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6 'omiyage' from Okayama that you don’t want to leave Japan without

By Lena Handy
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Something most people don’t realize is just how far away everything in Japan actually is. Yes, it’s one single country but no, you can’t just jump on a train and get to the other side within a couple of hours. But you’ve finally made it to Tokyo and you want to get a taste of the other culturally-rich parts of Japan without blowing all of your money and using up what limited time you have.

Good news: Once you’ve landed in Tokyo, not only can you enjoy all that the enormous metropolitan city has to offer, but now you can also relish the western part of Japan as well—without even leaving Tokyo.

Tottori Okayama Shimbashikan

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The charming towns of Okayama and Tottori come together to bring the spirit of momotenashi to Tokyo in this quaint omiyage (souvenir) shop. A fun play on words, momotenashi refers to the idea of omotenashi (hospitality) and the two products that these prefectures are best-known for: momo (peaches) and nashi (pears).

Walk through the glass doors and the first thing you’ll see is a number of pink and green signs. The green signs indicate products from Tottori, while the pink signs indicate products from Okayama. Today was an exploration of the pink side of the shop, also known as the “Land of Sunshine”, which meant a plethora of peach-based or peach-infused treats—and I’m not complaining.

After walking up and down the aisles, mesmerized by the whimsical souvenirs I was passing by, here are my top six picks that you’ll thank me for.

1. Kibidango

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Calling all moms and dads: this is a must-get for your family. Not only is the packaging adorable (I guarantee your kids will love it), but it also references a legendary Japanese folktale: Momotaro aka “peach boy”. What a strange name for a boy… Remember that Okayama is famous for its peaches so it only makes sense that the name of the hero of the story references these fuzzy fruits.

Momotaro, on a quest to defeat demons, receives kibidango from his mother. Similar to mochi, they are small white cakes that are sweet and chewy. On his way, he meets a dog, a bird, and a monkey, who all agree to go fight alongside him, but only if he gives them some of his kibidango. After having a bite myself, I can understand why they made such a request: a sweet, chewy, bite-sized treat that can be enjoyed anywhere.

Although Momotaro’s kibidango probably weren’t so adorably wrapped, we get to appreciate that additional perk. Perfect for passing out to the kids while sharing this story!

2. Yuzu and Peach Rice Crackers

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Although the packaging of these rice crackers isn’t on the fancy end of Japan’s omiyage packaging scale, the taste makes up for all of it (isn’t that what matters most, anyway?). Available in yuzu and peach flavors, you’ll soon discover how addicting the light sweetness and crispy biscuit-like cracker is. About the size of a 100 yen coin, they are easy to eat and difficult to put down.

Hands down, these were my favorite pick from the store, and I’m going back for more. Warning: don’t eat straight out of the bag, or you’re in trouble.

3. Floral Honey

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Alongside peaches, Okayama prefecture is well-known for their honey—specifically Yoshimura brand honey. Available in three floral flavors, this 100% pure honey is carefully prepared and packaged jar-by-jar, so rest-assured you are receiving top-quality honey. Renge (lotus flower) is collected during the spring, acacia, only in bloom for a short period of time, is collected soon after the spring, and an assortment of flowers that grow on the mountains of Bizen are collected for the hyakkamitsu (variety of flowers).

4. Okayama White Peach Juice

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Truly highlighting Okayama’s famous fruit, this white peach juice is a sweet and refreshing drink that you’ll want to pour over a tall glass full of ice cubes on one of Japan’s infamously scorching summer days. While I was anticipating a thicker and sweeter juice, possibly in need of some water dilution, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this juice was not overly-sweet, had an easy-to-drink consistency, and was bursting with a rich, concentrated peach flavor.

5. Salt and Ponzu Rice Crackers

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As a foreigner, you may not be able to read the signs and labels that surround you in every Japanese store. If you haven’t learned this word already, learn it now: osusume (recommendation). Recommended by the store-owner himself, I stepped out of my usual sweets zone and had a taste of this salty snack. Incorporating ponzu, a citrus-based sauce, you can taste the tart aroma which follows with a sharp salty kick—grab a beer and you have the perfect snack combo.

6. Oote Manju

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In addition to asking what the store-owner recommendation is, I also wanted to know what was the store’s best-selling Okayama product. When we walked over to the shelf, there was nothing—they had sold out the previous day and were waiting for the next stock up! Luckily, there was a restock within 10 minutes so I got to taste what all the hype was about.

Similar to the kibidango, this packaging was top-notch and the traditional treat was a delight: a bite-sized ball of a soft paste made from Hokkaido adzuki beans, rolled in a thin layer of a flour that has the sweet essence of amazake (a sweet sake made from fermented rice).

If you’re looking for a traditional Japanese treat to introduce to your friends, this should be your go-to pick.

Whether you’re looking for a gift to bring back for family, friends, or just for yourself, take a break from the busyness of Tokyo and step into the Okayama slow lane.

Tottori Okayama Shimbashikan

Address: 1-11-7 Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Access: A two-minute walk from Shimbashi Station, Ginza gate

Tel: 03-6280-6474

Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.


©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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