The Japanese word for souvenir is omiyage, which rhymes with…well, momiyage. Pronounced oh-me-AH-geh, it is written as お土産, meaning “a product of the ground” – with ground referring to the place the product comes from.
Bringing omiyage back from a vacation or a business trip, to be given to family, friends and co-workers, is a long and strong Japanese tradition. Most common are local food items, often cookies or sweets made with fruit (or sometimes vegetables) from the area. Others are local crafts, local sake, or generic cookies or crackers in a box with a picture of the area’s most famous landmark.
Here in Matsumoto there are plenty of opportunities to pick up a few gifts and trinkets to bring back home. There are places around the station and all along Frog Street. But for a colorful variety of quality items your best bet may be this town’s oldest omiyage shop: Takagi Omiyage, founded in 1878.
Located on Daimyocho-dori Street, right down the road from the main entrance to Matsumoto Castle, Takagi is part gift shop, part artisan showcase, and one small part museum. The shop is easy to spot thanks to the window display of temari – the colorful threaded balls that are a symbol of Matsumoto. Step inside and you’ll fnd an even bigger temari – yours for only a few hundred bucks – along with a whole lot more.
Ceramics and woodcrafts, all of it attractive and much of it practical and useful.
Traditional treasures and toys for the kids.
And of course, local sweets and sake!
And of course, postcards. (Really cool ones too.)
And if all the browsing makes you hungry, you’re covered! There’s a soba shop right upstairs.
Even if you’re not looking for something to take home, if you happen to find yourself strolling down Daimyocho-dori a quick stop in Takagi’s shop is worth a few minutes of your time.
Where else are you going to find a $400 ball of thread?