Cost Free Mementos

A very traditional street light

When I was younger and literally traveling on a shoestring budget, traditional souvenirs were too expensive so I came up with some no cost options.

One of my first collections was pictures of streetlights. It seems like every city has its own streetlight style and some of them are really unique and fun.

An attachment to the streetlights in Kyoto. Each light had a different character.

On this trip, I also collected pictures of manholes. The Japanese artistic district manholes were truly stunning.

One of the simpler manholes we saw
More street level art

Another friend collects pictures of doors and doorways. As you might imagine, she has found some beautiful examples.

If you want mementos that can be placed in a scrapbook, train and museum ticket stubs are great.

In Japan, most chopsticks come with beautifully decorated paper chopstick covers that would make great add ins to a scrapbook page.

The only limit to cost free souvenirs is your own imagination. What will you collect?

Slick Souvenirs

One of the more challenging aspects of travel is finding appropriate souvenirs for all the friends, family, pets, friends of family, and others back home. On my most recent trip to Japan, I spent over $100 just on postcards alone. Granted, Japanese postcards are some of the most beautiful cards on the planet, but some of my friends wanted more. What’s a budget constrained traveler to do?

One option is to buy a pack of something and break it up into smaller gifts. In this case, I found sets of Japanese magnets, and separated them into little packages wrapped in origami paper containing one magnet each. After all, everyone’s fridge is covered in magnets. Your friend probably doesn’t need 10 more, but one is a nice memento.

This divide and conquer tactic works with lots of things–decorative chopsticks often come in sets of 10, local candies often come in sets of bars, and so on. One souvenir we didn’t get but wished we had was Japanese Kit Kat bars. They come in flavors unique to Japan: green tea, wasabi, chocolate banana, grape, sweet corn and more. If you’re still in Japan, Don Quijote, a super discount store probably has the most impressive selection of Japanese Kit Kats as well as lots of other fun souvenir ideas. (Printed dish towels are another favorite item for some of my more culinary friends. )If you’re back in the states and leaving a Japanese Kit Kat, try Amazon, Ebay, or one of the many Japanese candy subscription boxes available.

If you’re traveling somewhere where cute postcards are few and far between, try Touchnote, an app that allows you to turn your smartphone pics into postcards, greeting cards, and other cool stuff.

I used this cute picture below for several postcards. The app let me write a message, choosing a font for my message. I then addressed the postcards and Touchnote let me know when the had been mailed.

The app is most affordable if you buy a bunch of credits so you can send 20 or more postcards. Each can be a different picture and message or you can mass produce them if you have a bad case of jet lag. Another option is to get their professional membership which gives you one credit per month and lets you even customise the stamp.

So what is your favorite souvenir to give or receive? Have you ever received a totally off the wall souvenir. Or had a strange reaction to a souvenir?

For example. Our daughter taught English in China. She brought me back the Mao Zedong picture that most residents there hung on their rear view mirror. So I hung it on mine. Several weeks later, a lady races after me in a parking lot, pounding on my car hood for me to stop. “How dare you display that in your car. He’s a communist.” True. And a dead communist at that. But I had it in my car because it was a gift from my daughter, and every time I looked at it, I thought of her bravely conquering challenges in a land so foreign that our demons were their heroes.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends” – Maya Angelou gav

Buy Anything Imaginable in Tokyo’s Market

All my friends have been wondering “where are the market pictures?” Well here they are. This is the retail market ( as opposed to the wholesale fish market that is more famous and is moving soon.) I’ll add an occasional caption, but the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy a quick walk through the market. This is a small fraction of the sites. It is huge!

The ceiling is colorful

These capsule stations were everywhere for kids. The content varied.

Miniature Japanese Works of Art

Japanese postcards are often reproductions of exquisite pieces of art so they make lovely souvenirs and gifts. Here are a few of the ones I’ll be sending out. I originally planned to send them from Japan but it looks like I’ll be too busy to address and annotate them before I get home.