Sensu Folding Fans
Japanese fans are world-renowned for their beauty and delicacy. They are also functional, too. A high-quality folding fan made in Kyoto (the ancient capital of Japan) which is the birthplace of Sensu is practical and tasteful, making them the perfect gift, especially if you want to avoid heavy objects in your luggage. There are several types of fans specifically designed for various purposes and ceremonies so make sure you ask the shopkeeper/sales clerk for more details about them.
Shodo is Japanese calligraphy that has been cultivated over the centuries by nobles, priests and the samurai. Today it is still studied in many schools and is known as shuji. If you’re looking for a special gift (perhaps a wedding present, an anniversary or a house-warming gift) or artwork for your home or office Japanese calligraphy fits the bill splendidly. There are tens of thousands of designs to choose from and of course you can have custom-made calligraphy made to order. Shodo is not cheap but it’s hard to think of anything for your home that typifies Japan more. Another popular item is calligraphy sets – magnificently boxed sets including brushes, ink, inkstone, water pot and a selection of Japanese paper. Craft shops, department stores, markets and specialty shops supply a range of paper and calligraphy supplies.
If you don’t speak any Japanese or have a friend to translate for you the best place to buy a kimono is in a large department store. The end-of-season sales are extremely advantageous but don’t forget that, even if the kimono comes cheap in a sale the accessories generally are not. It’s good to know that used kimonos are also available in larger towns that cater to foreigners but it is not advisable to buy from flea markets specializing in used kimonos as prices are bloated and you cannot return the item once bought.
Everybody knows that buying electronics in Japan is a serious must-do but the epicentre of this sort of shopping is undoubtedly Akihabara, Tokoyo’s ‘Electric Town’. Of course Japan has countless electronic shops but this area of the capital has the greatest concentration of them and you could easily while a whole day away there. This area has the latest gadgets – but not necessarily the cheapest. Still, if you’re hot for a new mobile phone, iPod, MP4 player, DVD player or even a gadget you’ve never heard of before, Japan – and especially Akihabara – is the place to go to. It even has its own underground stop.
Toys in Japan is huge business and there is an amazing range of many things you would never see outside Japan or indeed would imagine even existed. The average toy shop itself is an amazing place usually they are multilevel and jam-packed with all sorts of wonderful gadgets and fun items for all ages. It’s not all about ‘Hello Kitty’ although bizarrely enough there is a Hello Kitty doctor’s kit complete with fake morphine injections. Not for you? Then try the old favourites like Godzilla, Astro Boy and action toys like Transformers - these never go out of fashion.
Ceramics have been part of Japanese culture and life for centuries and are probably Japan’s oldest art form, dating back to the Neolithic period. Today Japanese Ceramics rate amongst the most sought after in the world especially the magnificent ceramics made in Kyoto. There are ceramics for all tastes and price ranges and are very popular items for souvenirs and gifts. The ceramic tea bowls, which form part of the traditional tea ceremonies, are amongst the most popular, but the range of ceramic products is incredible. Other popular purchases are ceramic sake bottles, attractive bowls, dishes and beautiful glazed vases and ornaments.
Many people mistakenly compare sake to wine whereas sake is a beverage fermented from rice, which is a grain. This would make it more of a beer than a wine. Yet, sake is not carbonated, and flavor-wise is closer to wine than beer. Except for rare types sake does not age well and should be consumed before six months after purchase. In general, there are five basic types of sake. Each requires different brewing methods and a different percentage of rice milling.