Keep some souvenirs of your past, or how will you ever prove it wasn’t all a dream?” ~ Ashleigh Brilliant.

Are you wondering about or are overwhelmed by what souvenirs from Japan you should return with for your friends, family (or more importantly yourself)? If you’re anything like me, you enjoy scouting out meaningful souvenirs from your adventures abroad to help spark a wonderful memory of your trip each time you look at it on your return home.

I’m not talking about mass-produced fridge magnets or ornaments made in China – I mean purchasing authentic, thoughtful and hand-crafted pieces that help support local jobs and businesses. After all, that’s what being an Invisible Tourist is all about!

During my 2 week trip to Japan, I came across many wonderful souvenirs that I use almost daily, and others I like to save for special occasions. If you’d like to learn what to buy in Japan, my suggested Japan souvenirs and where you can find them, read on!

Souvenirs from Japan: What to Buy in Japan | The Invisible Tourist #japan #souvenirs #whattobuy #shopping #gifts #lucky #ceramics
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What types of souvenirs from Japan can I expect to find?

When it comes to Japanese souvenirs the list is endless, really! There are so many beautiful things you can only buy in Japan. From everything Pokémon and Hello Kitty to electronics and unique beauty products, Japan has something for everyone. As I mention in my Tokyo itinerary, “If you can’t find what you’re looking for in Tokyo, it probably doesn’t exist!”

However, my Japan souvenir guide focuses on hand-crafted pieces that are symbolic to the land of the rising sun and are sure to be admired by those you gift them to. 

Note: This post contains affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may make a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

This Japan souvenir guide will cover:

  • Wooden Souvenirs
  • Homeware Souvenirs
  • Artwork Souvenirs
  • Paper Souvenirs
  • BONUS souvenirs from Japan
  • Where to go souvenir shopping in Japan
  • How to get more souvenirs from Japan after you return home!

Souvenirs from Japan

Heads up! Overtourism is becoming an increasing problem throughout the world. So how does staying longer at your destination and not using Airbnb help? My article about how to travel and avoid contributing to overtourism issues has 10 simple tricks you can use on your next trip!

Need help choosing what to buy in Japan?

Where do we start?! Japan is a country that has maintained its rich cultural heritage throughout history and many of the below souvenirs reflect this. It’s always good to know the significance behind each of the items you plan on purchasing as they become more meaningful gifts. To get you inspired and to know what to keep an eye out for when you’re souvenir shopping in Japan, here are some of my personal favourites:

Wooden Souvenirs from Japan


Tsuko-tegata 通行手形 or “wooden passports” represent an ancient custom in Japan. During the Edo period, travel between the different regions of the country was strictly monitored. To allow passage from one provence to another, travellers needed to present a tsuko-tegata to prove they had authorisation to pass through.

Today, tsuko-tegata can be found at various temples, shrines, hot spring resorts and are a symbol or “proof” that you have visited. They have a bell and braided string attached. Pictured below are mine from Istukushima Shrine (Miyajima, left) and Nara (right). As a typography lover, I couldn’t resist the hand-painted calligraphy… Isn’t it simply gorgeous?

Tsuko-tegata (wooden passports) from Miyajima Island (left) and Nara (right)
Tsuko-tegata (wooden passports) from Miyajima Island (left) and Nara (right)

Instead of having these on permanent display at home, I save these as decorations for my Christmas tree each year. For me, Christmas is a time of reflecting and appreciating all the good things from the year(s) that have passed and these pieces represent a journey and fond memories.

Lucky Charms

These pocket-sized items are known as “omamori” お守り in Japanese and are very popular with both locals and tourists alike. With origins from both Shintoism and Buddhism, their purpose is to drive away evil spirits with the attached bells and guard their owners from misfortune. Spiritual leaders thought the idea of symbolically placing power of the gods into these hanging items would help protect believers and bring good luck.

Today there are omamori for almost everything you can think of, from the more traditional kinds such as prosperity and happiness to more modern variations for safe driving and cyber-security! Omamori can also come in the form of small silk bags with a prayer inside. You can find omamori at various shrines, temples and shopping arcades throughout Japan.

