Translated by Sandy Lau
Tasty Dishes Right to Your Table! Top 7 Souvenirs From Japan
Written by Kogetsu
Do you usually buy snacks in Japan to give out as souvenirs? How about getting some seasonings or instant meals instead? You and your loved ones can savor the flavors of Japan at home! We introduce seven food products that can easily be found at supermarkets and discount shops.
Japanese Food Products as Souvenirs
Whether you're buying something for yourself or loved ones, many travelers choose snacks as souvenirs from Japan. In addition to sweets and snacks, we recommend food products that help you prepare Japanese cuisine at home.
This article will feature seven food products you’ll want to hand out as souvenirs. These can be found at supermarkets, discount shops like Don Quijote, and most convenience stores. Enjoy an authentic taste of Japan right at home!
As these are perishable foods, make sure to double-check the expiration date before buying. Products that require refrigeration or are not vacuum-sealed and dried may spoil quickly.
When checking the expiration date, please note that the year comes first in Japan. For example, if the expiration date is December 3, 2020, it will be printed as “2020.03.12.”
7 Non-Snack Food Products for Souvenirs
- 1. Miso Soup
- 2. All Kinds of Japanese Soups
- 3. Ready-Made Japanese Side Dishes
- 4. Instant Ramen
- 5. Sushi Mix
- 6. Instant Blended Seasoning
- 7. Make White Rice Tastier with Toppings
- 8. Bonus Content: Japanese Rice
1. Miso Soup
Miso soup, which is made with fermented soybean paste, is a staple of Japanese cuisine.
Imagine that you're suddenly craving this delicious soup at home; if you decide to cook it yourself, you'll need to have miso and dashi stock on hand. Once you find a recipe, it also takes practice to make it properly.
While this may sound okay for those who love cooking, what should you do if you’re not confident in the kitchen?
We recommend instant miso soup. Stop by a supermarket to find a variety of products from ready-to-eat miso cups to freeze-dried powders.
Our writer personally recommends the freeze-dried miso. This product is packed with essential ingredients—soup, wakame seaweed, tofu, and vegetables. All you have to do is pour the contents into a bowl, add hot water, and mix. Making tasty miso soup is now surprisingly simple.
Instant miso costs about 100 yen per serving and is available in two types: single-size packages or a pack. The pack of five pictured above costs 451 yen, which makes it under 100 yen per bowl.
2. All Kinds of Japanese Soups
Nabe (hot pot) is a Japanese dish that many international tourists love. Since it only requires adding vegetables and meat to a broth, it is incredibly easy to prepare and makes a great party dish.
If you're a fan of shabu-shabu, we also recommend adding thinly sliced meat. However, many find prepping the hot pot's broth difficult.
You can solve this problem by purchasing a ready-made hot pot soup base.
Soup bases are sold in a variety of flavors such as Japanese-style shellfish stew, sukiyaki sauce, tonkotsu (pork bone) broth, chanko-nabe, soy milk hot pot, miso-flavored broth, kimchi hot pot, and many more. Undiluted liquid products need to be poured into a pot and simmered with your desired ingredients. These are priced around 300 to 400 yen.
If you prefer to fly with souvenirs packed into carry-on bags, undiluted liquid products may be slightly inconvenient to bring home.
We suggest purchasing a soup concentrate product, which only requires diluting the mix with water. These are sold in small packages or pods. The yaki-ago (dried flying fish) dashi nabe soup base (pictured right) costs 268 yen and includes four serving-sized packets. The yosenabe (combination hot pot) soup pods (pictured left) is also 268 yen and includes six serving-sized pods.
Those who love cooking may try making the broth from scratch using dashi stock. But you may find that katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and konbu seaweed—two key ingredients for making dashi—aren’t easily available outside of Japan.
This won't be an issue if you've bought a concentrated dashi soup base called tsuyu. To use this soup base, all you have to do is dilute it with water and adjust the flavor with your desired seasonings.
Tsuyu also serves as a dipping sauce for udon, soba, and shabu-shabu. Additionally, this condiment is used to flavor Japanese-style simmered dishes.
3. Ready-Made Japanese Side Dishes
The most convenient product you can buy are ready-made dishes to eat at home.
Neatly packaged ready-made side dishes are sold for this very purpose. There are three available types: pouched, boxed (packed in a bag, then packaged into a box), and canned.
Their prices range from 100 yen to several hundred yen. All you have to do is heat the product in your kitchen.
The pouch is directly heated in boiling water. If you can’t read the Japanese instructions, it’s safer to pour the pouch’s contents onto a plate or bowl and heat in the microwave.
Pictured above are canned products priced around 98 to 300 yen. They are nishin kabayaki (herring broiled in a savory-sweet sauce), boiled akagai (ark shell), and fatty yellowtail with daikon radish. The packaged product is sanma kabayaki (mackerel pike broiled in a sweet sauce), available for 324 yen.
4. Instant Ramen
Japanese instant noodles are also popular souvenirs. If you value convenience, then get the cup noodle type. Add hot water and wait for three to five minutes to make a delicious cup of ramen, udon, or soba.
If you prefer something that can be carried easily, then ramen packages are ideal. Just boil the noodles in a pot and garnish with your favorite ingredients.
Pictured above is a salt-flavored ramen cup, tonkotsu ramen package, and hiyashi chuka (chilled noodles) package. The hiyashi chuka is quite rare to come across!
