Japanese Omiyage

October 9, 2007 at 1:48 pm 1 comment

How odd would it be if the face of your country’s leader showed up as a cartoon image atop a cupcake?

Dessert oddities are fairly normal in Japan. That’s why it wasn’t shocking to read about red bean cakes emblazoned with the likeness of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Not only is it on sale, it’s on back-order.


But of course you’re thinking, “Why would anyone buy this? …Can I get a tax break?” Hardly. It’s more that Japan is a souvenir-giving nation. It’s called omiyage and whether you’re heading to Hawaii or the town next door, coworkers and family expect you to bring back a box of cookies/chocolates/rice cracker omiyage.

You’ll stumble upon them at train stations – rows and rows of cute boxes containing individually-wrapped sweets invariably shaped like famous local land sites. The choices are endless, from a 6-pack of Mt. Fuji mini-cakes to a 24-pack Tokyo Tower cookies. Others look like folding fans, chickens or maple leaves. Yet others are simply round.


I always loved when a coworker returned from northern Japan where they’re famous for their tasty dairy products. So you knew they’d have a box or two of thin, creamy wafers called “Shiroi Koibito” (literally “white lover”) for the entire office. One coworker never bothered eating the sweets but instead lined them up on his desk as they came in. It was the ultimate epicurean collection.
Though if the coworkers keep going to Tokyo, you’re likely to get a whole lot of Tokyo Towers which could get really boring. That’s why it’s pretty exciting when somebody launches a product like the prime minister mini-cake. It’s cute, it’s tasty and it’s the closest you’ll ever get to the real thing. So eat up!


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Entry filed under: Japanese Business, Japanese Culture, Japanese Foods.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. My Favorite Gifts from Japan « Staff Blog  |  February 25, 2008 at 8:44 am

    […] my Japanese relatives tell me they’re coming to visit the first thing they ask is, “What do you want from Japan?” And with my jaw agape, a flurry of cute-but-unnecessary products start racing in my head. […]


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October 2007


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