Omamori come in many different forms and are said to bring good fortune
Omamori come in many different forms and are said to bring good fortune

Pictured above from the left is a tsuko-tegata from Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, a Geisha keychain I bought on Takeshita Street Harajuku, Tokyo (although the tag says Asakusa) and a lantern from Senso-ji, Tokyo.


Quite the obvious choice no doubt! I chose this pack of chopsticks in Hakone as each pair features a view of Mt Fuji by one of my favourite artists, Hokusai. You’re sure to recognise his work “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”.

Even though Mt Fuji was hiding behind the clouds during my visit to Hakone, these chopsticks are a nice reminder to me that I did make the journey to her home and they inspire me to return again. Hopefully next time I’ll be able to catch a glimpse when the clouds that surround Mt Fuji are in the mood to be more co-operative!

Colourful chopsticks from Hakone
Colourful chopsticks from Hakone

READ MORE: 20 Essential Tips for Planning a Trip to Japan
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Homeware Souvenirs from Japan


Did you know Japan is home to some of the oldest ceramic traditions in the world? There is evidence to suggest Japanese pottery and ceramics (tōgei 陶芸) were created as early as 10,000 BC during the Jōmon period. Throughout the centuries the Japanese have successfully mastered this art form, which includes glazed pottery, stoneware and porcelain items. The quality and attention to detail is a level above the rest!

Sake sets, bowls, dishes, mugs, cups, teapots, plates and the like are popular homeware souvenirs to buy in Japan.

Maneki Neko & Sakura Ceramic Dish from Japan

Hand-made ceramic mugs from Kyoto
Hand-crafted mugs from Kyoto

I especially love these hand-crafted mugs I purchased at a small family-run store in Kyoto. The gold foil touches are exquisite and make me feel a little bit special each time I enjoy my tea.

Maneki Neko

You’ve probably seen maneki neko if you enter an Asian store or restaurant. Have you ever wondered what these cute little cats mean and why you can find them so widespread? Hand-painted “fortune cats” have an interesting backstory and there’s a reason why they’re so popular!

Legend has it there was a man seeking shelter from rain beneath a tree when a cat appeared nearby. It raised its left paw, beckoning him over. As the man approached the cat lightening struck the tree, causing it to come crashing down where he was sitting. Hence, the cats are also known as “beckoning cats”.

Maneki Neko, "Lucky Cats" from Japan

Maneki neko have different meanings depending on their colour. A white cat invites happiness, prosperity and positive things. Black maneki neko are said to ward off evil spirits. In addition, their raised paws symbolise different wishes.

If you’re hoping to attract customers to your store, look for a maneki neko raising its left paw. A right paw raised means your cat is inviting good fortune and money your way. A golden maneki neko is said to be one of the luckiest of Japanese souvenirs!

Even if you’re more of a dog person like me, it’s hard to resist these adorable lucky charms. They may even be the cutest souvenirs from Japan!

Artwork Souvenirs from Japan

Do you have an art fanatic in your life? If so, you really can’t go wrong with Japanese artwork. As a massive art lover myself, I cannot resist buying artwork from local artists on my travels! I have many pieces that all take pride of place in my home and make me smile each time I look at them. Paintings and traditional woodblock prints are ideal souvenirs from Japan as they’re super easy to take home with you – being nice and flat means they won’t take up much room in your suitcase.

As I was walking along the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, a local lady was sitting beneath the shade of a tree painting these cute little postcards by hand. She had quite a few on display in front of her for passers-by to admire. For only JPY 200 each, I chose three but now I wish I had selected more:

Watercolour paintings by a local artist along the Philosopher's Path, Kyoto
Watercolour paintings by a local artist along the Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

Also, the beautiful board-mounted watercolours below are actually from the gift shop at Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto. Let me tell you, this is not your average, tacky gift shop you’d expect in other destinations – almost all the items for sale were locally sourced, unique pieces all of a very high standard.

Although the watercolours I chose were not cheap, I didn’t mind at all because I:

  1. Fell in love with the paintings the moment I saw them;
  2. Knew from the back of each painting that I had purchased a piece from a local Kyoto artist, and;
  3. Was also helping to support the upkeep of the temple and gardens with my purchase.

