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.
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.