Sophisticated and Beautiful Souvenirs You Should Buy in Kyoto
1. “Lisn Kyoto”
There has been a culture to appreciate scents since ancient times in Japan. “Lisn” is an incense brand produced by “Shoeido”, a long-established store in Kyoto, founded well over 300 years ago. “Lisn” is an incense brand that suggests and offers fragrances to be casually incorporated into daily scenes like rhythms. There are stick-type incenses to burn or portable sachets to carry around, which are popular for having designs that are easy to adopt in the modern lifestyle. Their aesthetic in naming the fragrance is also unique such as “water and orchid”, and with the stylish and modern packages, they are perfect for gifts.
Currently, as of 2016, their stores are located only in Kyoto and Aoyama, Tokyo, but please visit their museum-like stores to enjoy the world of incense at leisure. At one corner you can select a single stick from about 150 kinds of scents and at another corner you can experience finding your favorite fragrance together with a concierge. It will add a nice memory to your journey along with the scent.
The Shijo Kawara-machi area where you can encounter maiko girls is a popular area in Kyoto for both tourists and kimono-lovers alike. A well-known establishment “SOU･SOU” has a composite store in this area, and it is filled with modern items that complement kimono attire. There are yukata robes and zori sandals to begin with, and there are also many stylish items you can use in everyday life, such as scarves, pouches, t-shirts with traditional Japanese prints.
This store’s main characteristic is to employ superb designs produced by traditional Japanese technology on original textiles and make them into products. Its popularity caught fire with their colorful contemporary “tabi” socks with split toes, and many articles were written about them in the media. Their design is not limited to specific gender or age groups, and its popularity is supported by a wide variety of market segments.
3. “Kamiji Kakimoto”
Are you familiar with “washi”, the Japanese handmade paper? Washi is made with plant fibers from hemp or a type of mulberry bark, and it has characteristic beautiful texture and it is sturdy, too. Three types of washi are registered as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage by now, and they have been attracting much attention from artists as well as product designers around the world.
In “Kakimoto”, which is located in a quiet area of Kyoto, you can pick up and take a look at all kinds of washi produced nationwide in Japan. There are uncut sheets of washi and small souvenirs, such as postcards, letter pads, decorative papers for crafting, or cards with original designs, and so on. You will probably feel indescribable warmth from washi sheets especially that were handmade by craftsmen one piece at a time. If you are traveling Japan, we’d suggest sending a message on this washi to your loved ones.
4. “Kyoto Design House”
“Kyoto Design House” is a store where selected masterpieces that are produced by skilled craftsmanship using traditional materials gather together. Items of excellent quality are available also in outstanding design. Connoisseurs of Kyoto select various items with a concept “to gift beautiful days”, ranging from Japanese arts and crafts such as simple but contemporary stationery, fans, to small fashion items, leather crafts, or even lighting fixtures designed by recognized artists. “Ohigashi charm” is an accessory made out of traditional Japanese sweets, “wagashi”, and is perfect for a casual souvenir. There are comical goods like “Piperoid – Paper Robots”, too.
“Kyoto Design House” is a brand of “NIWAKA” that has many business partners in Japan and abroad, and it is located on the spacious first floor of the NIWAKA headquarter building. The building architecture designed by Tadao Ando is also one of the highlights you would rather not miss, and the shop will surely make you feel the traditional beauty of Kyoto.
The last one to introduce is handkerchiefs you can gift to anyone, or rather “tenugui”, traditional Japanese towels. They are simple rectangular cloths made out of plain woven cotton, but there are many ways to use them. In the old days in Japan, they were indispensable in everyday life, of course used to wipe sweat, as well as used as towels when people took baths. In addition, they were used to wrap and carry gifts, or used as fashion items to wear decoratively. During the Edo Period, they were apparently helping townsfolks to dress cool. Because “tenugui” are easy to use and they come in a large selection of colors and designs, they are still loved and used by many people even now.
“Eirakuya Hosotsuji Ihee Store” has 6 stores in Kyoto as of 2016. Founded in 1615, you can thoroughly enjoy the charm of “tenugui” in this store from faithful reproduction of old “tenugui” done by craftsmen and technicians to “tenugui” with unique new designs. In particular beautiful tenugui dyed with “Yuzen-zome” method, a traditional technique in Kyoto, is ideal as a Kyoto souvenir. You can also purchase tenugui that is collaboratively designed by artists, as well as purses, fans or furoshiki wrapping cloth at the store front. How to use them depends on you, so please find a favorite tenugui for yourself.