In Japan, bringing back souvenirs from a trip is somewhat of a professional obligation. If you take a vacation, move into a new apartment or attend a special event, you are expected to share a little bit of your good fortune with the people around you. Usually, people purchase the specialty food of the region they visited.
Every town or area has its own signature treat, and omiyage shops are typically located in or near the train stations so that you can do your shopping on the way home. Accessories, as well as arts and crafts, are also acceptable gifts. It just depends on where you go.
At least once a week, I am given omiyage by somebody who has traveled, gone to a wedding, or thrown a party. It is usually presented in person, but sometimes the souvenir is placed carefully on my desk, waiting for me to return and open it. In a large school, teachers might simply opt to put a large amount of omiyage in the center of the lounge or meeting room and trust that everyone will eventually take his or her share throughout the day. Though this ritual can become quite costly for those who frequently leave town, it is always a nice surprise for the recipients and helps to establish relationships at work. In addition to foodstuffs, some of the more memorable gifts I’ve received include fancy handkerchiefs, stationery, and designer shampoo.
As for returning the favor, on my way back from Australia, I filled an entire carry-on bag with Tim Tams and lamingtons since those are the nation’s traditional tea time treats. Those of you who are about to embark on your own adventure in Japan should try to squeeze a few bags of American candies into your suitcase prior to departure. Something that is unique to your hometown or state would be ideal, as well as anything that comes individually wrapped. Your new Japanese friends and coworkers will be very touched and this small gesture will go a long way towards establishing your reputation as a kind and considerate person. www.somewherethesunisrising.com