11 Elegant Kyoto Souvenirs Popular Among Japanese and Foreigners Alike
Kyoto, which is one of Japan's most famous tourist destinations, is filled with souvenirs ranging from wonderful foods to small items. So, what are the perennial favorites of Kyoto souvenirs? Here are some items that are souvenir standards and come highly recommended.
- 1. Nama Yatsuhashi
- 2. KitKat Itohkyuemon Matcha
- 3. Ogurasanso Rice Crackers
- 4. Ryokujuan-Shimizu's Konpeito
- 5. CHA no KA by MALEBRANCHE
- 6. Gotochi Hello Kitty
- 7. Eirakuya's Tenugui
- 8. Yojiya's Aburatorigami
- 9. Shiko Ai by Kungyokudo
- 10. Ippodo Tea's Hojicha and Ryokucha
- 11. Gofun Nail by Ueba Esou
1. Nama Yatsuhashi
Yatsuhashi is one of Kyoto's most representative souvenirs. There are two types: The regular Yatsuhashi made with batter with cinnamon blended in that is baked and is like a hard senbei (a hard snack made with rice), and the unbaked Nama Yatsuhashi ("nama" means "raw"). Among the Nama Yatsuhashi, the An-iri Nama Yatsuhashi that has anko (a paste of adzuki beans mixed with sugar) is particularly popular and has become the main type, often thought to be synonymous with Yatsuhashi itself. There are a wide variety of Yatsuhashi, and they look slightly different depending on the manufacturer, but the one pictured is the most standard. Although traditional Yatsuhashi is filled with anko, it has involved with the times and now there are ones with strawberry, yuzu citrus, and even chocolate-flavored fillings, so pick the one you like. They are generally affordable, and can be purchased at souvenir shops.
2. KitKat Itohkyuemon Matcha
In Japan, there are many "Gotochi (regional) KitKats" with regional flavors. In fact, there are more than 10 different types of regional KitKats, and the KitKat available only in Kyoto is flavored with matcha green tea. The matcha is not any old matcha but matcha from Itohkyuemon, a manufacturer of teas that was founded more than 180 years ago and has received accolades from numerous Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. The slight bitterness of the matcha comes through the sweetness in the KitKat Itohkyuemon Matcha. The sophisticated green and black packaging gives this KitKat a Japanese feel perfect for souvenirs—and the best thing is that the price is the same as standard KitKats. They can be purchased at souvenir shops. (378 JPY/pack of 5 (incl. tax))
3. Ogurasanso Rice Crackers
There is a traditional Japanese card game called Hyakunin Isshu. The sanso (mountain retreat) on Mt. Ogura in Kyoto is said to be the place the game originated in, and as such, Ogurasanso sells Arare Jukkasen Karuta Hyakunin Isshu, a box of rice crackers for which Hyakunin Isshu is the motif. The crackers are in packages with drawings of Hyakunin Isshu on them so they are enjoyable both to eat and look at. Try these to experience both Japanese culture and flavors. (Arare Jukkasen Karuta Hyakunin Isshu 497 JPY (incl. tax)).
4. Ryokujuan-Shimizu's Konpeito
Konpeito is a sugar candy that has been popular in Japan since about 1546. It was once a luxury item that only aristocrats could get, but it later spread from Nagasaki to Kyoto and Edo (then former name of Tokyo) and is now known as one of Japan's most representative sweets. Ryokujuan-Shimizu is the only store in Japan specializing in konpeito. There is no recipe for making konpeito, and it must be cooked taking factors such as the weather and temperature into consideration, so it is extremely difficult to manufacture. It is even more difficult to produce ones with flavors other than just sugar, but Ryokujuan-Shimizu has succeeded in making konpeito with flavors such as strawberry, mandarin orange, and lemon. There is a total of 13 types of the popular flavored konpeito, so be sure to pick up the one that piques your interest. (555 JPY (excl. tax) for a small bag).
