Omiyage

Those (often literally!) sweet little gifts you bring back from your trips to give to all the unlucky souls who had to work while you were out adventuring, or, who just didn’t get invited to your travel party, are an important aspect of Japanese culture. Being foreigners without much of a clue about Japanese customs, or just not really having gone on a proper trip inside Japan in a long time, has given  the duck and me a perfect excuse for not spending our waking hours trying to find the perfect compensation for having left everybody at home devoid of our enjoyable presence. We have, however, been recipients of omiyage before – much to the duck’s pleasure. When we had just moved in, for example, we found a mystery box on the kitchen table; our wonderful house mate had brought us all a souvenir from her little summer trip (as if she had known that the duck and I love traditional Japanese sweets)!

Omiyage duck

Soon the duck and I will waddle around Kyoto in hopes of finding a few spots of pretty leftover autumn foliage and in even bigger hopes of not freezing our butts off. Because we’ve been living in Japan for a while now, our standard excuse, unfortunately, is not valid anymore and we might indeed find ourselves frantically running from shop to shop looking for the perfect omiyage for those who can put up with our weirdness and streaks of occasional laziness enough to call themselves our friends. In order to mentally prepare for becoming more compliant with Japanese norms and culture we’ve decided to focus this post on omiyage:

Isn’t it wonderful to have traveler friends?

In those few instances when the duck and I indeed manage to meet up with old friends who kindly found room for us in their busy schedules we, more often than not, thanks to the big gaps between seeing each other, are presented with little gifts from their weekend trips or hometown. So far, those have been postcards, pastry, tea and other cute little snacks, accompanied by exciting stories about their adventures and everyday lives.

Usually, omiyage are small individually wrapped snacks that are representative of the place you live or went to. For Tokyo, for example, banana flavored snacks are popular souvenirs (don’t ask me why). This is another reason why the duck and I are happy to have picked this city as our new home; the only banana flavor that we can tolerate comes from actual bananas (raw or baked or mushed or shaken) and living in Tokyo means (hopefully) not being presented with any banana-flavored souvenirs!

Now we just have to figure out what to get (and who to get stuff for) in Kyoto. Fortunately, the duck and I will not be alone on this venture  – our Japanese-culture-pro-travel-companions will hopefully give us the much needed insight into the craft of hunting down the perfect omiyage.

Wish us luck!

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