My, how the souvenirs for kids sold in Tokyo have changed since my mother returned from Japan when I was a kid in the early ’70s, bringing back suitcases bursting with gifts.
Then, my Mum brought me a beautiful white-faced geisha in a fragile glass case with black lacquer trim, dressed in an exquisite kimono covered with cherry blossoms. She gave me a matching silk kimono of my own and kanzashi (hair ornaments), and dressed me up for photos (unknowingly starting an obsession with fancy dress and costume parties, I have now fortunately grown out of).
There were kupie dolls, countless fans, lots of lovely stationery, and I had a collection of 3D postcards of Japanese women in kimonos standing with parasols on pretty bridges and in front of temples that she had posted to me.
The 3D postcards are still popular but now they feature manga characters instead and the Japanese women have been replaced by teddy bears in similar settings, bizarrely dressed in kimonos, as above.
Souvenirs for kids are much more colourful and kitsch these days: robots, plastic figurines, and fluffy toys, kokeshi dolls with bobbing heads, toe-socks featuring samurai warriors, sumo wrestlers, and the ubiquitous lucky cats or maneki neko, which feature on all manner of mementoes, from key rings to charms, fridge magnets to mobile phone accessories.
Naturally, I couldn’t resist buying some for my niece and nephews, but I was kind of hoping I might find an elegant geisha in a glass case somewhere… not that I’m going to cart a geisha half away round the world, but I would have liked to have taken a photo for my Mum. Now, I wonder which storage unit that kimono is in…