Apr 1, 2016
Win friends and score brownie points with your family by giving them these souvenirs from Nara as gifts!
Bite into history (literally!) with the warabi mochi (a bracken-starch dumpling) from Senjyuan Yoshimune. These gelatinous, sweets are made from a starch mixture made from Kagoshima sweet potato starch and warabi (bracken) root, using a recipe found in historical records. Mochi made purely with warabi starch is priced more dearly as a kilogram of the root can cost up to ¥2,000 (S$25). Warabi mochi by this 79-year-old family business is not available at the duty-free stores at the airport.
Visiting Nara in the summer calls for frequent stops where you can enjoy a cool treat. A popular snack amongst tourists is Daibutsu (Great Buddha) Pudding. Made simply with eggs, milk, and sugar, these chilled wobbly treats provide welcomed relief from the heat. The shop also sells Daibutsu Pudding branded items like tote bags, mason jars, and pudding-flavour jams.
The sake from this 350-year-old brewery is not to be missed. Located in Miwa, the very first place in Japan to brew sake, the drink here is made from well water that flows from Mount Miwa. Known as gokozui (water from the gods), this water is said to be able to heal ailments. You can also sign up for a sake brewery tour and sake tasting session.
It may seem rather odd to buy a friend digestive pills as a gift but these have an interesting story behind them. Back in the olden days, before embarking on their pilgramage into the mountains, trainee Shugendo monks would stop by in the town of Dorogawa. Here, they would buy these digestive pills – known as Daranisuke-gan – in case they get any abdominal discomforts up in the mountain. Every packet holds 30 small black pills and you are supposed to take them all in one dose. These pills, reportedly, are great for indigestion, bloating, hangovers, constipation, and diarrhea. There are several shops selling them but, due to health regulations, they all share the same recipe.
Called Naraduke, these pickles are a Nara signature. Earliest mentions of the Naraduke can be found in historical records dating back 1,300 years ago. Made from a vegetable called shirouri (white melon), the pickles are marinated with sake mash for a unique flavour. Souvenir shop Kasugano was started by the owner’s parents 88 years ago as a restaurant. Today, it continues to receive large groups of tourists from China and Taiwan, who would first dine at its restaurant on the second storey before shopping for souvenirs at the ground floor. Don’t worry if pickles are not your thing: there are super cute deer cookies you can buy for friends back home too!
The great water of Miwa isn’t just perfect for brewing sake; it is also wonderful for the making of somen, thin white noodles that requires both time and technique to create. In the store, somen of varying thickness can be found, the thinner the noodle, the pricier. If you’re seeking to impress your mother-in-law, be sure to get her the store specialty: White Dragon and White Hair.
Traditionally worn by construction workers, farmers, and rickshaw pullers, these unique outdoor shoes sport a distinctive split-toe design that separates the big toe from the others. The founder of Shop Tabi-ji is a former rickshaw puller and has modernised these shoes to appeal to the younger set. You can wear these shoes like casual sneakers and even do a long-distance run in them; there are socks made for them too! Find the store at the Higashimuki Arcade Street.
Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten combines traditional Japanese crafts with modern design sensibilities. The result of such a marriage is a range of products that aren’t just aesthetically pleasing to the younger crowd, but also extremely functional. Its retail store, Yu Nakagawa Main Shop, is a vertitable wonderland for design geeks and souvenir hunters alike. From bags to household supplies, you’d be sure to find something for everyone back home.