5 Faves: Holiday Gifts for Japanophiles (2013 Edition)

The leaves are still turning but my calendar is relentless in informing me that the holidays will be here all too soon. Thanks to a friend, I am inspired to give my family back home a variety of Japan’s uniquely flavored Kit Kats. Knowing how long it can take to track those down, I had better get started ASAP!

Are you shopping for a Japanophile this year? Any of the following would make a great holiday gift.

1. Ukiyo-e Heroes prints – I love ukiyo-e (woodblock prints). My husband loves video games. Never ever in my wildest imagination did I imagine someone would combine those two interests. But that’s just what illustrator Jed Henry and woodblock artist Dave Bull did with Ukiyo-e Heroes, to great success. The scenes they create take classic video game characters (ie Linc from Legend of Zelda or Mario from … well, Super Mario Bros) and insert them into medieval Japanese costumes and settings. Even though I didn’t recognize all of the characters (had to call in the hubby on that one), the designs are all beautiful and impressive. Best of all, when I ordered a print the other week, Jed mentioned there’s free shipping to anywhere in the world until 2014.

A Mario Kart ukiyo-e print

2. Used kimono or Obi – Bring a beautiful piece of Japanese culture into your home by giving new purpose to an old kimono or obi. You can purchase simply the fabric (from websites like Yokodana) and make your own craft (handbags, headbands, wall hangings, etc) or an entire kimono or obi that’s looking for a second life. For full pieces, check out Osaka-based Furicle – they also entertain questions in multiple languages from global kimono enthusiasts.

Kimono fabric

3. Bento box accessories – When my daughter started going to hoikuen (nursery school) this past year, I knew it was time to brush up on (er, actually learn) some bento skills. I admit that I’m not always the most creative with my lunch box meals, but YOU can be. There are thousands of bento accessories out there to help you make animal faces on your kid’s rice or cut carrots and cucumbers into stars and flowers.

Bento accessories from CuteZCute

4. Japan-themed puzzles – My family members are all big puzzlers. When I was a kid, most Saturday nights at our house involved the golden oldies and a good 1000 piece puzzle. (Party animals, I know. :)) I still love puzzles, though, and there are some great ones out there with beautiful images from around Japan. Check the Imaginatorium website for a great selection of puzzles made here in Japan, with stunning images of the country’s most beautiful locales.

A jigsaw puzzle with an image of Japan
A jigsaw puzzle with an image of Japan

5. Craft Beer in Japan book – Sure, Japan may be more well-known for its sake and shochu, but the craft beer scene has witnessed quite the boom in the last decade. Osaka-based Professor Mark Meli has taken one for the team, in a sense, by tasting over 1700 jibiru (Japanese craft beers) and sharing his knowledge of where to find the best pint (or bottle) in town. His book – available in both print and e-form – details not only the best drinking holes serving craft beer but also provides information on visiting over 200 breweries themselves.

Craft Beer in Japan

(**Just so you know, I’m not affiliated in any way with any of the above products. I just happen to have purchased at least three of these products to give as Christmas gifts this year and have a sneaking suspicion that the recipients will be quite pleased. I think you will be too. :))

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