Top 5 Buys from my Tokyo 2017 Trip (and Packing Tips)

In the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to really road test everything that I brought back from my trip. For this post, I chose five of my favorite products: 1) a hairdryer by Panasonic, 2) Hand mixer by Muji, 3) Kanebo’s Suisai Beauty Clear Powder, 4) Coffee mugs by the Traveler’s Factory and Blue Bottle Coffee, and lastly, 5) assorted clothing items by Journal Standard.  I Towards the end of the post, I’ll answer the question probably burning on everyone’s mind (ha!)… how did I get it all home?

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Choosing omiyage at Haneda Airport, Tokyo, Japan

One of the last things that I always do before leaving Tokyo is to buy omiyage (souvenirs) at the airport. In this post, I thought I would describe some of the omiyage at Haneda Airport, so you can have some more information about what is inside some of those pretty boxes.  During my first trip to Tokyo, I had no idea what to buy at the airport.  I saw people buying lots and lots of colorfully wrapped boxes, but I wasn’t sure what was in them.  I think I ended up buying a box of Tokyo Bananas and some matcha flavored Kit-Kats before hopping on my flight.

During the following years after my first trip to Tokyo, I have been lucky to be on the receiving end of omiyage~ and now I have a much better idea of what to bring back for family, friends and colleagues. Here are the items I brought back this trip, from Haneda Airport:

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In this post, I’ll go over the way that the box is wrapped, and some of the main ingredients, and of course,  most importantly what the treats look like and taste like.

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Hello Tokyo! Number Sugar and Spiral Market in Omotesando

One of the new (to me) discoveries I made on this trip was the discovery of the Omotesandō (表参道) area.  I never expected to love it so much, but I really do.  The streets are dotted with lots of fun, quirky little shops, and it’s also an interesting place to people-watch. In addition to visiting the Nezu Museum during this trip, I also discovered two other gems that I would make repeat visits to next year: Number Sugar and the Spiral Market. 

Number Sugar is a confectionery store that specializes in handmade caramels.  They have 10 flavors that are made fresh, on site, daily.  However, after exiting the Omotesando subway station, it was a bit of a wild goose chase.  On paper (or on Google Maps) the streets of Tokyo are labeled by district (chōme), block (ban) and house numbers (gō).  Theoretically, this seems clear enough, until you realize that there are hardly any visible street signs!

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Hello Tokyo! Tokyu Hands, Shinjuku, Part Two: Kitchenware and Bento Boxes

As I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago, one of the best parts about shopping at Tokyu Hands is the sheer variety of items that are available. Plus, everything is displayed in an accessible way, so you can look at them to your heart’s content.   One of the appliances I was looking forward to seeing up and close and personal was the…. cue music and spotlight here… the Balmuda toaster oven.  (It’s only recently become available in Taiwan, and on a very limited release). Sigh. I’ve been obsessing about this kitchen appliance since I saw this video.    During this trip, I was seriously thinking about buying this and just taking it home in my suitcase.  But my goodness, this oven is heavy! It would have been the height of impracticality to lug it back to the hotel, and then risk it going through the rough and tumble of the luggage carousel.  

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Hello Tokyo 2017: Itoya Stationery Experience, in Ginza

Itoya is located in Ginza, the very posh area of Tokyo.  The first time I was there, it was undergoing renovations.  I’m happy to report the renovations have long been completed, and now,  visually, the store is stunning. It is now an impressive 12 floors, each organized by theme, such as Letter, Desk, Travel, Home, Fine Paper, Craft, with a cafe on the very top floor.

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The display in the storefront is hundreds of pencils “floating” in the air.

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Hello Tokyo 2017: Tokyu Hands, Shinjuku, Part One: Stationery

A trip to Tokyo would not be complete, unless you visit Tokyu Hands. It’s so hard to describe, but it’s basically an emporium of Japanese ingenuity, filled with gadgets, lotions and potions, and everything you never knew you wanted until now.  Tokyu Hands is definitely not just a tourist destination, because I observe that Japanese people shop there too.  The stationery floor is usually filled with office workers and teenagers (I imagine the stationery section must be one of the most satisfying forms of retail therapy after a long day of work or school).

The branch that I visited is the Shinjuku store, located in the Times Square Building, and it’s just a two minute walk from the New South Exit of JR Shinjuku Station. If you only have time for one visit, I would advise allocating at least one to two hours here, because the store is 8 floors. It’s sensory overload, but in the best, possible way. My advice is to shop there about an hour to an hour and a half before the store closes at 9:00 pm.  The crowds have thinned out considerably by then, so you have plenty of room to browse, and there is hardly a wait for the cashier, or at the tax return counter downstairs.

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During my first visit to Tokyo Hands a few years ago, I was completely overwhelmed. I think I may have had a mini-melt down in the belt buckle/ leather laces section (why was I there again?!). Since I was staying nearby, I divided up my visits over the 5 days that I was there, which made the experience much more productive (and rational).  I only zeroed in on the items that I was especially interested in: beauty and cosmetics (3rd floor ) stationery (8th floor) , and kitchenware (4rth floor)  and just limited my browsing to those three floors.  For clarity purposes, I will divide the coverage of my Tokyu Hands experience into two posts: stationery and kitchen gadgets

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Hello Tokyo! Visiting the Traveler’s Factory, in Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

My enthusiasm for the Traveler’s Notebook was sparked by my friend Peggy, who introduced me to the entire line during a day trip to Taichung.    That was the moment I fell in love with everything about the notebook, the design, the layout, and mostly, the versatility.  Since then, I’ve been really lucky to see the celebration of their 10 year anniversary, and even to find them all the way in Hong Kong.  A trip to see the Traveler’s Factory in Tokyo has always been one of my dreams, and it was during this trip that my dream finally came into fruition.

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