10 Beautiful Handmade Gifts from Tokyo

Japanese folding fan
Japanese folding fan | © rovyyy/Pixabay
Alicia Joy

Tokyo Writer

Japanese handicrafts are some of the finest in the world. If you are looking for a unique souvenir or a beautiful gift to take home from your trip we have some suggestions. Whether it is a folding fan, beautiful teacups or handmade paper, read on for 10 gift ideas from Tokyo.

Tenugui

Tenugui are personal hand towels, similar to a handkerchief. They are extremely versatile and can be used as anything from a sweatband or a belt, a bag or a dishcloth. Tenugui were first used over one thousand years ago as a luxury commodity made of expensive fabric, but became thinner and more functional during the Edo Period.

Wearing tenugui as a head covering

Brooch

Noren

Noren are curtains, but they aren’t limited to use in windows. Long ago, they were used for functional purposes like providing shade or sectioning off part of a room. Today, you’ll often find noren in storefronts and inside some restaurants, mostly for decorative purposes.

Restaurant with noren out front

Folding fan

The hand fan has become a symbol of East Asian culture. Not only ornamental but culturally significant as well as functional, fans remain a popular souvenir. Folding fans were invented in Japan sometime around the 8th century CE. They were influenced by the hand fans of ancient China, which were mostly fixed in their shape.

Folding fan with characters from the Nintendo universe

Coasters

The best gift is a gift you can use, and decorative handmade coasters from Japan will add a touch of Eastern style and luxury to any home. Look for ones made with traditional elements, like upcycled kimono fabrics or thick washi paper.

Handmade coasters

Washi

Washi is traditional Japanese style paper. It is thicker and sturdier than common paper made of wood pulp, and quality pieces are often handmade. Some styles can even be used in the kitchen to absorb cooking oil or as a decorative place to lay the wagashi (Japanese confectionery) during tea time.

Chiyogami decorative paper

Kanzashi

The best kanzashi, or Japanese hairpins, will always have a handmade element to them. Many kanzashi can be used to decoratively create an up-do without a clip or tie, while others are purely for decoration. They are commonly worn with yukata or kimono.

Handmade kanzashi

Yukata

Yukata are the lighter, more casual version of the kimono. They are worn in warm weather, especially for shrine festivals, hanabi (fireworks displays) and other summer celebrations. Yukata are made of lighter fabrics like cotton and don’t require nearly as many accessories as a kimono, so they’re much more affordable. A yukata cut, sewn and dyed by hand (rather than mass produced) makes a beautiful gift from Japan.

Women wearing colorful yukata

Teacup

Handmade ceramic or porcelain teacups are a lesson in wabi-sabi, beauty in impermanence and imperfection. No two cups will be exactly alike, making them a totally unique souvenir.

Antique Japanese teacup in the Brooklyn Museum

Furoshiki

Furoshiki are a multi-purpose stretch of fabric. They are often used to wrap gifts or make bags for carrying bento (boxed lunches). Quality furoshiki made by hand can also be used decoratively for things like place mats, hand towels or picnic blankets.

Furoshiki wrapped bento box
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