      Worst as in, they took the food away, or what?

      I've never had issues because of food. It was only when I wrote Lebanon on my customs form that problems arose...

      @BellaDonna if the teacher likes sweets, "hakuun no hotori" might be something to look for. I've seen its cousin at Minamoto Kitchoan (a Japanese sweets shop) in Manhattan, but doubt it's too easily found elsewhere in the states (maybe in SF).

      1. re: edozanmai

        It is a surprise gift isn't it?
        May be a key is her home town.
        Do you know which prefecture is she from?

        1. re: irukaunyu

          It is a "surprise" gift...more of a token of appreciation for putting up with me taking too long to learn Hiragana and just dealing with me in general

          She is from the surrounding Tokyo area is my understanding

          1. re: BellaDonna

            Come from near Tokyo.
            So, How about 'Hiyoko', 'Hato Sablé', 'Bunmeido Castella'.
            Actually these are not a gourmet sweets, but have something for Japanese.

             Hiyoko (銘菓 ひよこ:chick-formed bean-jam bun )

             Hato Sablé (鳩サブレー:pigion-shaped biscuit

             Bunmeido Castella (文明堂のカステラ:sponge cake

            Or Yatsuhashi is a famous Kyoto souvenir.

             Nama-Yatsuhashi (生八橋:soft yatsuhashi

            And that, in Kyoto, there are a lot of cute items.
            For example this is a Japanese handkerchief shop.

             Eirakuya (永楽屋 細辻伊兵衛商店


            May be you will find a lot of attractive items during your Kyoto trip.

            have fun. :-)

      2. Tastes really vary among Japanese people, so the best thing to do would be to ask her. Chances are there is something she has been craving, but cannot get where she is now living. Apart from that, really good green tea is almost always appreciated.

        1. Yes, I too recommend either a really good green tea, senbei (rice crackers), or some kind of boxed wagashi. Either wait until the last day before you leave to buy the wagashi, or be sure to inquire how long it will stay fresh. All these items are very expensive here in the States and the variety is not nearly as good as it will be in Japan.

          1. Karinto, a sweet fried dough snack, would make a nice foodie gift. You can buy boxes or tins with small portioned packages. It's light, easy to pack, and will stay fresh for a while. There's a well-known shop in Tokyo Station that sells them called Nihonbashi-Nishikihorin Karinto, but department stores have them or even a few of the karinto makers have shops around town.

            In general, if you go to the food gift sections of the finer department stores like Takashimaya and Isetan, there are tons of counters with various Japanese confections and other delectables meant as gifts. These are often proxy counters for the actual original shops that are scattered around Tokyo. Here, you can see them, try them, and buy them in various gift sizes and configurations. Me, I like the seasonal mochi snacks. Tokyo Station also has a lot of gift counters these days.

            The prefectural antenna shops also have interesting food gifts, but it helps to read/speak decent Japanese to navigate through items there.

            1. In addition to some of the excellent suggestions given (I love karinto!), may I also suggest something like a high-end shoyu or mirin? You would need to bring along something like a Wine Diaper to make sure it gets home in one piece, but I know my Japanese friends really appreciate good shoyu and mirin--especially mirin.