“Omiyage” in Japanese, simply translates to gifts or souvenirs in English, but there is a bit more significance in the tradition of bringing back interesting or fun items for your friends and family, from wherever you may travel. In Japan, it is customary to bring back souvenirs for all your close friends, family, and coworkers when returning from a vacation or business trip (even if it was a short length!). These souvenirs are more often than not snacks or packaged sweets that are easy to carry and transport, and are local to the area you are visiting.
An article by Travelsintranslation.com says that, “The tradition of gift-giving permeates Japanese culture… In Japan, it is very easy to pick up omiyage a moment’s notice. You’ll find shops in airports, in train stations and even on the street selling omiyage already beautifully wrapped, ready to give. Because, kind of like ‘lai see’ in Chinese culture, it is very bad form to be caught off-guard without something to give. It’s omiyage that oils the cogs of Japanese society.”
Unlike a souvenir, omiyage are not for you, and they are not meant to signal that you were thinking of someone while you were away on your trip. Omiyage are simply an obligation with very little-to-no feelings attached, so it is important that you understand this before you visit or take a trip to Japan!
Leung, Beth. “A Lesson in Japanese Culture: It’s Not a Souvenir, It’s an Omiyage!” Travels in
Translation | A Lifestyle & Travel Blog, 5 Mar. 2014,