Win-win for all!

Stunning watercolour souvenirs from Kinkaku-ji
Stunning watercolour paintings from Kinkaku-ji – My favourite Japanese souvenirs!

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Paper Souvenirs from Japan

Folding Fans

As an invisible tourist, I like to ensure the things I need when I’m out exploring foreign lands are small enough to fit in my cross-body bag. Folding fans or “sensu” 扇子 are no exception and come in handy in Japan’s summer heat! Their origins can be traced back to as early as the 6th century and are also used in tea ceremonies and traditional Japanese dances such as Kabuki.

Folding fans are very meaningful souvenirs from Japan and are usually made of bamboo or Japanese cyprus then connected by washi paper. Silk fans are considered the most precious. Did you know sensu are said to resemble life? The wooden strips begin at one starting point, which you could say is birth, and slowly branch out along many different paths throughout life’s journey. Prosperity is also closely associated with these fans as their unfolding can be likened to that of a blooming flower or growing wealth.

If you’re wondering what to buy in Japan, Japanese folding fans make popular birthday gifts! If you’re thinking about buying sensu for a special someone, consider the symbolism you’d like to bestow on them:

  • Cherry blossoms represent a parent’s love
  • Plum blossoms represent a new beginning
  • Pairs of birds represent loving couples
  • Cranes and tortoises represent a long life
  • Koi fish represent a long and lucky life
  • Bamboo and pine represent patience
  • Lions represent strength
  • Two butterflies represent a happy marriage


My sensu is a screen-printed version of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa”. I just couldn’t leave Japan without a souvenir adorned with his iconic artwork!

Types of paper souvenirs from Japan
Types of paper souvenirs from Japan

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Daruma Dolls

Usually hollow and made of papier-mâché, Daruma dolls are appear to be fearsome bearded men. Their grumpy-looking demeanour actually has a positive message behind it. Believe it or not, they aren’t meant to be scary, but encouraging!

In Japanese culture, their rounded shape has been linked to the phrase “seven times down, eight times up”, which symbolises having a fighting spirit to overcome adversity and misfortune. Daruma dolls are usually coloured red with a white face and decorated with gold details. It’s said these interesting little characters are modelled on Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen and Buddhism.

If you look very closely, you’ll see some Daruma’s eyebrows are actually cranes facing one another and its beard is made up of tortoise shapes, both symbols of longevity in Japan.

Daruma Dolls
Daruma Dolls (credit: minekarou via Pixabay)

Daruma dolls make great Japan souvenirs as they represent perseverance and good fortune. You may notice Daruma dolls have blank eyes at first, but this is to help encourage the recipient to achieve their goals. On receiving a Daruma doll, its owner can set a goal by drawing a pupil on one of the doll’s eyes.

Once they have achieved the goal, they can then fill in the remaining blank eye. In the meantime, the single blank eye serves to remind its owner to persevere to achieve their goal and overcome any obstacles along the way. 

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Other paper items

Japanese Stationery

Japan is literally a stationery-junkie’s paradise! From assorted washi papers, washi tapes, stickers, notebooks and the like you’re sure to find specially crafted paper items for you or family and friends to treasure. Japanese stationery frequently tops “best of” lists, and it’s easy to see why – the quality is of a very high standard!


Have you heard the story of Sadako Sasaki and the thousand paper cranes? She was two years old when the American atomic bomb was dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima in 1945. After about nine years Sadako and thousands of survivors developed leukaemia and other illnesses directly related to radiation from the bomb.

Japanese legend says that one shall be granted a wish if they fold 1,000 paper cranes, so she began folding. Her one wish was to live, which unfortunately did not come true despite exceeding the thousand cranes. Sadako’s story actually inspired the Children’s Peace Memorial in Hiroshima (I highly recommend visiting!) I was able to bring back a small paper crane from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which serves as a reminder of my visit to this significant city.

