Japan is land of unique gifts and amazing souvenirs
By David Higgins
My sister has been fascinated with Japan since I moved here over 10 years ago. To a North American like my sister, Japan is a country that holds mysterious and intriguingly unique products that have remained elusive domestic treasures that are revealed only to those outside of Japan who are diligent enough to hunt them down.
She often sends me requests for products that I had no idea even existed until she brought them to my attention. Below is a list of my sister’s ‘top 3 quirky but somewhat useful product discoveries,’ apparently found only in Japan. Take note that many of these products make fantastic gifts for those people who appreciate those quirky treasures that are ‘uniquely Japanese.’
The first product is called Clock Man. This clock is guaranteed to get even the sleepiest heads up and out of bed by making an assortment of remarks (all in Japanese) to help you start your day with a smile across your face. His eyes roll and mouth wobbles. He comes in four colors, each one with distinct personality traits matching a specific blood type (a common belief in Japan).
Yellow Clockman (blood type O) cuts straight to the chase and speaks rough. Pink Clockman (A) will put up with most things and is the politest of the bunch. Blue Clockman (B) is a bit of a buffoon and green Clockman (AB) lives in his own reality!
I went online and to my delight discovered the Kansai version that resembles Takoyaki (Fried Octopus Balls) topped with Mayonnaise sauce. It has introduced me to Japanese phrases that I had never heard before, and has made a unique gift for those discriminatingly quirky people in my life.
The second discovery is incense burners, which is not a new invention, but in Japan these particular burners have an added appeal as they are shaped into cozy houses that have chimneys through which the incense smoke rises. I personally do not understand the intrigue of these trinkets but will admit that they do make your real home feel more ‘comfy.’ It feels similar to having a warm fireplace burning, but in a miniature form.
The cozy incense burner homes are sold in two versions: one that is shaped of concrete into rustic old wood cabins and burns incense on a plastic electric stove that bubbles water vapors through the chimney. Both are unique and make excellent gifts for those special individuals who care about having a cozy fragrant home.
We placed ours in the entrance of our home and the chimney constantly pipes out humidifying water vapor. My wife adds essential oils to give the added bonus of exuding a delightful aroma that seems to neutralize the pungent man fumes emitted from my own odoriferous body.
The final discovery is the most valuable treasure of them all; cups that are not just any ol’ cups. These are called ‘perch cups’ and in Japan, they are the essence of the word ‘kawaii’ (cute). There are two versions to choose from depending on your zoological tastes. There is either a cute bird or a cuddly squirrel. The attention to detail is superb. On top of being great drink mugs, they can be also be used as funky plant pots or pencil holders. Both designs come in a variety of colors; white, brown, green, blue and gray.
These cups make any liquid more enjoyable to drink and they cause me to become reminiscent of the wonders of nature. In the morning, as I sip my coffee from either my squirrel or birdie cups, I often become lost in the moment, imagining that I am resting on the moss floor of a Canadian forest amongst delightfully vivacious squirrels and lively birds chirping and dancing all around me.
If you are on the hunt for that perfectly quirky and unique gift for your equally interesting friends or family members, these 3 discoveries are a great start. You can easily spend hours scrolling through the catalogues of unique Japanese products where there is also an extensive list of honorable mentions. Some of the products you may even appreciate more that the ones that we have discovered but I will leave that up to you. Your personal hunt and discovery of the ultimate elusive Japanese products is just as gratifying as the look on your friends or family members’ faces as they unpack your gift to realize the bounty of unconventional abundance that has been bestowed upon them. Happy hunting.