With renewed interest in made-in-Japan items, BECOS often receives requests for advice about buying the perfect Japanese present. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a luxury Japanese gift for that special someone in your life.
What Makes a Product Uniquely Japanese?
There are countless things people think of as being uniquely Japanese, such as "hanko" personal seals, chopsticks, or Mt. Fuji. In short, they need to be items derived from Japanese culture or its scenery.
Every country has its unique natural features and culture. In Japan, this is the distinct changing of the seasons and the way Japanese people adapt their lifestyles to them.
As a nation consisting of numerous islands, Japan has many distinct natural environments and, over the centuries, it’s learned to respect and live in harmony with nature.
Japan’s traditional crafts are the result of that deep, millennia-old connection between the world of nature and the everyday lives of Japanese people. It’s also why every region in Japan has its own unique traditional craft: because they were all developed based on the different life experiences of the local population and their customs.
Traditional Japanese crafts are made mostly by hand using domestic materials and outstanding techniques handed down through the generations. This is what makes them uniquely Japanese.
The Rules of Gift Giving in Japan
There are many different kinds of gifts, like celebratory or seasonal ones. Gifts may be given to express gratitude, to recognize special dates in a person’s life, or to facilitate human relationships.
A uniquely Japanese gift giving custom is the "noshi-gami" wrap consisting of paper with printed images of a "mizuhiki" decorative cord with a "noshi" ceremonial origami fold. While it’s no longer necessary to include these with every present you give, going that extra mile really shows the recipient that you care.
It’s said that most gifts in Japan, excluding perishables, are given wrapped in noshi-gami. They are printed with different mizuhiki types and colors depending on whether the occasion is joyous or sad, so you must take care when choosing one.
Additionally, some gifts are considered inappropriate for certain occasions in Japan. For example, tea and handkerchiefs should be avoided for celebrations because tea is often given at funerals and because the kanji for “handkerchief” looks similar to “tegire,” which means “severing connections or relations.” Similarly, knives, scissors, mirrors, and ceramics should not be given as wedding gifts as they bring to mind things like cutting or breaking.
Delight Others With Japanese Crafts
They say it’s the thought that counts, but few gift recipients would admit that they’re happy about receiving an item that’s difficult to use, or food that they don’t like, or things that they can easily get themselves. Useful and unique products make the best gifts - and traditional Japanese crafts fit the bill perfectly!
Many Japanese crafts are considered precious yet easy to use by Japanese people because they are so closely linked to their lifestyles while also being handmade by skilled craftspeople using traditional techniques and domestic materials. Many people feel that using products that were nurtured by Japan’s natural environment adds an element of “healing” to their daily lives.
The modern availability of mass-produced, convenient, and affordable items perhaps makes these painstakingly crafted, deeply meaningful masterpieces all the more special and valuable.
Premium Japanese Products for That One-Of-A-Kind Gift!
GOSU Mamezara Small Plates (5-Piece Set)
This set of five small "mamezara" plates are all colored in slightly different shades of blue. “Gosu” is a blue pigment that has long been applied to ceramics across Japan. Its exact color changes depending upon elements like the season, weather, and humidity, making no two exactly the same. The elegant hue and unique qualities make this set a remarkably attractive gift.
Hanakessho Flower Crystal Sake Cups (Charcoal Blue, 3-Piece Set)
These made-in-Kyoto ceramic “hanakessho” flower crystal sake cups in charcoal blue make the perfect gifts for sake lovers. The beautiful contrast between the golden yellow and regal blue makes the flower patterns pop with three-dimensional vigor! There are also beer mugs and larger sake cups available along with stylish Japanese teapots and teacups in the same series, so try to figure out the recipient’s favorite drink before purchasing.
Wagg Nishijin-ori Textile Bag
Wagg, a Nishijin-ori fabric bag from Kyoto, would no doubt be a welcome gift for snappy dressers. It is decorated with a simple yet unique design created from traditional Japanese “chidori” and “ichimatsu” patterns, ensuring versatility and longevity.
Umbrella Bottle (Black) by thermo mug and Tsuchinao Shikki
Lacquerware is one of Japan’s most renowned traditional crafts. This one-of-a-kind bottle was born through a collaboration between the popular brand “thermo mug” and artisans of the 1,500-year-old craft of Echizen lacquerware.
It boasts a screw-on lid with excellent sealability, a lovely, soft lacquer texture, and outstanding insulation for both hot and cold beverages, making it a handy item to introduce a touch of “made in Japan” glamor to your lifestyle.
VYAC Card Case - Ichimatsu Pattern by Tsuchinao Shikki
This unique business card holder is coated in a high-quality robust lacquer that protects it from scratches. The lustrous, amber sheen will deepen as it is used, continuing to spice up your business meetings with hints of class and color. There’s no doubt it’ll serve as a great conversation starter with clients.
Kyono Shiki Japanese Candles by Nakamura Rosoku (Set of Five, 7.5 g)
Japanese candles are individually crafted by dedicated artisans using natural plant-based ingredients. Unlike Western candles, they produce very little smoke, preventing the room from being blackened with soot. They are distinguished by large flames that sway gently, creating an enchanting atmosphere.
This is a set of five gorgeous Japanese candles hand-painted by talented Kyoto artists. While making for a romantic way to brighten a space, they can also be displayed in their box as a decorative interior item.
Mini Bottle Armor “Tokugawa Ieyasu” by Tadayasu
Samurai armor is painstakingly made through approximately 5,000 processes, drawing on a wide range of traditional techniques including metalworking, woodworking, weaving, braiding, and leatherworking. Considered the pinnacle of traditional Japanese craftsmanship, this miniature katchu armor made to fit a 750 ml bottle is ideal as an utterly unique commemorative gift or present.
With different versions of famous Warring States “busho” warrior lords available, it’s tempting to collect the whole bunch!
ZOA Series SANSUI Plate by Marubun
This is a traditional Arita ware plate featuring the often solemn “sansuimon” design (landscape of mountains and rivers) made fun and poppy through the use of transfer painting.
The bright colors give off a Scandinavian-like feel, making it ideal for Western-style dishes or as a piece of contemporary art to brighten up the home.
The plate can also be enjoyed together with matching cups from the same series.
Choose Gifts With Your Heart
When selecting a gift, putting time aside to consider the recipient’s tastes and researching what makes them happy will ensure significantly greater success. The timing of the present and variety of wrapping can also help the recipient further understand and appreciate your intent. Plus, if you really want to communicate loud and clear, you can’t go wrong with a good old card! All this compounded with the elegance and beauty of a traditional Japanese craft is guaranteed to please just about anyone!