Origami in Hiroshima
Origami in Hiroshima 
Tickets & Maps

This may seem pretty obvious but all those tickets and maps you collect during your visit to Japan are great little souvenirs! But, what to do with them when you return home? From DIY projects to scrapbooking to permanently displaying them in a meaningful way in your home, the possibilities are almost endless. Head over to my Pinterest page for some ideas and inspiration!

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Textile Souvenirs from Japan

Furoshiki Cloths

Furoshiki are usually a square textile cloth adorned with beautiful patterns. Literally translated, Furoshiki means “bath spread” – I’ll get to why in a moment!

As a very versatile item, these cloths have had many uses since they were first popular during the Nara period, around 700BC – so their uses date back a lonnnng time! From transporting treasures discovered in Japanese temples, to carrying bento boxes and even wrapping clothes in bath houses to avoid confusion… The uses for these cloths are almost endless. By also using the cloth as a bath mat, these cloths got their name as Furo means “bathing” and Shiki means “standing on a rug”.

Furoshiki Cloths from Japan

With the invention of luggage and suitcases in the 20th century, furoshiki became less popular and almost forgotten in Japan. However, these days they’re making a comeback as people are looking for more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives to gift wrapping. And what a great history they have! Why not wrap your Japanese souvenir gifts in furoshiki cloth?

What to buy in Japan: BONUS items

Sweet Treats

As an exception to other items I’ve mentioned so far as these are obviously mass-produced, Japanese Kit-Kats are especially unique souvenirs because the flavour combinations are insane! From matcha (green tea) to cherry blossom, soy bean to sake, wasabi to miso, you’re bound to find a flavour that makes you curious enough to want to give it a try.

Tokyo Banana, Tokyo Honey Sugar Butter Cookies, Edo Musubisen and hundreds of other snacks are especially unique to Japan and make meaningful gifts for the sweet-tooth folk in your life (or for yourself to gorge on and reminisce about your trip when you get home)!

Did you know? Kit-Kats make popular gifts to wish students luck before exams in Japan. Every January (exam time) Nestlé noticed a surge in the sales of Kit-Kats. Turns out this was because Kit-Kat in Japanese sounds like the phrase “kitto-katsu”. When translated this means “to surely win” so customers wanted to pass this luck onto their loved ones!

Chestnut, Strawberry Tiramisu and Strawberry Cheesecake Kit Kat are just some flavours found in Japan
Chestnut, Strawberry Tiramisu and Strawberry Cheesecake Kit Kat are just some flavours found in Japan

If you know you’ll miss these tasty treats after you leave Japan, did you know you can have them delivered to your door directly from Tokyo? Find out how I did it using this Tokyo Treat discount code to save some money, too!


I know this seems like a pretty random souvenir but I have to admit like many things made in Japan, the quality of these umbrellas are almost unmatched. The “Waterfront” brand of umbrellas are especially awesome – their larger umbrellas have 24-prongs that make the umbrella super sturdy and also give them that traditional Japanese look.

Waterfront even make a pocket/handbag sized umbrella that folds down to only 22cm x 6cm x 2.5cm for about JPY 900. Perfect for us invisible tourists who like to fit things in our small crossbody bags! The clear plastic umbrellas you can buy from convenience stores for about JPY 500 are also very good quality.

READ MORE: 28 Crucial Do’s and Don’ts in Japan to Know Before You Go
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Where to go souvenir shopping in Japan

Aside from the temples I’ve mentioned above, you’ll be able to find loads of locally-made souvenirs from Japan in the following locations. These souvenirs are rarely seen outside of the country so be sure to save some room for them in your suitcase! 

Pssst, if you need help with your itinerary planning, be sure to check out my detailed guide to spending 2 weeks in Japan!

Souvenirs from Tokyo

  • Asakusa: Nakamise-dori, the long street lined with shops and stalls leading up to the grand Senso-ji temple. Here you’ll find lots of local food specialties, paper lanterns, umbrellas, lucky charms and even Samurai swords! Make your entrance onto this iconic street via the Thunder Gate.
  • Tokyo Station: Famous for Tokyo Banana and loads of other unique Japanese treats!
  • Harajuku: Takeshita-dori for quirky souvenirs and lucky charms. On Omote-sando, Oriental Bazaar is your one-stop shop for authentic Japanese goods such as kimonos, antiques, homewares and fans to name a few.

