Japan’s Curious ‘Omiyage’ Culture
By Grace Buchele Mineta
On February 21, 2015
The culture of omiyage takes a little bit of getting used to. An omiyage is a gift or souvenir you give to friends, coworkers, and family after returning home from a trip. Omigage is so much more than just an edible souvenir, though.
Omiyage boxes are brightly colored and contain individually wrapped snacks, perfect for sharing. They also vary depending on the region. In Aomori, most of the omiyage I bought were apple-themed, while a short business trip to Hakone required me to pick up a couple boxes of kamaboko (pureed fish).
Omiyage is serious business. It can be a huge social taboo if your coworkers know you went on a weekend trip, but you show up to the office on Monday without any thing.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to Kamakura with a Japanese friend. We spent a bit of time looking at the various shrines and temples, but she couldn’t relax until we made a pit-stop at an omiyage shop so she could pick out gifts for her coworkers.
We ended up spending a ridiculous amount of time in that shop, as she browsed through endless boxes, trying to find the perfect omiyage with just the amount of sweets, the correct portion size and price for her office.
Does anyone else have a problem picking out the “perfect” omiyage?