Omiyage – Kamakura Hato Sable

Kamakura Hato Sable

Omiyage (oh-me-yah-gay) are gifts that are given to friends, family, and work colleagues. Omiyage are often associated with a region or a particular ingredient. The whole culture of omiyage is complicated. It is often expected that whenever you take a trip that you will return with omiyage. As an office worker, by going on vacation or on a business trip you are inconveniencing your colleagues as they cover for your absence. A small gift from your travels is a nice way to thank them for their efforts.

But, the obligation of having to bring back omiyage can be frustrating. Decisions not only on what to buy, but for who to buy for, and more importantly, how much money to spend on all of this. It can take some of the fun away from your holidays. There are rules that help define all of this, for example, not spending too much.

Bringing back omiyage can also be loads of fun. Coming across something unique that you know a dear friend will appreciate. Or you try something new that is so delicious that you just have to share it.

Hato packaging
Hato Sable Packaging

Kamakura is a lovely beachside town south of Tokyo. One of its popular omiyage is the Hato Sable. Sablé are buttery sugar cookies, here in the shape of a pigeon (hato). Japanese love presentation and here is the packaging for five cookies, a simple paper box with handles. It is 540 JPY for a package of five, or about $5 USD. Larger quantities are sold in tin boxes.

The Hato Sable originated in the Meiji period, in 1894. At the time some of the key ingredients for sablé were very expensive and not found in most homes, making these a treat as a gift. The company, Toshimaya, is now a fourth generation shop and you’ll find these in many department stores throughout the country.

Many depachika sell popular omiyage from around the country. So even if you have returned from your trip and you realize you have forgotten someone, you might be able to pick up a gift from your local department store.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I cannot think of a $5 gift I could bring from most of my travels which would begin to match the beauty of this memento. I love this tradition; though I am glad you noted that it CAN become a burden. Good to keep it in perspective and not get “caught up”. Thinking of kind, thoughtful and affordable gifts to hosts is the challenge for me here. And when there’s local aspect, that’s the best. My go-to gift is Chapel Hill Toffee, a local company, started by a woman in her home, now a very successful entity. Small box is about $8, and travels well (except in heat of summer, which is almost over now). The Carolina-blue packaging is a subliminal note of beauty for thosse who are Tar Heel fans (the UNC Chapel Hill team of course).
    Love reading your posts.

  2. Arigato, Nancie-san. Still waiting for you to come to Tokyo. 🙂

    The Chapel Hill Toffee looks sooooo delicious. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but make an exception for toffee and caramel.

    Big hugs from Tokyo,

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