These places are mentioned in my 6 Days in Tokyo Itinerary if you’re interested in finding out more!

Souvenirs from Kyoto

  • Downtown: Sanjo Meitengai Shopping Arcade. This is where I found my gorgeous mugs I mentioned above. There are 7kms of shopping arcades that run parallel to Kawaramachi-dori and criss-cross between Sanjo-dori and Shijo-dori – you’re sure to find what you’re after!
  • Gion: The gorgeous Sannenzaka & Ninnenzaka streets, leading up the hill to Matsubara-dori and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. There are many traditional wooden specialty stores along these streets that sell folding fans, snacks, green tea and other goodies. On the way back down from Kiyomizu-dera, head down Chawan-zaka or “Teapot Lane” if you’re after beautiful Japanese tea sets.

These places are mentioned in my 4 Days in Kyoto Itinerary if you’re interested in finding out more!

The astonishing preserved streets of Sannenzaka & Ninnenzaka, Gion, Kyoto
The beautifully preserved streets of Sannenzaka & Ninnenzaka, Gion, Kyoto

Souvenirs from Osaka

  • Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street is one of Osaka’s oldest shopping destinations. You’ll find a mix of independent boutiques along with chain stores here. Be sure to keep an eye out for matcha (green tea) items as these are popular souvenirs from Osaka.
  • This is mentioned in my complete 3 Days in Osaka Itinerary if you’d like to find out more!

Souvenirs from Hiroshima

  • Hon-dori Shopping Arcade for okinomiyaki-flavoured crackers (a type of Japanese omelette originating in Hiroshima), momiji manju (maple leaf cakes with various flavours of custard fillings) or rice scoop paddles, which are traditional handicrafts from this region and can be used as good luck charms or displaying in your home. All these items and more can be found here!

Souvenirs from Miyajima

  • Pick up a few souvenirs from Omotesando street. I bought a lovely a furoshiki cloth, tsuko-tegata and delicious sweets unique to the Hiroshima region such as Momiji-manju here. 
  • This is mentioned in my guide from Hiroshima to Miyajima by ferry!
Hondori Shopping Arcade, Hiroshima
Hon-dori Shopping Arcade, Hiroshima

Need more inspiration for Japan trip planning?

I can also help get your itinerary planning off to a good start by sharing my tips for visiting Japan as well as helpful insider info so you can make the most of your experience! Tailored especially for first-time visitors, these are my tried-and-tested personal itineraries I used during my trip.

They each cover things to do, costs, getting around, what to eat and recommendations for where to stay. View my full Japan archive here that includes my day-by-day travel guides for visiting Japan!

Ceramics from Japan | The Invisible Tourist

Concluding what to buy in Japan

Of course, these are just a snapshot of meaningful Japanese souvenirs to help you remember your trip. From wooden items to artworks and ceramics to paper goods, Japan’s rich and unique history is evident in each piece. It feels good knowing that your spending goes back into local jobs and businesses.

Obviously there are thousands of additional types of souvenirs you can find which can be a bit overwhelming (like different types of sake and mochi). But, I really wanted this souvenir guide to focus on the more traditional, hand-crafted items that are special and share the significance behind them.

Remember to take a look at Tokyo Treat for delicious snacks if you forget something during your trip to Japan!

What are your thoughts on these Japan souvenir suggestions? Which pieces are your favourite or has this helped you decide what to buy in Japan? I hope you found this gift guide inspiring! If you did, I’d love if you could share it with your fellow Japan lovers. You’re also welcome to join me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Bloglovin’ for more travel tips and inspiration!

Until next time,

The Invisible Tourist

Do love Japanese snacks and candies? Get them delivered to your door!
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Souvenirs from Japan: What to Buy in Japan | The Invisible Tourist #japan #souvenirs #whattobuy #shopping #gifts #lucky #ceramics

Souvenirs from Japan: What to Buy in Japan | The Invisible Tourist #japan #souvenirs #whattobuy #shopping #gifts #lucky #ceramics

This post contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase and if you do, thanks for your support! This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. As always, I only recommend a product or service that I genuinely love and use myself!

