we've been back from japan for about a month now, but i wanted to do another post about something called "omiyage".
omiyage is basically... souvenir. in japan, anytime you go somewhere for a trip, or a special event, it's expected that you bring back something (or just bring something if you are going to visit someone). however, since most japanese homes are quite small, it's usually not something to be cherished forever, and it's almost always food because it can be enjoyed, and then disposed of. and if you are visiting someplace like an office, you should bring something for the whole office. this is why boxes of treats are commonly sold all over japan. and actually, the content inside doesn't even really matter so much, because it's sort of always, "it's the thought that counts". so you must always bring something.
i wanted to do this when we traveled to japan because we were going to be visiting with a number of our friends. first was our friend lyle. now, in this case, i asked him if there was anything he missed because he used to live in america. i wanted to make sure i brought him something that he would want or need since he hasn't been back to the states in a really long time. and you know what he asked for out of all things? asprin! he explained how in japan, it's very expensive. they come in those "punch-out" tabs, and there are only like 10-20 in a pack for about $7!!! can you believe that?! and he said it's hard because he actually uses them quite regularly. so, no problem there! we went to sam's club and got him two 500 count jars. that should hopefully last him quite some time :) i also mentioned bringing reese's cups for fun because i know japan doesn't have them! he said yes to the reese's cups too because it would be nostalgic for him. for me, i cannot imagine what halloween would be like without at least 1 reese's cup! haha...they are my favorite :)
it was great the reese's cups came as a 4-pack because he was also able to share them with his wife and two kids who have NEVER had one before (or, if you can believe it or not, NEVER heard of them!!!!). i asked him later how they all liked them, and he said that he of course liked them, and his family sort of liked them. he said they thought they were salty! which i guess is true! i never thought of them as being salty, but it's true, they are! i thought that was so interesting.
next, we were going to be visiting 6 of the students i had when i helped teach english at our local college in fall 2010. i was SOOOOO excited to see them again because we became great friends while they were here in america. i wanted to do something special for them. i wanted to make them something. at the time, our gigantic mulberry tree in our backyard was ripening, so erik and i decided to make our own mulberry jam. it turned out really nice (had some ginger powder in it too), so i was really excited to give it to them. i wrote on the labels in japanese, and tied ribbons around the top to make the jars prettier (as you can see, there were 3 girls and 2 boys haha)
they really enjoyed it :) made me so happy! i was worried they might break during travel, but i put them in freezer ziplock bags, and rolled them into the middle of our clothes in our luggage, and they arrived just fine :)
and lastly, we'd be visiting our friend micaela and her boyfriend in fukuoka. a looooong time ago she had commented on one of my paintings on facebook about how she and her boyfriend were wanting art for their walls. so, i thought, i'll make a painting for them! and i did just that:
it's an 11"x14" acrylic painting of a mario scene :) 11,856 pixels hahaha....they LOVED it. put a huge smile on my face. i'm also happy this painting made it okay with all our traveling!!! i wrapped it as best as i could, and we definitely kept this in our carry-on luggage. almost 3 weeks later is when we finally got to give it to them, and it still looked great! even with all the moving to different hotels! i was relieved to give it to her haha...and now it's happily on their wall :)
so that's what omiyage is all about! gift giving :) during long train rides you will often see people with BAGS of beautifully wrapped little treats to give to whoever it is they are going to. it's a nice way of saying, "thank you for your hospitality".