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December Shopping, Seasonal Souvenirs in Japan

Many travelers experience stress trying to find the perfect souvenir to remember their time in Japan or to bring back to their family and friends at home. Luckily, Japan offers many attractive options (hint: your choice is not limited to green tea, sushi socks and yukata sets)! I headed out to the Shibuya branches of two easy and fun shops found across Japan, Loft, and Tokyu Hands, to share some shopping ideas with you. Check out my seasonal recommendations for interesting and affordable souvenirs, for yourself and your loved ones.
Daruma Doll from Flickr cc Quinn Dombrowski
1.  A Daruma Doll -- Based on Buddhist tradition,  Daruma symbolize good fortune and will help you keep track of your goals. When first sold, its eyes are blank. Make a wish or set a challenge for yourself -- say, your New Year's resolution -- and color one eye black.  After you have achieved your goal, fill in the other eye. Once complete, this doll will be a reminder and celebration of your accomplishments. Store: Tokyu Hands / Price: From ¥600 and up. You can also find an amazing assortment of Daruma dolls at temples around the new year.

Origami Sachet by Imee Salim
2. Kusudama Origami Fragrance Sachet-- These sachets,  made of colorful, folded origami paper joined to form a kusudama, contain beads infused with a combination of hinoki oil and floral aromas. Common scents include sakura (cherry blossom), plum, morning glory, and camellia. While often stored with clothes and associated with incense and potpourri, kusudama are also decorative. They come with a loop attached, so go ahead and hang them on your Christmas tree! Store: Tokyu Hands / Price: ¥600

Nengajo New Year's Cards by Imee Salim
3. New Year's Cards -- Instead of Christmas and holiday cards, Japanese people traditionally send nengajo (New Year's postcards) to their family and friends. Most feature the Chinese zodiac sign of the New Year as their design; 2016 is the year of the monkey. Why not buy some nengajo while you are here and post them to your loved ones back home? Loft and Tokyu Hands carry a huge assortment, but you can also find nengajo at any stationery shop, post office and even at a convenience store. Store: Loft, Tokyu Hands, other stores / Price: Varies

Scooping out bath salts by Lauren Shannon
4. Bath Salts -- Local shops stock whole shelves dedicated to bath-related items, so it can be fair to say that Japanese people love their baths. (And what better way to warm up during the colder months?) Use these fun products to recreate the experience of onsen (hot springs) or ofuro (Japanese style bath) in the comfort of your home. Bath salts often come in single-use packets -- easy! -- and are lightweight so you can choose a variety to take home. For a truly unique "Japan" experience I recommend sake (rice wine) infused bath salts. You can also choose from more familiar options such as herbs, flowers or fruits. Just add one packet to a steaming hot bath at home and relax and enjoy. Store: Loft, Tokyu Hands / Price: From ¥200 onwards

Jubako Bento Boxes by Imee Salim 
New Year's Osechi in Jubako from Flickr cc Banzai Hiroaki
5. Jubako-- Jubako are multi-tiered bento boxes typically used to serve Osechi or traditional Japanese New Year's foods, each of which has a special meaning. The beautiful designs on each box are inspiring. Be creative and use jubako in other ways than as tableware at picnics and parties. Why not use the stackable boxes to store trinkets and accessories? How about as a beautiful candy/snack holder, or even as a base for flower arrangements?  Think outside the "box" -- pun intended! Store: Loft, Tokyu Hands / Price: From ¥2,000 onwards

Cute bento accessories by Imee Salim 
6. Bento Accessories -- Maybe you want to use your jubako as a lunchbox after all.  For those interested in Japan's bento-style lunches, you can buy fun tools to make adorable foods that will be the envy of your friends. From onigiri (rice ball) shapers to seaweed cutters, the options are endless for parents wanting to prepare super cute school lunches and for those embracing their inner child!  A hint, if you are running out of cash, find one of Japan's many "100 yen shops" such as the world-famous Daiso and check out what they have to offer instead. Store: Loft, Tokyu Hands, 100 yen stores -- Price: From ¥100

Happy holidays and have fun shopping!

Check out Odigo for more terrific shopping spots in Shibuya

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