Souvenirs as Mirror of Japanese Culture
Period Tuesday, July 10 –Monday, September 17, 2018
Venue Special Exhibition Galleries A&B, National Museum of Japanese History

Adults: ¥830 (¥560)
Senior high school & college students: ¥450 (¥250)
* Fees in parentheses apply to groups of 20 or more
* Admission to permanent exhibitions included
* Free admission for elementary & junior high school students
* Free admission for senior high school students every Saturday

Hours 9:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (entrance closed at 4:30 p.m.)
* Open hours and days are subject to change.
Closed Mondays (When Monday is a national holiday, the Museum is closed the following Tuesday.)
* The Museum is NOT closed on Monday, August 13.


Souvenirs from the Edo Period to today collected under one roof!
Learn about the customs of giving souvenirs and the aspects of travel and sightseeing through artifacts from the Museum’s collection and elsewhere.

This exhibit introduces Japan's culture of gift exchange known as omiyage, which has developed since the Early Modern Period through the Contemporary Period. Omiyage and the travels and tourism that form the background of the culture are showcased by way of artifacts, mainly from the collection of the National Museum of Japanese History.

In today's Japan, it is the norm for everyone to travel at least once a year, so the exchanging of omiyage has become part and parcel of people's everyday interactions. This exhibition focuses on the places where omiyage is created and the nature of those places, the relationship between omiyage and the people who have travel experiences, and what becomes of omiyage after the journey's end.

Furthermore, through omiyage collections, we reexamine the links that the Japanese make between people, things and stories. The question of why people collect omiyage is addressed, and insights into the characteristics of Japanese culture are revealed by the omiyage collections. This exhibition displays about 1,300 artifacts and traces the various changes omiyage has undergone and their background.

Ukouku for round music (created by Toru Kaizawa)
(Collection of the National Museum of Japanese History)

Water Jug with Painting of Tower and Landscape, Bizen (Arita)
(Collection of the National Museum of Japanese History)

Ornament called Wajirushi
(Collection of the National Museum of Japanese History)

Decorative Pot of Yakushima Cedar
(created by Yakusugi Gakunan Hideyo Hidaka)
(Collection of the National Museum of Japanese History)

What are omiyage or souvenirs?

Omiyage refers to things brought from one place to another place, where they are gifted voluntarily to persons, including oneself, as well as such acts.

In this exhibit, we define omiyage as “the custom of buying notable local items at a travel destination and giving them to friends, relatives and other acquaintances.” Through the exhibited artifacts, we examine omiyage as a way to share the emotions and memories from a destination with the person to whom the omiyage is gifted, as well as how the types and uses of Japanese omiyage are unique distinct from Western souvenirs.


Chapter 1. Early Modern Omiyage

The Edo Period is interpreted as “the Early Modern Period”of Japanese history occasionally. Many of the features of travel and tourism culture developed since the Meiji Restoration were first formed in the Edo Period. In this chapter, we shall look at a number of the lineages have been associated with modern omiyage.

Section 1. “Alternate Attendance” and travels for ordinary people
Section 2. Circumstances of omiyage in Edo
Section 3. The development of famous local products and famous places: land mark guides and travel diaries
Section 4. Perspectives at scenic landscapes: Focusing on the “Eight Views”

Famous Places in the Eastern Capital: Asakusa Kanzeon
Utagawa Hiroshige, Izumiya Ichibe Edition
(Collection of the National Museum of Japanese History)

Chapter 2. Branding Tourist Sites and the Spread of Omiyage

In this chapter, we look at the changes since the Meiji Restoration in the institutions relating to the purpose of travel, and the focus of people’s views in this regard. In the Meiji Period, new famous sites were selected and created. This was an opportunity for new travel purposes, and new omiyage. After World War II, with changes to the laws and registration as World Heritage sites, famous sites and tourists areas were given ranks. Recent years have seen Geoparks and Globally Important Agricultural Heritage, new “world” class rankings. This chapter looks at omiyage to examine how tourist sites have become branded.

Section 1. The birth of modern “cultural assets” and invention of imperial sacred places
Section 2. The birth and development of national parks
Section 3. Cultural assets and omiyage
Section 4. World Heritage rhapsody
Section 5. Aspects of new branding

Scenic Comic Passport: Climbing Mt. Fuji (Nara)
(Private collection)

Akafuku Rice Cakes
(Collection of Akafuku Co. Ltd.)

Postcards of Famous Castles in Japan
(Collection of Natural History Museum and Institute, Chiba)

Chapter 3. Aspects of Contemporary Omiyage

In this chapter, we look at the various aspects of omiyage that are connected with different travel purposes and experiences. In addition to omiyage targeting natural scenes and landscapes, we look at omiyage with motifs of famous buildings, or that utilize local tangible or intangible cultural assets, and even the ones based on local mascot characters that are popular recently.

Section 1. Omiyage based on nature
Section 2. Omiyage based on buildings or places
Section 3. Omiyage based on tangible cultural assets
Section 4. Omiyage from intangible cultural assets
Section 5. People, characters, stories, and bodies

Bear Eating Salmon (Ainu Folk Craft)
(Private collection)

Red Cow Toy (Akabeko)
(Collection of the National Museum of Japanese History)



Chapter 4. Diversification of Travel Culture and Omiyage

After World War II, through the postwar economic high growth period and today, travel and tourism have changed in a number of ways, including their styles and destinations, methods, and even budgets. In this chapter, we look at the diversifying purposes for travel and omiyage associated with these. From the old standards of food and accessories, omiyage have diversified to include distinguished omiyage as well as those that can only be obtained overseas.

Section 1. Diversification of travel purposes and the creation of omiyage
Section 2. “Individualizing” omiyage: For “only one” travel memories
Section 3. Globalizing tourism: omiyage brought from Japan and brought to Japan
Section 4. Aspects of omiyage standardization

Boil-in-the-bag curries using local products (L-R: Swordfish Curry, Horse & Ginger Curry, Tsugaru Peach Pink Curry)
(Collection of the National Museum of Japanese History)

Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
(Private collection)

Democratic Republic of the Congo
(Private collection)


Chapter 5. From Omiyage to Collections: The links between people and things in where the consumption of omiyage is headed

In the final chapter, we look at where omiyage are headed, reexamining the relationships between people and things through omiyage to ask where omiyage are going, and what sort of ideas will be attached to them. How are the omiyage taken into peoples’ homes and workplaces played the roles, how are they treated? What do omiyage, which are consumed, used, stored, or forgotten, tell us? Through the exhibited artifacts, we shall create a chance to consider the meaning of omiyage.

This chapter will also consider the relationship between various items, including omiyage, and the people who collect them. Through a number of omiyage genres, we will look at what sort of person becomes a collector, and what they base their collections around.

Section 1. Consumed omiyage: records of omiyage at one workplace
Section 2. Stored omiyage
Section 3. From omiyage to collections

“Scraps That Accumulated in My Purse” Scrapbook
(Collection of the National Museum of Japanese History)