5. CHA no KA by MALEBRANCHE
Kyoto is famous for its matcha green tea. There are two types of matcha—usucha (light) and koicha (strong)—and the Chanoka sweets by MALEBRANCHE are prepared using koicha made from high quality tea leaves with little bitterness. The tea leaves are made into a paste so that their natural sweetness comes out. CHA no KA are outstanding sweets prepared by chefs carefully mixing the tea leaves, baking them into langues de chat and sandwiching white chocolate between them. CHA no KA, which is known as a standard of Kyoto sweets, is beloved by many people in Japan and abroad. Be sure to try its quintessentially Kyoto flavors. (Otame (trial) CHA no KA set of five 745 JPY (incl. tax))
6. Gotochi Hello Kitty
In Japan, there are many "gotochi" (regional) flavors and items that can only be purchased locally, such as the KitKat introduced earlier. Particularly popular are the Hello Kitty goods called Gotochi Kitty. All across the country, there are Hello Kitty items such as towels, keyholders, and stationery with the kitty wearing local attire. In Kyoto, there are Gotochi Kitty dressed up as apprentice geisha, wearing kimono, and in the costume of the fox that is the guardian deity of Fushimi Inari Taisha, and even ones wearing Yatsuhashi on the head or dressed as Kyo Yasai (Kyoto vegetables). There are many Kitty goods only available in Kyoto, so look around and find your favorite. They are available in souvenir shops. *Note that products can sell out.
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7. Eirakuya's Tenugui
Tenugui are thin, cotton cloths that have long been indispensable daily items in Japan. They are used in a variety of different ways, such as to wipe wet hands and bodies like towels and handkerchiefs, decorate the room, wrap presents and wrap items in to carry around. Eirakuya, which has its main store in Kyoto, has been selling tenugui for more than 400 years. Tenugui are thin and light but come in a variety of designs, such as with traditional patterns, images that are considered to be lucky, and modern patterns, and are perfect as souvenirs. (1,728 JPY and up (incl. tax) each)
8. Yojiya's Aburatorigami
"Aburatorigami" is thin paper to blot oil on the skin. It is considered by many Japanese women to be an indispensable personal grooming item. It does not affect makeup when used during the day, and is often used when retouching makeup. The most famous aburatorigami in Japan is by the Kyoto cosmetics goods brand, Yojiya. It is so famous that most people know it right away when they see the round-faced woman on the packaging. The product has long been cherished by stage actors, people in the movie business, and women working in the entertainment district. Behind its enduring popularity is not just hype, but the fact that it is made with high quality washi paper and is gentle on the skin. This is the perfect gift to take home to your beauty-conscious friends. (326 JPY (incl. tax) per book).
9. Shiko Ai by Kungyokudo
In Kyoto, where there are many shrines and temples, you will see incense being burned in various places around the city. You may be one of the many people who find the smell of incense relaxing. If so, try out Kungyokudo, an incense shop with a long history. Their Shiko Ai is a set of unique incenses with six different aromas that combine natural scents and modern scents. Why not get a set to enjoy the aroma of Kyoto back in your home? (Shiko Ai 1,296 JPY (incl. tax))
10. Ippodo Tea's Hojicha and Ryokucha
If you want to buy tea in Japan but are not sure where to go to, Ippodo Tea Co. is a sure bet. It is a tea shop with a long history that specializes in teas from Kyoto, and is known by locals as a shop that sells teas that are "tasty, with a hint of luxury." They sell a variety of teas from Kyoto, such as matcha, gyokuro, sencha, and bancha, and among them, the aromatic Hojicha (a type of green tea made with roasted tea leaves) is particularly highly rated. The delicate and sophisticated flavors make it a favorite across generations. It can be purchased at Kyoto Station, but if you want to feel their history, go to the main store in a lovely old building. (Pack of 12 tea bags 540 JPY (incl. tax))
11. Gofun Nail by Ueba Esou
Gofun is a white pigment made from sea shells. Ueba Esou sells Gofun Nail nail polish made with gofun. It was awarded the GOOD DESIGN AWARD in 2015 and is a popular Kyoto souvenir. There is a wide selection of colors, ranging from muted ones to poppy ones. It takes just one coat to add vibrant color to your nails, so be sure to pick up some that catch your eye. (Gofun Nail 1,300 JPY (incl. tax)/bottle)
There are a wide variety of colors to choose from.
Kyoto is filled with a variety of sophisticated products and flavors produced by stores with long histories. There are many more souvenir options in addition to those introduced here. Be sure to stop by the souvenir shops to find items to remind you of your trip to Kyoto.
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*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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