Sunday, August 2, 2009


I'm packing for our family trip to Ontario. Nothing too exciting, just visiting husby's family there. It's not a big city like T.O. so we won't be doing much. But the kids will be looked after by the grandparents so I am hoping to spend lots of quality time with myself, oh, and with my husband. ;)
Anyhow, I am wondering if there's any good small gift I can take to the family back east-like something you can only get in Victoria, or in BC...something light,easy to pack, and says "Thanks for having us from Victoria BC! :)" you know?

In Japan it's called OMIYAGE(Souvenir) and it's a big part of Japanese culture.
When you go away, you are practically expected to buy souvenirs for everybody.

When my mom came to visit from Japan last year, she spent half the time here looking for OMIYAGE for her neighbors, friends, and even for classmates in her Chinese Language Class(about 15 of them!).
She said lots of her classmates were older than her, thus have more money and they travels often-to China, Taiwan, Korea etc... and every time they bring souvenir back to the classmates. So my mom now HAS TO bring something back from Canada. Oh the pressure!

We went to many souvenir stores on Government Street, but getting 15-20 key chains that says "Victoria, BC" was obviously not ideal. Who wants them anyway?
I personally think that whenever possible, a souvenir should be something consumable.
Only exception for me was the time a friend got me a little Eiffel tower key chain from Paris(I've never been to Paris but I know for sure there are million little shops that sell Eiffel Tower key chains but this is just so pretty to look at don't you think?-NOT a plastic orca that says "Victoria, BC")

My mom agreed to this and she started looking at maple syrup. But again, those things are so heavy. Then she found maple cookies.
I said, "I actually know some Japanese friends who buy this stuff every time they go back to Japan as these are so popular"... It's true. Except she buys them at grocery stores. Anyway, my mom liked the idea and we decided to get cookies.

After looking at the shelf for a while, my mom goes "So, how many cookies are in this package?"
Me: (Look at the label) "It says 24."
Mom: "Is it individually wrapped?"
Me: " When you open, you will see 24 cookies lying in the bag"
Mom: "......."
Mom: "Isn't there a such thing like OMIYAGE cookie box set here?"

In Japan, we tend to over-wrap things. Everything comes in an individual packaging, and then in a box or a bag, and then when you buy it, store clerk will warp it neatly with another wrapping paper, puts a bow on it, and then put it in a store bag. It's a huge waste of material and it's ridiculous. But the only time I appreciate it is when you are looking for OMIYAGE.

For example, let's say you live and work in Tokyo, but you go on a little trip to Nagasaki(that's where I'm from)...while you are there, enjoying the time, you decide you need to buy some souvenirs for your colleagues. After all, they are still working, covering your job while you are on vacation. You don't want to spend too much money, but you want to show them your appreciation. This is when OPMIYAGE box set comes in handy.

In this case you are in Nagasaki-a place the A-bomb was dropped, but it's also known for Loquat
(Japanese plum-it's delicious by the way). So, every souvenir shop has many different kind of sweets using the fruit. Loquat jelly, Loquat candy, Loquat cookies, you name it.

And the best thing is, most of them come in a pack of 12 or 24, all individually wrapped, and in a box. So when you come home, you just take the box to your office, and leave the box open in the coffee room with a note saying "I had a great time in Nagasaki. Here's a little something I got there. Please take one. " Everyone in the office will enjoy the taste of Nagasaki Loquat-at their desk or at the comfort of their own home-since it's wrapped you can take it home you see- and everybody think of you as a thoughtful person. It's a win-win situation.

Sure, you can buy a bag of cookies at local grocery store and take it back home as souvenir, but it just doesn't show that you CARE, does it?

It is going to make all the Japanese tourists so happy if Tourism Victoria decides to promote this idea. Souvenir companies should start making OMIYAGE packs.

By the way, Vancouver's Japanese-run souvenir shops already have these. It's not a new idea at all. It's just here in Victoria, something so simple can come to us so slowly.....

Only exception will be Chocolates like Rogers, as they come in a box. But then, some Japanese people find North American chocolate too rich and sweet. (I have no problem with it-hand me the box)

Well. Enough about Japanese OMIYAGE. I am looking for an equivalent in Victoria BC.

I just wish places like...Murchie's/Pure Vanilla/Patisserie Danielle etc etc would make boxed cookies and baked goods. Things like Cream Puffs and Danishes will be squished and won't taste good after a long flight. Cookies or maybe muffins might work. Something delish you can only get in Victoria BC! Wouldn't it make a great souvenir?