Monday, June 10, 2013
Did your dad or mom ever bring you souvenirs when you were a kid? Maybe a $1 t-shirt from some tropical destination, bought by parents hitting the furriners' t-shirt shop between maitais, while you kids languished at home with the home-sitter? A coffee mug with some cheesy pic, a foam cozy to keep drinks cool? Kangaroo jerky? A postcard set?
Or the dreaded snow-globe?
Here in Japan, souvenirs are a major part of travel. Anywhere. You went to Tokyo Disneyland? Better bring back souvenirs. Universal Studios Japan? Ditto. Camping? Yep. Tokyo, Osaka, some dinky little town that's off the map? Uh-huh. Relaxed at a hot spring? Again, de rigeur. Even a one-day out-and-back to some shrine deserves its memento.
And not just for your family, either. You get them for damn near everyone. People buy for their coworkers, with a separate one for their boss. Students buy for their homeroom teacher, their cram school teacher, their closest friends. Every time we head back to Colorado, each of my kids will buy souvenirs for every single member of their sport's team. There'd be 30-some Colorado keychains rattling around my suitcase for my elder son's soccer team; the girls would buy out Claire's which always earned me a strange look at customs, when they'd find 35 sets of flavored lip gloss in my bag).
At least many of these souvenirs are edible. Universal Studios sells cookie sets, French wafers, chocolate packs. Remember the macadamia chocolates from Hawaii? Every destination has its own package (the nuts, however are all the same). And every place worth visiting (as well as some not) in Japan has manjuu, beaten rice cakes with sweetened bean paste filling. They taste better than they sound.
As a private language-school teacher, I clean up. Kids take their 6th grade school trips, and they always bring back a pack of goodies. Sometimes 10 kids will take their trips at the same time, and my kids have enough snacks for the month.