Inbound Ambassador

Made-in-Japan Sustainable Gift Guide

The beginning of December is the Christmas buying season and for those of us living in Japan, the rush is on to find the perfect gifts to get to our friends and family around the world by Christmas day- so ship by Friday the 13th and you should be golden!

Happy Holidays from Japan!

If you are in the midst of Christmas shopping and interested in quality Japanese products that support local people, their communities as well as the environment- then this list is for you!

There are a lot of other great companies out there that I am sure you’ve found in your areas of Japan and the world- I would love to hear what they are and cover them in a future video or post.

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Living a sustainable lifestyle means choosing the least wasteful and most efficient, community-supportive products and services available. Here is a list of my favorite sustainability-focused, made-in-japan items to fit all budgets that your friends and family will love.

ANYTHING Maekake Aprons
ANYTHING company has helped bring the Maekake branding tradition back from the brink to become an appealing brand to the international market. The factory is in Aichi where they use traditional techniques and looms dating back to the 1800s. The entrepreneurs running Maekake companies are making great traditional products while keeping the industry alive.

This company has great classic designs such as the lucky cat or Hokusai’s classic woodblock prints. The aprons come in different lengths and colors and it’s possible to design your own custom-made print.

The aprons are great for cooking, crafts, art, gardening, and Maekake is popular in cafes, craft breweries and other businesses the service industry. I’m a big fan of the paper packaging designed to look just like the apron as it is worn over jeans with the Obi tied just right.

Official Website * Facebook * Read More about ANYTHING Maekake * Video Feature

Handmade Soaps, Shampoo bars, Deodorants, and Fragrances

The perfect choice for winter dry skin and darker days is to pamper yourself with amazing fragrances and oils every time you bathe. The gift experience is even better if the beauty products are made locally without harsh chemicals and the wrapping is reusable and/or biodegradable.

I’m a fan of this excellent Instagram & Facebook based beauty shop called Baby Shaman Herbs is run by Ingrid Fernandez. Ingrid is a yoga instructor and surfer who lives in Kamakura and is talented at making natural soaps, shampoo bars, and fragrances too. Ingrid is also a great businesswoman and you can expect your products to arrive quickly.

Japan’s LUSH factory in Kanagawa prefecture makes all of the chain’s shampoo bars, soaps, bath bombs, and other fun and fragrant items you’ll want to pick up at one of their stores or online. The company does not use any single-use plastic packaging and offers a free face-pack to anyone who brings back 5 of their reusable plastic containers. They also promote a take on the FUROSHIKI reusable Japanese gift wrapping tradition with colorful ‘Knot Wraps’.

Beauty from Brokenness – Nozomi Project Jewelery & Ornaments

The story of the Nozomi project is such an inspirational one- founded by an American entrepreneur who brought a group of women in Tohoku together to start a business designing jewelry and ornaments from the beauty they found in the brokenness surrounding them after the Tohoku disaster. A wonderful example of innovation and sustainable business in action, the Nozomi project now also empowers women in other areas of the world such as Cambodia. They have wonderful customer service in English or Japanese, an easy to navigate online shopping site and ship out orders really fast to Japan or abroad without unnecessary single-use plastic waste.
Website * Facebook * Instagram * YouTube Channel

Upcycled Products to Love

Upcycling is a clever way to extend the life of materials that are difficult or impossible to recycle or reuse in normal ways. There are some wonderfully clever upcycled products featured here for one of my first articles and one of my favorites is the Hataraku-Tote bags made of disused road signs from across Japan. The bags are available on their Japanese website ShutokOmiyage. Once you register, you can pay by a credit card, domestic bank, or Japan bank post office transfer.

There are also some great upcycled products can be found at the Kuru-Kuru shop in Kamikatsu or shops that sell the Newsed products– I would love to see more of these products available online in future.

Fashionistas can find great upcycled goods on Etsy reusing traditional Japanese fabrics. A wonderful example is the talented Clémentine Sandner who is a French designer living and working in Japan who founded her own business Mikan in 2016. Sandner shares gorgeous pictures of her beautiful creations on Instagram and runs workshops from her studio as well as sells a beautiful selection of handmade gifts from her Etsy page. Sandner has been featured by CICLO sustainable living magazine as well as the Asahi News.

If you are shopping on a tight budget, you’ll be happy to find high-quality upcycled designs at a lower pricepoint for these cute, light gifts which are easy to mail abroad. The Irodori Life shop is run out of Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture by Miiko.

Vintage Originals

Upcycling is innovative and exciting, but there are times when there is no need to change or update a classic vintage item. There are many vintage items shipped out of Etsy shopkeepers based in Japan. Some of my favorites items are available at Styled in Japan, a shop run by Denise Fenwick who is based in Kobe.

The Ukiyoe shop in Kagoshima sells traditional Japanese iconic woodblock prints perfect for the artistic special someone on your list.

Sustainable Slippers

Another winter favorite that I’m excited about is Heiwa (Peace) Slippers. Heiwa Slippers is based in Japan but has one of the best internationally-welcoming online websites and social media platforms I’ve seen in Japan. The company is also very sustainability-focused as they offer original design #madeinjapan slippers using locally sourced natural fabrics. Popular slippers are made of mixed materials including Hiroshima denim, corn husk and straw, and Japanese wood. Additionally, some of the slippers utilize #upcycled synthetic materials repurposed from Japan-based textile factories. There are a variety of designs, shapes, and sizes while supporting people living in rural areas. The woven straw and fabric slippers KON KON ZOURI also support local residents in rural communities by creating jobs for the elderly by utilizing their traditional weaving skills to create high-quality, comfortable, sustainably made slippers.

Were there at least a few shops and products you find interesting on this list which you hadn’t known about before? I hope so! If you have any Made-In-Japan favorites that you’d like to share, please get in touch and let me know about them so I can add them to my next Must-Shop list!

Happy Holidays!