The Japanese concept of Omiyage is a little bit strange to us foreigners. It is usually translated as ‘souvenir’ in English, but I don’t think it fully grasps the whole concept.
Omiyage are local sweets or snacks one buys when traveling to another city or country. Usually given to family, friends, and co-workers. It is a custom so ingrained in the Japanese culture that Japanese people don’t go anywhere without buying a huge amount of local delicacies to take back home.
The reason for this is simple. If you got something from someone when they were traveling, you simply have to return the favor.
I always try to encourage travelers to Japan to learn about local customs and if possible participate. And of course, nothing is more fun than buying Omiyage. Because just maybe, you want to try the sweets and snacks yourself as well?
What kind of Souvenirs in Nagoya should you buy?
Not that we established that I think you should buy some local snacks and sweets, let’s talk about your best souvenirs options in Nagoya. There is so much to choose from, so I made a list.
I recommend getting one of each, trying them all while you are here and then buying the ones you liked best for your friends and family at home. If that’s not an option (because money doesn’t grow on trees), just pick the ones that look or otherwise seem best to you.
In some places, you can try different sweets or snacks before buying them. If there is such an option I will mention where you can get a taste first.
If you like prawns you will love Ebi Senbei. These shrimp rice crackers are crispy and contain no small amount of real shrimp processed into a paste together with rice flour, water, and other secret ingredients and then grilled between two hot plates.
The taste is rich and really quite shrimpy.
There are hundreds of companies in the area south of Nagoya producing shrimp rice crackers, but I recommend Bankaku. Their most popular product is called Yukari and it is one of the most popular Omiyage in Nagoya.
They have shops all over Nagoya, and if you want to try Yukari before buying them, visiting a dedicated shop is your best bet. Bankaku also has shops in the underground food level of any department store in Nagoya, where you also might be able to try Yukari.
Uiro is a steamed sweet made from rice flour, sugar, water and other flavorings such as green tea, red bean, Yuzu citrus, chestnut, Sakura cherry blossom and more.
They usually come in a rectangular shape and are either sold by the block, or in separately packaged one-bite sized assortments. The latter are perfect as gifts to friends and family.
Uiro is not too sweet, most traditional Japanese sweets only use very little sugar, and goes very well with Japanese tea.
While Uiro is produced all over the country certain regions, such as Nagoya have a long tradition preparing Uiro. Some of the most famous shops in Nagoya have been preparing Uiro for a long time. Mochibun Sohonten was founded in 1659 and is the oldest producer of Uiro in Nagoya. But other shops such as Aoyagi Uiro and Osu Uiro have been at it for 140 and 70 years respectively.
In all that time they have perfected the art of making Uiro.
The above mentioned Aoyagi Uiro sells some other sweets beside Uiro. One of their specialties are the so-called Kaeru Manju. Little frog-shaped dumplings filled with sweet bean paste. They taste especially delicious with a glass of cold milk.
Kaeru Manju are available with different seasonal fillings.
If you are looking for a souvenir that isn’t sweet you might want to consider Moriguchizuke, the special Nagoya pickles.
Moriguchizuke is a special kind of pickled radish. This radish can become more than 1.5 meters long and is comparatively thin. It is pickled in a mix of Sake and Mirin which gives the pickles their characteristic light-brown color and sweet taste.
Moriguchizuke tastes great with white rice. You can even buy it cut in tiny cubes to sprinkle on top of your rice bowl.
Yamatoya is specialized in Moriguchizuke production and has been making this local specialty for over 90 years.
Ogura Toast Sweets
Ogura Toast is the favorite breakfast option in Nagoya. Rather than the traditional bowl of rice with egg, fish, and Miso soup, the people of Nagoya prefer toast with their morning coffee.
Sweet red bean paste and margarine are spread generously on the thick slice of golden toast. I highly recommend you try Ogura Toast for yourself during your visit to Nagoya.
Ogura Toast is not a very good souvenir in itself and that’s why the Japanese were creative and created a wide variety of Ogura Toast inspired sweets. You can get multiple kinds of Ogura toasts cookies for example.
The famous Kitkat in Japan also comes as an Ogura Toast flavor in Nagoya.
The symbol of Nagoya is the Kinshachi, a mythical figure with a tiger head and a fishtail. It is said to be able to control the weather and the two golden Kishachi located on either side of the roof of Nagoya Castle is said to protect the castle in case of fire.
Because it is the symbol of Nagoya you will find Kinshachi in name and image all over the city, if you keep your eyes open you will spot it in many places.
And so it is really no wonder that the Kinshachi has made it onto the souvenirs of Nagoya. Not only the packaging of many Nagoya omiyage is decorated with the tiger fish, but even the sweets itself are also shaped like the Kinshachi.
It is always nice to have a little story to tell when handing over gifts from foreign places, and with a Kinshachi inspired souvenir you can never go wrong.