This hiyashi chuka product is prepared by boiling the noodles, rinsing them in cold water, then adding the sauce. Chill the sauce in the fridge ahead of time to make it tastier! All products are priced around 90 to 150 yen.
We also recommend refrigerated instant ramen. These products come with either raw or partially cooked noodles packaged with a soup concentrate.
There are even products that have recreated flavors from famous ramen shops. Pictured above is ramen created under the supervision of Shibata: a famous noodle shop in Tokyo. While it’s priced slightly higher at 355 yen (for two servings), customers can experience the springy texture unique to fresh noodles.
*These products must be kept refrigerated. On the day before you leave the country, you can purchase and keep it in your hotel’s refrigerator. If you purchase on the day you depart Japan, immediately refrigerate upon returning home. If you live in a country with a long-distance flight from Japan, it would be best to avoid purchasing this product.
5. Sushi Mix
Sushi can’t be left out of the equation when discussing Japanese food. Some may be convinced that this cuisine can only be eaten at a restaurant.
However, vinegared rice mixes are sold in Japan, which means sushi rice is easy to prepare at home. Once you’ve made the vinegared rice, add your favorite toppings, and your sushi is done.
The orange package is a powdered vinegared rice mix (150 yen) that you’ll need for sushi rice. All you have to do is mix in one tablespoon of the vinegared rice mix to 300 grams of warm rice, and your sushi rice is ready!
The white package next to the vinegar seasoning (which includes two packets for 139 yen) comes with ingredients for gomoku chirashi (a type of chirashi-zushi). Mix one packet into 150 grams of warm rice to make chirashi-zushi (scattered sushi). Feel free to add your favorite toppings such as sashimi-grade raw fish, tamagoyaki (rolled omelet), tempura, or shrimp.
It’s also fun making nigiri-zushi (hand-pressed sushi) with family and friends. If you’re unsure how to shape sushi, sushi rice is also delicious served in a bowl and topped with various ingredients.
6. Instant Blended Seasoning
Who said cooking Japanese food is hard? Making this cuisine is a breeze if you have instant blended seasoning!
Instant blended seasoning doesn’t require you to add anything else. Prepare vegetables and meat, add the blended seasoning, and cook to make a delectable meal.
The black box pictured above is a Japanese curry roux (332 yen). You just stir fry your favorite ingredients, then add boiling water. Next, dissolve the curry roux in the liquid and simmer once more. These are all the steps required to cook Japanese curry.
The red box is a liquid mix for matsutake kamameshi (473 yen; pot boiled mushroom rice). Add three cups of rice (450 grams) and the seasoning liquid to a rice cooker to make this flavorful mushroom rice.
Above is a product that is still relatively new in Japan: a microwavable seasoning pouch.
Inside is a seasoning sauce for char siu pork. Prepare 250 grams of pork, poke it with a fork to create holes, then place the meat in the pouch. Thoroughly massage the sauce into the pork so that it permeates and coats the meat.
Afterward, place the pouch face up in the microwave and heat for eight to nine minutes. This is all you have to do to serve char siu pork for dinner!
*Please follow the instructions on the back of the pouch carefully.
7. Make White Rice Tastier with Toppings
Here are two tasty rice toppings that’ll keep you from getting bored of white rice.
The first is furikake. This is a powdered seasoning that Japanese people sprinkle on top of rice. It is sometimes mixed with rice to make onigiri (rice balls).
Flavors include seaweed, egg, salmon, sukiyaki, wasabi, mentaiko (spicy cod roe), and many more.
Large bags are available at stores for around 100 yen. Variety packs with multiple flavor packets are also available, with 20 packets costing 200 to 300 yen.
Another topping is a Japanese porridge mix called ochazuke.
The pouch includes a powdered soup and ingredients such as green onions, seaweed, and dried meat. To eat, serve rice in a bowl, sprinkle the ochazuke mix on top, and add hot water. Once the powdered soup has dissolved, this piping-hot dish is ready to eat.
The larger bag pictured above comes with a trio of famous flavors from the Tohoku region—scallop, beef tongue, and uni (sea urchin). It is priced at 756 yen for six pouches. The smaller bag is a yuzu-flavored (citron) ochazuke mix that comes with three pouches for 250 yen.
Bonus Content: Japanese Rice
Rice is key to eating delicious Japanese food.
Each variety of rice has a distinct taste and texture. Moreover, there are various rice brands on the market.
It’s not easy to bring home a huge, heavy bag of rice. But there are packaged products in Japan with two cups of rice (300 grams) per bag (prices start at 300 yen depending on the variety and manufacturer).
Popular brands include Koshihikari, Hitomebore, Yumepirika (Hokkaido), Tsuyahime (Yamagata), and Akita Komachi (Akita). It might be hard finding these smaller packs, so try looking for them at supermarkets or the discount retailer Don Quixote.
Don’t have a rice cooker at home or find it troublesome to cook rice? Then ready-to-eat rice is right for you!
Buy and bring home microwavable instant rice of your preferred rice variety. There are even ready-made rice products like chicken kamameshi ("kettle rice") and minced-meat dry curry.
These products start at 100 yen and vary according to flavor and manufacturer.
Enjoy a Japanese Meal at Home
These food products make great souvenirs for you and your loved ones. Find yourself gravitating towards the same old sweets or snacks on your travels? Then snag a couple of Japanese side dishes, ramen, or ready-to-eat rice to recreate an authentic Japanese meal at home!
Aside from being an edible memory from your trip, the recipient of your souvenir is sure to discover a love of Japan and Japanese food.