Saturday, October 17, 2009

Omiyage - おみやげ

Omiyage means 'presents you have to bring back for everybody you know.' In Japan, if I travel somewhere I have to buy gifts for my co-workers and other important people, like the eisa group. It's annoying. Not only does it cost a lot, in addition to the cost of the trip, but I have to carry all this extra stuff with me. And the stuff is invariably fluffed up with excessive packaging which all ends up in the garbage. It's a pretty wasteful tradition, though an important one culturally.

The intent of omiyage (oh-me-ahh-gay) is to bring back something to share from the place you visit. But the omiyage industry (seriously, it's big in all countries where Japanese people visit) has streamlined this into "stuff that looks like it came from the place where you visited." Take, for example, the people from our school who went to New Zealand and Canada this summer. They both brought back macadamia chocolates:

[New Zealand and Canada: famous for macadamias. Who knew?]

[Ed and Don are smart guys]

Omiyage does give the buyer a chance to search out something local to buy, which is a good feeling for me when I support a local community. I will be returning home to the U.S. next week for a long vacation and am happy to spend my money at the Anacortes Chocolate Factory and Seabear Salmon for good, local gifts. I'm just not happy to have to carry it all back.


Cliff said...

Local stuff isn't always preferred either. People want those snacks/cakes over what people normally eat anyway.

For example, I thought I understood the omiyage thing and I took goya, brown sugar, and a bottle of awamori, thinking this is what people in Okinawa really eat/drink, to a certain person's family in Fukuoka. I later got the comment, 'My mom likes those ben-imo tarts.'

Lesson learned.

Anonymous said...

Dave, you are soooo sweet!!!
I want to eat you as a chocolate!!!
Oh, yummy!!!

Dave said...

M, I hope that's you..