The Japanese word “omiyage” translates roughly to souvenir or gift.
Omiyage is an item that is traditionally given as a way of demonstrating gratitude to one’s family, friends, or co-workers after they return from a trip.
This tradition is taken quite seriously, and it can be frowned upon to return without a small gift.
The custom itself dates back to the sixteenth century. Pilgrims traveled to Shinto shrines and brought back small tokens with them to their family in the hopes the tokens carried good luck from the Shinto gods.
Shopkeepers near the shrines also began selling local products for the pilgrims to take home. These products were called miyage, meaning “gift.” The honorific prefix “o” was added, explaining the origin of the word omiyage.
While the traditional item gifted is a food item, omiyage can be anything. I have received postcards, stationary, and books myself before.
Omiyage should represent where you have visited and show you have put thought into the gift. Again it is not for you, but for others.
It is always a good idea if you are traveling to Japan to have a few small items on hand to gift. You never know when you may need an omiyage.
I hope you have found this blog post helpful!