お土産(Omiyage) gift or souvenir (Japanese culture)

October 15, 2009 in Japanese culture, Japanese manners



=Omiyage、 minasan de douzo!

“Here’s a souvenir (gift) for everyone!”

:maggie-small: ん?大統領からのお土産?

=Nn? Daitouryou kara no omiyage?

(“What? Is it a gift from the President?”)

皆さん、今日は!(=Minasan konnichiwa!) Hello, everyone!

Today we will focus on 「お土産」(=Omiyage)!!!

「土産」Miyage (「お土産omiyage

:rrrr: Adding(=o) to the beginning of certain words makes them more polite)

Let’ see the 漢字(=kanji) first!

:qq: do/tsuchi : dirt, earth, local

→土着(=dochaku) native 土地 (=tochi) land

:l: san/umareru to bear, produce, production, things that come from a certain land.

産物 (=sanbutsu) production, 産業 (=sangyou) industry, 生産 (=seisan) production, お産 (=osan) delivery, to bear (a baby)

土産:This could be read as “do san” but we usually read it as “miyage” for a gift . It is 当て字 (ateji), substitute character.

An “omiyage” is a gift or a souvenir for your friends, family or co-workers that you get when you travel somewhere.

Every tourist spot has its typical local souvenirs. Japan is full of souvenir shops. They’re even places that you might not even consider “tourist spots.” And it is customary to get a little something to bring back home to friends and family when you travel anywhere — be it for business or pleasure.

:l: <Related words>

観光地 (=kankouchi) a tourist site

土産物屋(店)(=miyage mono ya (or ten)) souvenir shops, gift shops

• 観光地には多くの土産物屋があります。

=Kankouchi niwa ooku no miyagemonoya ga arimasu.

There are a lot of souvenir (gift) shops in tourist sites.

名物 (=meibutsu) or 名産物 (=meisanbutsu) a (local) specialty, something typical or well-known or popular in a particular place.

Ex. 名物料理

=meibutsu ryouri

= local dishes

Ex. その土地の名産物

=Sono tochi no meisanbutsu

= thespecialty of the place,the local specialty

Ex. 大阪の名物はたこ焼きです。

=Oosaka no meibutsu wa takoyaki desu.

= “Takoyaki” (octopus dumplings) is a famous Osaka specialty.

Note : Sometimes 名物 (=meibutsu) can be used for a person.

マギーはAction Language Academyの名物先生だ。(=Maggie wa akushon range-ji akademii no meibutsu sensei da.) “Maggie is a very popular(or well-known) teacher at Action Language Academy.

記念(=kinen) a souvenir, memory


=tabi no kinen ni ~ wo kau.

= to buy something as a souvenir to remember a trip by.

= 旅の思い出に〜を買う

=tabi no omoide ni ~ wo kau.

= To buy something to remember one’s trip by.

Also 土産 (=miyage) could be simply a gift you take when you visit someone’s house or even for your family.

• 手土産にケーキを持って行く。

= Temiyage ni keiki wo motte iku.

= to take cakes as a present.

手土産(=temiyage)a gift which you carry yourself with your hands=(=te).


=Omiyage (temiyage) wo katte ie ni kaeru.

= to get some present (←usually food) for one’s family and go home.

土産話 (=miyage banashi) stories about one’s travels, report of your trip


=Kyouto ni ryokou ni ikun da keredo, omiyage nani ga ii?

= “I am going to Kyoto. What kind of souvenir would you like from there?”)


=Omiyage wa nani mo iranai kara omiyage banashi wo kikasete.

= “Don’t bother buying anything for me but just let me hear your travel stories. “)


In the picture above, a person is handing Maggie a gift and saying,


=minasan de douzo

means “This is for everyone!”(Please share these with everybody!)

or 皆さんで召し上がって下さい。

=Minasan de meshiagatte kudasai.

= Please eat this/these with everyone.

Sometimes you just say


=Kore minasan de!

= This is for everyone!)

It is a common phrase when you hand over sweets or food.

If we invite someone to your house or party, we often say to the guests in advance,


=Tebura de douzo!

= “Please don’t bring any gifts.”

手ぶら(=tebura) means literally not to have anything in your hands, empty-handed.

どうぞ、手ぶらでいらして下さい。more polite

=Douzo tebura de irashite kudasai.

= “Please do not worry about coming empty-handed. (Just come!)”

手ぶらでは、いけないよねえ。」(=Tebura de wa ikenai yonee.) “We should take something. “(“We can’t visit empty-handed.”)

Note: There is an advertisement for 宅急便(=takkyuubin) delivery service


=Tebura de sukii e odekake kudasai!

= ”Please go skiing empty-handed (without taking all the ski gears!) or


=tebura de kuukou e!

= ”Go to the airport empty-handed (We will deliver your suitcase to the airport!)

:k: How to thank people when you receive a present:

I assume you already know,

有り難う(=arigatou) “Thank you!” or有り難うございます。(=Arigatou gozaimasu.) “Thank you so much” (more polite than arigatou).

