Unique presents, being seen


Customized ‘omiyage’

Several of you have responded to the request for ideas for interesting personalized gifts.

Faith, for example, says that in Asakusa — a top attraction for visitors to Tokyo — you can get a lantern painted with your family name.

“They might do it ‘katakana,’ I’m not sure,” she writes, adding that she also recalls that you can buy a happi coat in the same district with your surname on it.

Faith is correct. You can order personalized happi coats from Fujiya, at 1-20-1 Asakusa. Best to call first, though, on (03) 3841-8486, as it does close intermittently.

As for the lanterns, the tourist office in Taito Ward was helpful, with Terao speaking English. He directs lantern buyers to Yamazaki Chochin, at Karanarimon 2-9-9, on (03) 3841-8849 or Oshimaya at Komagata 2-6-6, on (03) 3841-2691.

Asakusa is a treasure trove of traditional and contemporary crafts. Terai says there are 88 stalls alone on Nakamise Dori — the souvenir paradise leading to Sensoji Temple.

On the same subject, David suggests that if Kathy (the reader asking for ideas for a wedding gift) has any Japanese contacts, she could ask someone to do an original calligraphy piece for her brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law.

“I paid a friend to do a piece for me on a unique piece of wood as a going-away gift for a good friend. I got to choose something that fit him and I was able to give him a long-lasting, lightweight — he travels! — gift. Depending on the friend and material, this could be a relatively cheap option.”

On reflection

T.C. wonders where he can buy good pedestrian reflectors.

“I grew up in Scandinavia where the pedestrian reflector is very popular — it should be here too as the streets are narrow and poorly lit but it seems that nobody wears them in Japan.”

T.C. has managed to find a few designs but says the quality is really bad with poor reflectivity.

“I want to find the soft reflectors made of CE-approved material, which I understand is necessary for a reflector to be sold as a safety device in Europe — it is probably the same in Japan. Any ideas?”

T.C. is right in observing that pedestrians in Japan have not taken to wearing reflectors for safety. Since cyclists tend to be better equipped, with helmets, lamps and reflecting harnesses, it stands to reason that a bike shop might be the best place to go. One major store with a good supply of clothing for cyclists — odd though it may sound — is BIC Camera in Tokyo’s Yurakucho.

Actually this store is split into two. Everyone in Tokyo knows the one by Yurakucho Station (that used to be Sogo in a former life) but there is another, across the rail tracks from the back end of the main building further along. This is the place to take a look.

The obvious thing, however, is to get friends or relatives to send you what you want from Scandinavia. You could even launch a small import business and start building awareness of the problem of accidents involving pedestrians and how they can be avoided.