bento rice cooker thanko1/2
Photo: Thanko
Masukoubou sake box2/2
Photo: fb.com/masukoubou

Best Japanese products you need in your life – updated

Bento rice cooker, erasable pens, heating eye masks and more – these products from Japan will elevate your lifestyle

By Kasey Furutani
Advertising

Japan is chock-full of inimitable and wacky products ranging from the fun but completely useless novelty trinkets to the inventive and practical life solutions. Corny keychains and snow globes these are not – here are some products that make great Japanese souvenirs. 

RECOMMENDED: 100 best shops in Tokyo

Household goods

tenugui asakusa
Photo: fb.com/anbo.asakusa

Tenugui

Incredibly common throughout Japan, tenugui are thin, cotton towels normally decorated with traditional patterns or illustrations. That may not sound like much, but tenugui can be used in many different ways, such as a handkerchief or headband in summer, a tea towel in the kitchen, in place of wrapping paper or even framed as an art piece. Tenugui are widely available in Japan, so you can pick up a gorgeous one for ¥100 at Daiso or splurge at a specialty store, such as Anbo Asakusa Tenugui (the Etsy shop has international shipping).

Frixion erasable pens

From trusty pen brand Pilot, these erasable ballpoint pens and highlighters mean you’ll never have to cross-out your work again. Using a special ink that turns invisible when heated, Frixion pens look like magic the first time you erase a line. They’re available in a rainbow of colours, and even better, you can purchase ink refills so you can use the same pen forever. Since the ink disappears at high temperatures, though, you might want to stick to a traditional ballpoint when signing a document. 

From ¥160. Available at most convenience and stationery stores.

Buy FriXion Pens from Amazon.

Advertising
Photo: Pocketalk

Pocketalk translation device

The language barrier in Japan is still quite a problem for visitors and locals. What happens if there’s a Japanese-only menu, or you need to ask someone a question? The compact translator Pocketalk is like an advanced version of Google Translate. Up to 74 languages can be translated by voice, and the nifty little device can also interpret via camera, for those kanji-filled menus, and even convert currency in realtime. Pocketalk is increasingly popular in Japan as a way to ensure smooth communication without any awkwardness. 

¥19,800, available online from Pocketalk.

Buy Pocketalk Language Translator Device from Amazon.

Belay furniture protectant

Not only does Belay protect your furniture from scratches and scuffs, it’s also immensely satisfying to peel off. Belay is a clear coat that can be painted onto surfaces as a temporary shield. At any time, the paint can be peeled off to bring the furniture back to its original state. Removing the paint coat in one go, like peeling off a long layer of cling wrap, is not only convenient, it’s also surprisingly enjoyable. 

From ¥16,500, available online.

Advertising
randoseru tsuchiya
Photo: fb.com/tsuchiya.randoseru

Randoseru

It’s no secret that Japan is a fashion powerhouse. Even children’s school uniforms are considered stylish – including their heavy duty backpacks. Randoseru are pricey leather backpacks children use from elementary until high school, and have been en vogue since the 1960s. While you’re in Japan, purchase a bag for your child or splurge on one yourself – Tsuchiya Randoseru, one of Japan’s top leather stores, has a selection of high-quality randoseru.

From ¥10,000. Available at select shops and department stores.

Photo: Hibi

Hibi incense

Incense isn’t just reserved for temples and shrines. Hibi, meaning ‘everyday’ in Japanese, are matchstick-style incense sticks that burn for ten minutes. Scratch the stick against the box, place it on the applicable mat and enjoy natural scents like lemongrass, sandalwood, lavender, and more. Highly portable and compact, everything you need is within the box so you can light incense anywhere, anytime. 

Starting from ¥715, available online or at retailers in Japan.

Buy Hibi from Amazon.

Advertising
Tokyo 2020 Olympics official merchandise
Photo: Tokyo 2020

Tokyo 2020 official merchandise

The Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed to summer 2021, but they will still be called Tokyo 2020, giving plenty of extra time to stock up on commemorative merch. The online shop (which ships only in Japan) has a plethora of Olympic-related products, from retro handheld fans to traditional, and outrageously priced, tea kettles. However, we’re taken with the Tokyo 2020 themed sukajan, a satin souvenir jacket that gained popularity in post-World War II Japan. The sukajan is embroidered with decorative Japanese illustrations with the Tokyo 2020 logo on the front.

Available online and at select Tokyo 2020 stores in Japan.

