8 Uniquely Japanese Things You Should Buy in Japan
These things might look strange to you, but they are very uniquely Japanese. Try them out - you might find they're more useful than what you are used to!
May 26 2015 (Sep 09 2020)
You might see these items when you visit Japan at a supermarket or souvenir shop and wonder what they are. They are common items and used by many Japanese people although they might look quite foreign, and even strange, to visitors from overseas.
A mimikaki, which means to scratch ears, is a thin stick with a small spoon like tip and is used to clean inside the ears. In western countries, cotton swabs (Q-tips) are often used but cotton swabs have the danger of pushing the earwax farther in the ear canal. Of course, a mimikaki can be quite dangerous as well and therefore children are usually not allowed to use it on their own and their mothers clean their ears for them. A mimikaki is usually made of bamboo, wood or metal. Although it might not look exactly like the one sold in Japan, similar tools are used in various Asian countries.
An aodakefumi means to step on green bamboo and it is used as a tool to massage the soles of the feet. It is made by cutting a piece of 40-50cm bamboo in half. However, nowadays, it is difficult to get hold of bamboo and they therefore often are made of plastic. By putting pressure on the arch of the feet by stepping on an aodakefumi, it is believed that the blood circulation of the feet get better and therefore improve the blood circulation of the entire legs. Recently, it has been said that one can lose weight by using an aodakefumi but I am not sure of its effectiveness.
A katatatakibou is used to massage stiff shoulders. There are various designs and some are cute like the one shown in the picture and you might not even realise that it is actually a massage tool rather than some kind of ornament. You might also find ones which look like a mace with thorns and you might wonder why they are selling a torturing device but it is actually a katatatakibo. One thing that can be said is that there are awfully lot of people in Japan with stiff shoulders because you will find various tools for massaging them.
4. ShichirinDryPot/Wikimedia Commons
Shichirin is a small portable device you can use to cook food using coal. You can enjoy personal BBQ inside the house given that you make sure that you have good ventilation.
5. Shichimi Container (chili powder container)mxmstryo/Flickr
This is a container for shichimi, which is chili powder. A shichimi container in the shape of a gourd is quite a traditional one and you probably will be able to find some in souvenir shops in Kyoto and many other places. You can also use it for other herbs.
6. TawashiQurren/Wikimedia Commons
A tawashi is made of palm fibers and is strong and durable. The shape fits in your hand perfectly, so it is easy to clean things such as pots and pans. Considering how much plastics are used to produce kitchen brushes, a tawashi might be a solution to become more environmentally friendly.
Kappougi is a Japanese apron. It has long sleeves and covers a lot more than a western apron since it is made for a person wearing kimono. However, this is very useful, even if you are not wearing kimono, because it will protect your clothes as well as your skin when cooking. Also, if you have small children who tend to touch you with dirty hands, this will prevent you from having to change clothes constantly before going out.
An oroshigane is a grater, usually used to grate garlic and ginger. I personally like using a Japanese grater for ginger and garlic and a western one for lemons and cheese etc. It is not expensive, so you can always buy and try it yourself.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.