J-Culture: お土産 ( = Omiyage) gift or souvenir



=Omiyage、 minasan de douzo!

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


=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)  ( more  polite 「お土産= omiyage) 

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

Let’ see the 漢字(  = kanji) first!

 土   do/tsuchi : dirt, earth, local

→土着  ( = dochaku) native 土地 (=tochi) land

  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 “どさんdo san” but we usually read it as “みやげ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

Ex. 旅の記念に〜を買う。

= 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!)”


(=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!)

 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.


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..)


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  1. I think お土産 is not considered as Ateji. It is Jukujikun I think. “Jukujikun are when the standard kanji for a word are related to the meaning, but not the sound”. But Ateji “principally refer to kanji used phonetically to represent native or borrowed words without regard to the underlying meaning of the characters”.

    1. @Aidin
      Wow! You are very good! I checked it and there seems to have two theories. (土産 could be 当て字 or 熟字訓)
      Also there a fine line between 当て字 and 熟字訓. We mix them up sometime or some consider 熟字訓 a part of 当て字.
      According to the etymology dictionary, 土産 was originally from all different words. I can’t copy and paste here so please go check the site.
      Anyway thank you for your comment.

      I am sorry but I can’t go too deep in this lesson. :)

  2. ありがと五歳マスタ!!!!!  これ大好物!!!!!茂市と ありがと誤差います!!!!!!!

  3. Maggiesensei, I have doubts with these sentences:

    1) みんなは日本に来た時に何かお土産を買いますか?

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

    The “kita toki ni” seems to be in the past, but then I know that in Japanese the “a” form of verbs is used at times without the “past” connotation like for example: “yameta hou ga ii”. Is it a rule to use the “a” form of the verb when talking about something that will be done in the future?

    What about when people use the dictionary form with “toki”? I recall that pattern being used, like “kuru toki ni”.

    2) 何か却って申し訳ありません。

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

    In this lesson Maggiesensei you provided a lot of examples of how to answer to favors or some situations. :) I wanted to know if it is ok for men to use this expressions. I bet men use them for people they don’t have much confidence with and with superiors but what about people of lower age and friends? Is it ok to use it for all situations?


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

    I can’t find the definition of the word “irashite”. :/

    Sorry for the lengthy post. :/ Thank you Maggiesensei as always. :)

    1. @NecroMadMat

      なるほど!!I am always impressed with your questions.

      1) You are right. The past tense of 来る is 来た, so it looks strange, huh?

      When you are simply talking about the future, you can use 来る
      Ex1) 日本に来る時は言ってね。
      = Let me know when you come to Japan.

      As you said we can use 来た時 for the real past action.

      Ex. 2) 去年、日本に来た時はとても寒かった。
      = It was really cold when I visited (came to )Japan last year.

      We also use 来た時 for future when you assume some action is completed = will have come

      So the translation of
      Ex.3) 日本に来たら言ってね。
      could be the same as E1) but actually it means “Let me know when you will have arrived in Japan./will have come to Japan.”
      And Ex.3 has slightly more possibility of coming to Japan.

      So you can use ~た時 when you did something or when will have done something.

      2) 却って申し訳ありません。

      Is totally OK for men to use.
      If you are talking to your friends, you can say
      (な suffix is for men.)

      3) いらしてください is a contraction form of いらっしゃってください
      an honorific form of 来てください

      Hope I answered all your questions. !happyface!

      1. Thank you Maggiesensei. XD It is all clearer now. It is just a matter of practice, practice, practice, to get it down. :) Thank you Maggiesensei for your precious time, as always. ;)

        1. @NecroMadMat

          You’re welcome! That’s right! Practice! Practice!! And you can always practice making sentences with me here or on Twitter. !happyface!

  4. 相変わらず、素晴らしいレッソンです。


    ちなみに、「一番」じゃなくて「one of my favourite…」は何といいますか。


    This is one of my favourite presents
    This is one of my favourite journeys of the last 20 years.

    根掘り葉掘り訪ねて申し訳ありません (当然辞書で調べた表現。おかしかもしれません。)


    1. @Cygnus

      one of my favorite はお気に入りの一つ、(とても)気に入ったものの一つ、大好きなものの一つ、気に入ったものの一つ, etc.

      This is one of my favorite presents :これは私がとても気に入ったプレゼントの一つです。
      This is one of my favorite journeys of the last 20 years = in this case it will be a bit odd to translate “favorite” for the trip. We would say 楽しい or よかった, 心に残った = memorable, etc.

      ★根掘り葉掘り  is usually negative and it is used when you pry into the affairs of others. Just say いろいろ


      ★Cyguns : Are you following me on Twitter? If so, you can ask me question on Twitter anytime.
      I check Twitter more often.

      1. I don’t use Twitter, I spend too much time already with my blog and Facebook. Plus, by asking questions related to a lesson, they remain in that particular entry. Is it okay for you to answer questions here? You can take your time :-).

        1. @Cygnus

          OK, no problem.
          For the same reason, I don’t do Facebook at the moment.
          You can keep asking me questions here.

  5. 大坂の名物はたこ焼きで、去年の夏休みに大坂で沢山たこ焼きを食べました。
    大坂で毎日たこ焼きを食べました!!☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆
    There might be some mistakes here and there. ごめんなさい。でも分かりますか。
    How to say 1 box in japanese? 日本語で「1box」は何ですか。

    1. @アリナ

      1 box = 一箱 = hitoohako

  6. Maggie sensei ^__^ Hello ! Thank you for this lesson. I’ve always found interesting the omiyage system. I remember a comic where someone offers a bottle of wine to a co-worker as an omiyage, then the man forget the bottle in the subway, someone find it and offer it to another person as an omiyage, this person offers it to another person, etc… And at the end the bottle of wine is offered to a last person, who is the man that originally forgot it in the subway XD

    I don’t remember exactly but isn’t there a way to say “this is a just a little thing, please accept it” or something like that ?

    The story about the Obama city is funny ^^ Were the Obama rolls good ?

    Have a nice day, mata ne !

    1. Salut! Latitia-san!
      The comic story is funny! It was a story of “re-gifters”, huh?
      That’ right. When we give a gift, we have to give it in a humble way like

      これはつまらないものですが、どうぞ!(=Kore wa tsumaranai mono desuga, douzo!) This is a boring stuff but please take it.
      大したものではありませんが、どうぞ!(=Taishita mono dewa arimasen ga douzo!) It’s not anything fancy but…
      ちょっとしたものですが、どうぞ!(=Chotto shita mono desuga, douzo!) This is a little something but..
      ささやかですが、どうぞ!(=Sasayaka desu ga douzo!) This is a small something but..

      Even between friends we say,

      おばまロールはとっても 美味しかったです!Yum!!

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