Nagoya Cochin Sweets
Kobe Beef is a special breed of high-class cow that demands a high price because of its superior quality and taste. Nagoya Cochin is the chicken equivalent of Kobe Beef. The meat is said to be rich in Umami flavor and to have a good texture.
But not only the chicken meat is superior also the eggs are said to be much better than your standard egg found at the supermarket. These eggs are preferably used in cooking and baking in Nagoya. The egg yolk is said to have a much brighter orange color and to be much more creamy than a normal egg.
If you are looking for a high-end souvenir for your family at home you might want to spend your money on sweets produced with Nagoya Cochin chicken eggs.
Nagoya Jo Cookies
Named after the beautiful women of Nagoya, Nagoya Jo Cookies boast a flavor of nuts and white chocolate. It is a popular snack and souvenir from Nagoya.
Hatcho Miso Paste
Miso is an essential ingredient found in every Japanese household. And while the fermented soybean paste is a national hit, Nagoya has its own variation.
Hatcho Miso is produced in Okazaki, a small town about an hour from Nagoya. The Miso produced here is fermented in gigantic barrels for 2 to 3 years until it develops its rich flavor and characteristic dark brown color.
A common stereotype says the Nagoya locals put Hatcho Miso on everything, and with every stereotype, there is a grain of truth to it. There are many dishes in Nagoya that use Hatcho Miso (and all of them are delicious).
If you want to recreate some of the delicious dishes you have tried in Nagoya, such as Miso Katsu (deep-fried pork cutlet with a Miso sauce) you can do that by buying your own Hatcho Miso Paste. I recommend the readily consumable Hatcho Miso Sauce sold in a tube. Already mixed so you only have to put it on your plate. It goes especially well with all kinds of meat.
Sweet dumplings made with golden sweet bean paste wrapped in sponge cake. These budget-friendly sweets are sold all over Nagoya, including supermarkets. They go very well with tea and coffee, and because they are quite cheap and readily available they are very popular with the locals.
If you are looking for something typical that the locals also love to buy a pack of Nagoyan as a Nagoya souvenir.
I was so surprised to find raw marinated chicken wings for sale at souvenir shops in Nagoya. These are for you to take home and deep-fry by yourself.
A great idea, but not really an option for foreigners because in most countries importing raw chicken meat is prohibited. No matter if it is vacuum packed or not.
Because the actual Tebasaki probably aren’t an option for foreign tourist I recommend getting the alternatives on offer in Nagoya: Tebasaki inspired snacks.
You will find potato chips, potato sticks, and other snacks such as rice crackers with a chicken wing flavor. I have to admit I haven’t tried any of these before and I can’t tell you whether they really taste anything like chicken wings, but it seems to be a fun present for friends.
Yamamotoya Miso Nikomi Udon Kit
If you loved your Miso Nikomi Udon at Yamamotoya, you can purchase a cooking kit to make the dish at home. It consists of Udon noodles as well as their famous Miso-based sauce, and cooking instructions are available in English.
It is sold at Yamamotoya restaurants but also at the different souvenir shops in town.
Miya Kishimen Kit
Another cook it yourself kit in Nagoya is for Kishimen. The flat and broad Udon noodles of the region. You will find a simple cooking kit with noodles and broth at Miya Kishimen restaurants and souvenir shops.
No cooking skills required, just follow the instructions and you will get the flavor of Nagoya in your own kitchen at home.
Where to buy Nagoya Souvenirs or Omiyage?
Generally speaking the best places in Japan to get souvenirs are at big train stations, at the airport, and at popular tourist attractions.
For Nagoya, this means you will find everything mentioned above at countless shops at Nagoya Station, all over Nagoya Airport, and dotted across the city.
There are Omiyage shops at Nagoya Castle and the Osu Shopping Streets. You can also buy some of the Nagoya Omiyage mentioned above at Atsuta Jingu, and Tokugawa Garden.
Some places in Nagoya have gift shops that sell special souvenirs. For example, you will find Lego-inspired souvenirs at Legoland Japan, bone china at Noritake garden, and tie-dyed fabrics in Arimatsu.
Final Thoughts on Omiyage in Nagoya
Show your loved ones that you thought about them while traveling Nagoya by giving them some fun and memorable souvenirs.
Tell them about your experiences in Nagoya and make them want to visit Nagoya as well.
If you are still wondering what amazing experiences you can have here in Nagoya, I highly recommend joining one of my food tours. The Nagoya Meshi Food Tour focuses on the local cuisine introducing you to Miso Nikomi Udon, Hitsumabushi, Tenmusu and Ebi Senbei. The Osu Street Food Walking Tour introduced you to local and national favorites and teaches you about the history and culture of Osu.
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In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. That’s why she started Nagoya Foodie. To teach about Nagoya, her adoptive home online through blog posts and offline through unique food tours.