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Girljin in Japan By Rachel Tranter Davies
A Gift to Remember from Kyoto


It's undeniable that Kyoto is the old soul of Japan, the ancient capital, the beating heart of crafts and culture and the perfect place to purchase a present or two to take back to friends and family.

Gift-giving in Japan is big business. The culture of gifting is one of the most prevalent in the world, stemming back for centuries, where gifts are given for almost any occasion, from graduating to weddings and even to finalise a business deal, and Kyoto is the ideal place to pick up something that is sure to impress.

There are many retail standouts on the traveller's trail in Kyoto. Dotted amongst the famous temples and shrines sit even more acclaimed pottery and lacquerware producers, world renowned tea farms, centuries old incense producers and a whole host of artisanal craftsman that offer up souvenirs to be treasured. Here are my top choices to appease even the fussiest family member.



Ippodo
Uji, just south of Kyoto city, is considered the best place in Japan for green tea production. Tea fields for as far as the eye can see are meticulously tended to grow beautiful quality tea. Japan is home to a number of types of green tea and there's no better place than Ippodo to taste them and learn about their origins from the knowledgeable staff. They offer beautiful gift sets, from an assortment of everyday drinking teas to luxury specialoccasion expressions. Ippodo: www.ippodo-tea.co.jp



Kaikado
You've bought the tea leaves, now you need somewhere to keep them. Kaikado, established in 1875, is the master of the copper tea caddy (a common means of tea storage in Japan). Founder Kiyosuke's aim was to provide a well-designed, functional tea caddy capable of storing tea leaves sold by dealers. Showing sympathy for local traditions, Kaikado designed a product that would leave a lasting impression on the discerning Kyoto locals and future travellers. The caddies come in a variety of sizes and each one is hand-finished to an exceptional standard. Kaikado: www.kaikado.jp



Sou Sou
For something a little more playful, Sou Sou is a local Kyoto brand doing wonderfully fun things in design. From socks to shirts to tabi shoes (big toe is separated from other toes), all distinctly Japanese in style but with bold and colourful designs that bring the pieces firmly into the modern world. Sou Sou: www.sousou.co.jp



Wakabaya
If a taste of traditional Japan is more in order, Wakabaya offers a selection of beautifully curated porcelain and pottery products for everyday life, many of which are sourced from kilns in the Kyoto vicinity and all of which are from boutique craftsman. The store is beautiful and the selection of goods is understated and chic, the epitome of Japanese wabi-sabi style. Wakabaya: wakabayakyoto.com



Malebranche
Finally, if you just need to pick up a little something small, Kyoto's leading confectioners, Malebranche, have stores all over the city offering a huge selection of beautifully made and presented sweet treats. Their Cha no Ka (green tea and white chocolate wafer biscuits) are like little slices of heaven and their chocolates the setting for cartoon style designs of celebrated Kyoto landmarks. Malebranche: www.malebranche.co.jp



Rachel is a food, drink and travel writer. Originally from England, she recently relocated to Japan and is now finding her feet in Kyoto. You can find her blogging tweeting and instagramming her experiences at Girljin in Japan.