You've gotten yourself to Tokyo, seen the sights, eaten as much sushi as your stomach will hold. Finally, your thoughts turn to home. Not going home. Shopping for home, as in gifts...
You’ve gotten yourself to Tokyo, seen the sights, eaten as much sushi as your stomach will hold. Finally, your thoughts turn to home.
Not going home. Shopping for home, as in gifts for friends and relatives.
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Here, for the souvenir-impaired, are a few ideas:
Traditional touristy stuff: Nakamise-Dori, the street in Tokyo’s Asakusa neighborhood that leads up to Senso-ji temple, is one-stop shopping for wall hangings, fans, T-shirts, dolls and other knick-knacks that scream “old Japan.”
It’s a touristy street with touristy prices, but hey, you’re a tourist. Go here after you’ve gone to the 100-yen store (see below), so you don’t suffer pangs of regret after paying 15 times what you had to for some items.
If you don’t have time to get to Nakamise-Dori, but you need something Japanese-y, hit one of the major department stores and head for the section where they’re selling kimonos.
Somewhere nearby, there will likely be an area where you can find nice Japanese-print handkerchiefs and scarves starting at $5 and up.
Real bargains: If there’s a 100-yen store handy, check it out.
A lot of people think that shopping in Tokyo is expensive because they’re used to vacationing in Third World countries. Those people should buy their souvenirs at a 100-yen store.
They’re like the dollar stores in the United States, (with 100 yen worth about 95 cents).
Admittedly, a lot of the stuff is pretty pedestrian toenail clippers, anyone? but some of the souvenirs I found there were identical to those sold for 10 to 15 times the price in tourist spots. These included: Maneki neko (good-luck cat statues), wooden dolls, rice bowls, stationery; stickers, notebooks; erasers in the shape of Japanese food, world maps and more.
You might be wondering what’s cool about a Japanese map: Japan, not North America, is at the center of it, proving that the shape of the world depends on your point of view.
The little notebooks? They come with odd English phrases such as, “Hey come together! Let’s all play together. What kind of play do you like? Everyone likes playing more than anything else.” You gotta love that.
Trendy: The epicenter of Tokyo youth fashion is at 109 Mall in Shibuya. You know all that funky stuff you see Japanese young people wearing? This is where they got it.
Hip-hop is apparently quite the thing to be listening to. Loudly. In all 10 floors of this monument to the excesses of youth.
Most of the stores have names that are in English (kind of). Some of them are: Sneep Dip, ROSE FAN FAN, Ji-maxx, MCC ZONE, PEAK & PINE, moussy, LOVE GIRLS MARKET, Cona Blue and Rapis Lazli.
Buy your favorite teen something outrageous here, but don’t expect it to conform to any preconceived ideas of Japanese-ness.
If you just can’t get that Japa-rappin’ out of your head and have to take some home, hip-hop on down to a Tower Records store to find yourself some. Also worth a listen: Japanese heavy metal.
Something for the sports fan: Japanese baseball T-shirts look a lot like the T-shirts and jerseys you can get for American teams, only they have names of baseball teams you might not have heard of, such as the Nippon Ham Fighters and the Yakult Swallows.
Stuff for the better-known teams, such as the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants and the Seibu Lions, is available in major department stores.
For a more comprehensive selection (including, of course, Ichiro gear), go to the To: Do store at the Tokyo Dome. Prices are comparable to official team-logo clothing in Seattle.
Last-minute shopping: If you’re the type who puts off your gift shopping until you absolutely have to, you’re in luck at Tokyo’s Narita airport.
There’s pretty much a mall’s worth of shopping at the airport. I can’t speak for all the shops (it’s a big place!), but the three I peered at had a good selection of stuff at reasonable prices.
Pick up some cookies and a key chain, and your loved ones will never have to know you forgot about them until minutes before your plane left.
Yoko Kuramoto-Eidsmoe: 748-5725 or firstname.lastname@example.org