Kitchen and dining

bento rice cooker thanko
Photo: Thanko

Bento rice cooker

Nothing beats the comfort of freshly cooked rice and with this bento box rice cooker, you’ll never have to reheat rice again. The size of a small lunch box, this rice cooker is designed to cook a single serving of rice as quickly as possible. It’s highly portable and can be plugged in anywhere, including at your desk. The bento rice cooker is a creation of Thanko, an electronics company known for out-there appliances like the underarm air-con, but we say any rice cooker that can double as a lunchbox is genius – now we just need a mini frying pan with a lid. 

¥6,980, available online from Thanko.

Buy Thanko Rice Cooker from Amazon.

masukoubou sake box
Photo: fb.com/masukoubou

Sake boxes

If you’ve ordered sake in a Japanese restaurant, it probably came in a masu, or wooden box. Made from hinoki cypress, the masu is not only a drinking vessel, it’s also a good luck symbol. The 60-year-old Ohashi Ryoki in Ogaki, Japan, offers English-language, international ordering for traditional masu drinking sets and even custom-designed masu, a perfect present for those who just turned the legal drinking age. The Japanese site also offers seasonal illustrations and shapes, like this Amabie masu keychain.

From ¥160. Available online (Japanese site) and at selected stores. 

Advertising
tofu mold global kitchen
Photo: fb.com/globalkitchenjp

Tofu mold

Love silky tofu but hate the wasteful plastic packaging? Making tofu at home is possible – but it requires a special mold to get the texture just right. Traditionally made from hinoki cypress, a tofu mold helps shape and flatten soybean curd and lets you adjust it to your preferred consistency. Not only will you end up with your very own tofu, you’ll also have some leftover soy milk.

From ¥3,400. Available online from Global Kitchen Japan and most Japanese kitchenware stores. 

Nitori best products
Photo: nitori-net.jp/ec/

Kitchen and home supplies from Nitori

Ubiquitous throughout Tokyo, Nitori is like a mini-Ikea without the meatballs. The affordable products here usually serve a double purpose to save space in tiny Japanese apartments. This duck-shaped rice measuring cup – the bill is a clip for your rice bag – (¥555) is both adorable and functional and we love this innovative butter case (¥925) that also serves as a slicer. Not so useful but oh-so-cute are these produce-themed pet beds (¥2,264) offered in various fruits and veggie shapes like eggplant, pumpkin, tomato and edamame. 

Locations throughout Japan or online.

Beauty and bath

Yojiya aburatorigami oil blotting paper
Photo: fb.com/yojiya1904

Yojiya aburatorigami

Oil blotting paper can be found throughout the world, but Yojiya’s aburatorigami is the vintage wine of blotting sheets. Originally used by geisha, kabuki and film actors, Yojiya’s oil blotting paper was released in 1920 and soon became popular with Kyoto locals for its gentle texture, perfect for sensitive skin. The paper is now sold in a compact-style notebook that’s discreet enough to use in public.

From ¥330. Available at Yojiya stores in Kyoto and Haneda and Narita airports.   

Onsen bath powder

Onsen bath powder

While initially shocking, first-time visitors to Japan are bewitched by the warm waters of onsen, or hot springs. You can't bring home the onsen water – however, onsen enthusiasts can turn their own humble bathroom into a hot spring with special boxes of bath salts sold in drugstores. One of the most popular brands is Tabi no Yado, which offers two types of powder, clear and milky, to recreate the warm waters of famous onsen including Kusatsu, Hakone and Beppu. 

From ¥590. Available at most drugstores.

Buy Tabino Yado Hot Springs Clear Bath Salts from Amazon.

Advertising

Kao MegRhythym heated eye mask

When a normal eye mask just won’t cut it, try putting a heated pad on your face. Kao MegRhythym is a heated eye mask that feels like a warm spa towel. Perfect for long plane rides, the mask heats up and soothes your eyes and forehead to prevent puffiness and fatigue when you wake up. The masks come in a variety of scents: lavender is supposed to ease you into sleep, while yuzu apparently energises your body and appearance. Or for something to wake you up after a quick nap at work, there’s the menthol eye mask.

From ¥980. Available at most drugstores.

Buy Kao Megurism Health Care Steam Warm Eye Mask from Amazon.

Rohto C Cube eye drops

Who would’ve thought to put menthol in eye drops? Rohto, the manufacturer of these cooling eye drops, says they’ll make your eyeballs appear brighter and whiter. The minty shock of the menthol is alarming at first, but after that, it  starts to feel refreshing. Think of these eye drops as a quick pick-me-up before a meeting or a date. They’re also popular during hay fever season in spring – the menthol helps to soothe itchy eyes. 

From ¥348. Available at most drugstores.

Buy Rohto C Cube Cool Contact Eye Drops from Amazon.

More shopping

Advertising
Recommended

    You may also like

      Advertising