Buying quality souvenirs can be a hit or miss experience. Tokyo has an amazing assortment of interesting trinkets to buy for loved ones. If you are sick of T-shirts and generic tchotchkes, I would recommend the following stores where I buy my souvenirs.
A. Kappabashi-dori – For chefs and home cooking fanatics
Kappabashi-dori is a 800-metre-long street lined with more than 170 shops that sell anything and everything cookware related. The shops here cater to both professional cooks and home chefs alike.
Kama-asa Shoten – Japanese knives
This family-run business opened in 1908 and specializes in Japanese knives, or wabōcho, handmade by craftsmen in Japan. The business is currently run by Daisuke Kumazawa, who is the 4th generation proprietor. This is one of the most popular shops on the street. There are also very knowledgeable English-speaking staff who help you select the best knife for your cooking requirements. The best part is that they’ll engrave your name in Japanese onto each knife making it a special memento for you or for gifts. I did have to double check that the Japanese version of my name doesn’t happen to be some unfortunate words.
When we visited the shop, we were assisted by Jeremy who explained the purpose and the composition of each knife. He carefully selected a few knives for me and, ultimately, helped me select 3 knives, which were at least $100 each. I have been using them since I got back to NY and the quality is by far superior to any expensive knives that I have purchased in the US for the same price point. Seeing my Japanese name each time I use it reminds me of this fun trip. I could not recommend this store enough for high quality souvenirs that will be treasured for a long time.
2-chōme-24-1 Matsugaya, Taito City / Open daily 10am-5:30pm
Dengama – Pottery and dishware
This is the store of pottery and dishware dreams. There are hundreds of unique pieces from chopstick holders to high-end tea sets that retail for a buck to hundreds of dollars. I purchased some handmade rice bowls and smaller items that I am still in love with and use every day. I spent at least an hour just browsing this magical shop. If you are a collector of dishware and pottery, this should be on your list.
1 Chome-4-3 Nishiasakusa, Taito City / Open daily 10am-7pm
Niimi Tableware– Mecca for kitchen ware
This is one of the oldest shops on this street, which opened in 1907 and is a hit with restaurateurs and home cooks alike. You can find anything related to cooking here for very reasonable prices. The shop is also famous for the chef statue that tops the building.
1-1-1 Matsugaya, Taito-ku / Open daily 10am-6pm
Maizuru – Realistic plastic food emporium
Kitschy and fun souvenirs for adults and kids alike are housed in this shop. The company specializes in high quality food recreations that almost look like the real thing. The products are not cheap, but you can still find small gifts such as sushi magnets that make for a cute and packable souvenirs for a reasonable price.
1-1-1 Matsugaya, Taitō-ku / Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
B. Depachika food halls – The mecca for comprehensive array of sweets and confectionary
My go-to for gifts when I am short on time are food items that I can find at any depachika, department stores’ basement level food halls. They are high quality items and are gorgeously packaged and ready to be gifted. I do have to be careful to make sure my selection will last through the flight home to NY and can pass customs. Other than that, food treats are a crowd pleasing gift for everyone. Some of the most popular depachikas are listed below.
- Daimaru – 1 Chome-9-１ Marunouchi, Chiyoda City / Weekday 10am-9pm and Weekend 10am-8pm
- Ginza Mitsukoshi –
- Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi – 1 Chome-4-１ Nihonbashimuromachi, Chuo City / Daily from 10am-7pm
- Shinjuku Isetan – 3-chōme-14- Shinjuku, Shinjuku City, / Daily 10am-8pm
- Takashimaya – 5 Chome-24-２ Sendagaya, Shibuya City / Weekday and Sunday 10am- 8pm and Friday-Saturday 10am-8:30pm
Generally, any department store in Japan will have a food hall in the basement level that can be a treasure trove if you look out for it. My favorite items to buy at the depachicka are seaweed wrapped rice crackers, chocolates, cookies and matcha. They are easy to transport in your checked luggage and everyone seems to like them. There are countless other places to buy everything from kimonos to 100 yen gifts, but these are the ones I always come back to for my souvenir run.