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Australian-based Alyse has been travelling "The Invisible Tourist Way" for eleven years and hopes to encourage fellow travellers to do so, too. She's passionate about responsible travel, history and preserving local cultures. A professional language hoarder, she can usually be found burying herself in travel books and Wikipedia articles. Her dreams? Always about the next destination and how to make the most of the experience.


  1. Avatar

    Hey Alyse, this is a brilliant post and so good to know some info before you are bombarded with all souveneirs and objects once you’re there. I haven’t been to Japan but would absolutely love to at some point, and like you would like to buy tradition handmade craft objects. We try to encourage the continuation of the handmade and local businesses by shopping from them.

    • Alyse

      Thanks for your lovely compliment, Tanya! I really hope you get there and are able to stock up on some hand-crafted items. They are truly beautiful! Great to hear there are more of us out there that encourage supporting local jobs and businesses 🙂

  2. Avatar

    Im not usually one for collecting souvenirs – mostly I just take LOTS of photos! But some of these are lovely, especially the chopsticks and pretty paper fans!

    • Alyse

      Yes, LOTS of photos are a must too! Hehe it can be very hard to resist all the amazing things in Japan. Thanks for your comment, Leanne!

    • Alyse

      Hi Megan! To be completely honest I can’t recall exactly but they were purchased from boutique souvenir stores for only a few hundred yen each. They weren’t expensive 🙂

  3. Avatar

    We usually tell our friends visiting Japan to go to the supermarket to pick up “souvenirs”, especially if they’re looking for snacks and treats.

    • Alyse

      The Japanese have the best snacks don’t they! And always so beautifully presented 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Aoki!

  4. Avatar

    Hi Alyse,

    Lovely post and beautiful souvenirs!! I am going to Hakone next month, Any suggestions on where to shop for souvenirs in Hakone. Where did you find those chopsticks?

    • Alyse

      Thank you, Nik! How exciting for you 🙂 I found the chopsticks at a store located at the Owakudani gondola stop on the Hakone Ropeway. The Owakudani stop is where you can overlook the sulphur mine below and see the steam rising up out of the ground. It’s located 1044m up and there’s some other stores and restaurants there. I also bought some souvenirs from the Hakone Open Air Museum gift shop, near the Picasso area (if I recall correctly). I hope this helps and you have a fantastic trip!

  5. Avatar

    Thanks for the tips. I’m currently heading to Tokyo for the third time. One of my favorite places to find gifts to bring home is to visit Kappaabana (kitchen/housewares district) to buy a chef knife. Beautiful craftsmanship and a souvenir that is used often throughout the year. I also found beautiful wind chimes and hand painted tea sets in nearby stores. The area is close to Senso-ji temple.

    • Alyse

      How exciting for you, Will! Thanks so much for your tips on where to find more souvenirs from Japan 🙂 The wind chimes are especially beautiful. I hope you have a great trip!

      • Avatar

        Thanks for the great info. I’m 10 days away from my third trip to Japan and second staying in Tokyo. I love this country; experiencing the culture and the people is so rewarding. (It helps that my son lives there.) My favorite souvenir from my last visit was a sketch/landscape I found in a small shop in Asakusa. The owner gave it to me after my son translated how beautiful I thought it was.

        • Alyse

          Oh how exciting, Cindy! Your third trip, that’s wonderful. It is certainly very rewarding! I bet the sketch is fantastic and how kind of the store owner to gift it to you. I love hearing stories like that! Thanks so much for your comment and have a wonderful time in Japan with your son 🙂

  6. Avatar

    Hi! Hubby and I will be in Tokyo for the cherry blossoms next week. I especially love your Great Wave fan. Do you know where I can get something similar in Tokyo? Ive read fans are more of a summer item… Thanks!

  7. Avatar
    Kathy Apipi

    I visited Japan last year and brought back some colorful fortune cats. Here in the Philippines, we also believe that it is lucky to have these in your store.

    • Alyse

      The colourful cats would be so lovely, Kathy! Nice to hear they are popular in the Philippines as well 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

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