Asia Food Travel

Souvenirs from Japan

This post is part of my 2015 Japan series. For the rest in the series, please see below.

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo Marunouchi
Exploring Tokyo – Part One
Exploring Tokyo – Part Two
The Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Exploring Kyoto
Hiiragiya Ryokan – Kyoto
Souvenirs from Japan

I’ve been sharing snippets from our last Japan holiday for the last month or so now, and in that time I’ve received some questions/emails about shopping recommendations. Japan is such a mecca for all kind of goodies, but to be honest I didn’t do too much shopping on this trip. It was definitely in my plans, but we ended up just having too many other sights to see and food to eat! That being said, I did pick up a few souvenirs that I would like to share with you.

The first piece I’d like to share is this lacquered tray. I love Japanese and Chinese lacquer – the very best pieces involve so much technique, and so many steps in preparing and treating the wood, and the end results are gorgeous.

There are lots of places for wonderful lacquer at a variety of price points in Japan, but I found my treasures at Zohiko – probably the most famous lacquerware house in Kyoto. Zohiko has been creating beautiful lacquerware for more than 350 years and has an incredible collection.

Zohiko Lacquer Tray

We picked up a few items at Zohiko, but my favorite is probably this antique tray, from the 1940’s. It was from the Zohiko owner’s private family collection and in absolutely pristine condition. Both Mr. Feather and I were drawn to it on display, and thought it was just one of the new designs – we were so surprised to hear it was actually one of a kind, and over 70 years old!

I love the beautiful gold leaf work, and now the tray holds some small items that were given to us for our upcoming baby boy.

Zohiko Lacquer


Along with a few other antique pieces, we also found some nice new lacquer items to take home. My favorite of my new pieces from Zohiko was actually a tea cup. I drink tea constantly throughout the entire day, and a teacup is something that I use daily. Because of that, I always love to buy pretty mugs wherever we travel. I don’t mind spending a bit more either, because it’s a wonderful item that I get so much use from.

The cup in the top middle is the lacquered one I found at Zohiko. I loved how the top and bottom of the lacquer looked a bit “raw” and the brushstrokes were visible. A more modern interpretation of traditional lacquer and a reminder of all the work that goes into its creation.

The cup on the bottom right is from the Arita region in the Saga prefecture, and the style of porcelain is one that I was told was a good example for the area. The other cup, on the bottom left, I’m not too sure of – the shopkeeper who unearthed it for me said it was simply another style of Kyoto porcelain. I loved how it looked when the sun hit it, and decided to take it home. Yes, I stuffed three medium sized teacups in my carry on baggage!

Tea Mugs


Those who have visited will know that Japan is still a very cash based society. Even though each time I visit, credit cards seem to have become more and more prevalent, there are still so many small shops and especially food stalls that only take cash. Because of this, you’ll find that there are lots and lots of coin purses and organizers available, everywhere!

On this trip, I forgot my larger wallet and only packed my slim card case, which didn’t do a great job of holding all of my yen coin. And when a lot of your purchases are paid using these coins – it was starting to get inconvenient. So, I decided to buy a coin purse while in Kyoto. I’ve always felt like being in Japan makes me more obsessive and detail oriented – there is just such a huge selection of everything you can think of, with so much thought put into the design of the most common and everyday of items. So I probably looked at dozens of different coin purses until I found the blue one on the left, at a local Furoshiki shop.

I liked everything about the purse – the clasp felt really high quality, I liked the pattern, and plus it was leather lined! You could tell a lot of detail went into this little purse. I happily used it for my yen for the next days. On our last full day in Kyoto, I decided that I liked the purse so much that I would buy another as a backup. So I did, and don’t regret it at all.

Kyoto Coin Purse

The last item of note that came back with us from Japan which I wanted to share is food related (of course). Japan has so many delicious items to eat – a souvenir stash should always include some local snacks.

One snack that I would highly recommend are the famous Shiroi Koibito cookies. They are these amazing cookies, which consist of a thin slab of solid chocolate (either white or milk) between to langue de chat, or “cat tongue” cookies. Sounds simple enough, right? But for some reason, Shiroi Koibito gets the combination just right, and it’s the perfect, most delicious sweet treat.

Shiroi Koibito

I first tried Shiroi Koibito when a coworker brought back a huge box, after having visited their factory in Hokkaido. My first trip back to Japan afterwards, I tried to find them in Tokyo, but to no avail. I was really surprised because these cookies are really famous in Japan – it’s kind of not being able to find a pack of Oreo Cookies in California. But then I found out that the founder wanted to keep the cookies sold only in Hokkaido (so Japanese!).

I did my research on this last trip, and found out that I could in fact find Shiroi Koibito at one place in Tokyo – the airport! Apparently it was exclusively sold at the ANA shop at both Haneda and Narita airports. So on our way out back home, I made sure to pick up a lot of boxes, including some for my stepbrother and friends. Ahhh….so worth it. If you haven’t tried these cookies, I’d highly recommend picking up a box on your way out of Japan – you can probably find them at the airport, but remember to look for the ANA shop.

And…..that about wraps it up in terms of our February Japan trip. I hope you enjoyed reading the entries, and thank you again for following along our journey!

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  • Glenda
    April 28, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Interesting post, thank you as always, Katherine. I did a search of your blog, and it doesn’t appear that you’ve written a post on tea, and I would be interested in what teas you like, what teas you drink during the day, what brands of teas you like, and what you think in general about caffeinated, decaffeinated, and herb teas. Thanks for considering this!

    • Katherine
      April 29, 2015 at 10:47 am

      Hi Glenda, sure I’d be happy to though I’m afraid I have quite pedestrian tastes. Most of my fancier teas come from my parents who have much better taste than me 🙂

  • Yuet
    April 28, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Congrats to you and mr. Feather on your expected baby boy! My baby boy is now 19 and I love him dearly. Moms always share a special bond with their baby boy. Enjoy!!

  • Revanche
    April 29, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Oh Katherine, you have restoked my secret unhealthy love of coin purses! (As if it was really all that secret…)

    And your hunt for the cookies made me think of the biscuits I loved from Italy. I’m sure they weren’t anything special but I loved them and was sad to have forgotten to buy a supply before we left.

    • Katherine
      April 30, 2015 at 7:46 am

      Biscuits are sounding mighty good right now!

  • Vivian
    April 29, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    My recommendation would be Linen bags from Ichizawa .