お気遣い頂いて すみません。有り難うございます。)(=Okizukai itadaite sumimasen (or arigatou gozaimasu.) “Thank you so much for your consideration! ”


=Douzo okizukai naku.

= “Please don’t worry about me.”


=Gochisou sama desu.

= ”Thank you! (for this food or these sweets — said before actually eating) ” (When you receive something to eat.)


=Soredewa enryo naku itadakimasu. (or choudai shimasu.)

=  ”I will take your gift without hesitation”

”I will take it with appreciation.”


=Kore wa mezurashii mono wo arigatou gozaimasu.)

“Thank you so much for this rare thing. “(implies the gift is something hard to get.)

*高価なもの(=Kouka na mono) pricey (expensive) things

If you have received something from the person before (or repeatedly) you say,


=Itsumo sumimasen. (Arigatou gozaimasu.)


=Itsumo itadaite iru bakari de sumimasen.

= I feel bad because I keep receiving gifts from you.

Casual :u:

これ、大好物です。有り難う!more casual

=Kore daikoubutsu desu. Arigatou!

= “This is my favorite. Thank you!”

Also if someone gives you something in return for your gift or something you did for that person, you say,


=Nanka kaette moushiwake arimasen.
=“Sorry that I (we) ended up making you worry about causing more trouble (bringing us something) by inviting you.”

Note: The gift or some action in return of your previous gift is called お返し(=okaeshi)


=Kore wa senjitu itadaita omiyage no chotto shita okaeshi desu.

This is little reciprocal gift for the gift you gave me the other day.

Ex.(Receiving a gift) 「ありがとう。今度何かお返し買ってくるね。」

=Arigatou. Kondo nanika okaeshi katte kurune.

“Thank you. I will buy something in return.”


Cultural note : Are we suppose to open a gift right away in front of a person who gave it to you or not?

I wrote about Japanese formal gift wrapping for special occasions in my shopping lesson.

There are certain types of gifts that are formal and seasonal.

*お中元(=ochuugen) summer gift

*お歳暮(=oseibo) end of year gift

*新築祝い(=shinchiku iwai ) house-warming, etc.

Besides casual birthday presents or personal presents between friends, it is considered to be rude to open some formal gifts in front of the person who just gave it to you.

Take special care not to open specially wrapped money such as お祝い(=oiwai) best wish for the happy occasionsお見舞い(=omimai) get-wellご仏前 (=gobutsuzen) for Buddhism funeral etc. Japanese are often astonished whenever they see a Christmas scene in western movies, when kids or adults ripped the paper and open nicely wrapped presents. We usually open the paper very carefully and fold it nicely. (I think it is not just for courtesy but also we can keep the nice wrapping paper for the next gift!?)

It could be fun to buy omiyage because there are variety of things everywhere in Japan and in the world but sometimes we feel obliged to buy omiyage for your friends or co-workers.

We say to friends or family before your trip,


=Omiyage nanka katte kuru ne.

=  “I will buy something for you there!”

We jokingly say to our friends or family who are going to travel somewhere,


=Omiyage tanoshimi ni shite iruyo.

= “I am (We are) looking forward to your present/souvenir .”


=Omiyage katte kite ne.

= “Please buy me/us someting (from where you are going.)”

Whenever we travel, we feel pressured and some always thinks “What to get, how many should I get for the whole trip and it is a nightmare…..


To help those who suffer from finding “omiyage”, there is a service called 「海外お土産サービス(=kaigai omiyage saabisu.)

You can order your gifts before you go abroad and have the souvenirs delivered directly to your house. Japanese tourist places are very commercialized. They are are always good at finding some original gift of the place.

Maggie sensei has just got a box of Japanese sweets but please take a good look at the box.

It says 「おばまロールObama roll” . There is a little town called 小浜=Obama in Fukui.

Coinsidentaly it has the same name as President Obama. Since the Presidential election, this town has been rooting for Mr.Obama to be a President. They even organized 「オバマを勝手に応援する会(=Obama wo katte ni ouen suru kai.) a non-official organization to support Obama.

*勝手に(=Katteni):without asking, without permission, on it own

*応援する(=ouen suru) to root, to back-up, to support

*(=kai):association, organization, society

They sell lots of gifts, sweets, T-shirts and many other kinds of merchandise, all of them using Obama’s name and his comic figure.

Everywhere you go  there are  ご当地もの(=gotouchi mono) typical local  things that you can get only in that area.


maggie-senseiマギー先生より(=Maggie-sensei yori) From Maggie-sensei

みんなは日本に来た時に何かお土産を買いますか? (=Minna wa nihon ni kita toki ni nanika omiyage wo kaimasu ka?)

What are you going to get as a gift when you come to Japan?

もう日本に来たことがある人は何を買いましたか?(=Mou nihon ni kita koto ga aru hito wa nani wo kaimashitaka?)

For one who have been to Japan, what did you buy

誰か、ご当地マギーのお土産作ってくれないかなあ..(=Dare ka gotuchi Maggie no omiyage tsukutte kurenai kanaa..)

I wonder if anybody would make a local-Maggie gifts..)