Popupla editor Berit Baugher unpacks her favorite finds from a recent trip to Tokyo.
There are so many reasons to love Tokyo — the clean and efficient subway system, elegant and well-mannered locals, ramen around every corner — but for me, the small shops and local craftsman really take the cake. I'm not a huge shopper in my everyday life, but in far-flung destinations like Tokyo, I know to leave plenty of extra room in my suitcase. Here are a few things that made their way back home with me.
1. Traditional Japanese Porcelain and Pottery
What: If there is one thing I wish I bought more of, it's the iconic blue and white dishware in varying shapes, sizes, and designs on display throughout the city. From pricier porcelain pieces on the home goods floor at to less expensive, but equally beautiful, glazed pottery in the stalls at , I found myself snapping up soy sauce dishes, teacups, and rice bowls at every turn. It felt a bit excessive at the time, but I love seeing the pieces around my home and am so glad I went overboard.
2. Uka Nail Oil
What: Because I'm already mentally planning my next visit to Tokyo, I've started a list of things I missed out on during my last trip, including a manicure at , the beloved salon run by star manicurist Kiho Watanabe. In an effort to turn the boring act of moisturizing nails and cuticles into a daily ritual, Watanabe created a chic line of argan-based nail oils that come in slim glass roller ball vials. I bought the basic non-scented version, but some have scents and pull double duty as a travel-friendly perfume. I picked mine up at the outpost in Shibuya.
3. Futagami Bottle Opener
What: I've seen the handmade brass bottle openers online and at a few shops in New York City, but when I spotted the sculpture-like pieces at for a fraction of the price I decided to stock up on a few as gifts. Founded in the city of Takaoka in 1897, Futagami is a brass foundry that specializes in beautiful home goods made from corrosion-resistant brass that will develop an elegant patina over time.
4. Tone Momentum Factory Orii Tray
What: One of the few pieces I purchased in Tokyo that I wasn't able to locate online (which makes it feel extra special) is a small brass tray from . Like the bottle opener, the tray was also made in Takaoka, which is a Japanese city known for its copper, brass, and metalware craftsmanship.
5. Ito Bindery Drawing Pad
What: I bought a few of the smaller, utilitarian-style memo pads from , a gourmet rice shop in Ginza with an incredible selection of home goods and stationery on the second floor. Made in Japan by a 75-year-old book binding company, the tear-off sheet pads come in larger sizes and different paper colors, including kraft, black, and pale blue.
6. Azuma Bento Bag
What: I had been searching for one of these traditional Japanese bags for a while, but after only seeing them online it felt fitting that I spotted my first real-life one at . In light blue and white striped cotton, the small bag has been ideal for toting lunch to work, but I can think of a million different uses — like packing odds and ends in my suitcase or carrying fruit home from the farmers market.
7. Japanese Paper Goods
What: If you're into paper goods, you'll appreciate the vast stationery, sticker, and washi tape selection in Tokyo. The sticker scene at was jaw-dropping — from pandas and smiling sushi, to sumo wrestlers and cats — they had just about everything you could imagine in sticker form. is the biggest Muji in Tokyo and has a nice paper and book selection. is a chain of stores made for DIY-ers and hobbyists. The Ginza outpost has an awesome floor filled with stickers, notepads, pens, and other crafting supplies.
8. Tokyo Banana
What: Like stationery goods, the sweets selection in Tokyo is out of this world. After reading about the city's famous Tokyo Banana, I finally caved in and tried one on the Shinkansen to Kyoto. The banana-shaped, vanilla-flavored sponge cake is filled with delicious banana custard and tastes somewhat similar to a Twinkie, but so much better. On my way back to the US, I picked up a few boxes from the duty free shop in Narita Airport to give out as gifts. One thing to note is that like most Japanese snacks they're made with minimal preservatives so they are best eaten fresh (within a week of purchase). And thus wildly overpriced if you have them shipped outside Japan.
Price: $110 (pack of three)