Tired of giving boring souvenirs from Japan for your friends and family back at home? Is matcha *gasp* overrated? Don't want to bring home keychains back as presents anymore? Fret not dear travelers because Japan, being the innovative and creative country that it is, has a souvenir that is both cheap and interesting! I present to you: Japanese souvenir coins!
So what are Japanese souvenir coins and why are they worth your hard-earned money?
First, they’re very affordable, with the cheapest machines only being 200 ¥ or around 2 USD. However, if you prefer to be a little fancier, there are better quality coins that sell for around 500¥ or more. These coins are very thick and of higher quality compared to the cheaper ones. The difference in quality is very obvious, as the cheaper one is made from thinner metal and the print is imperfect while the pricier one is upgraded in quality and boasts of a variety of designs to choose from. The coin from Tsutenkaku in Osaka even prints out text and the date! Pretty cool! There are even machines that can personalize the coin with your name, and the date on which you created it.
I say convenient because these are located in major landmarks like the Tsutenkaku in Osaka where I got mine personalized. It’s very handy especially when your itinerary is very tight and you don’t have the time to go visit gift shops. I would say the only inconvenient part would probably be if you decide to personalize a lot of coins because each machine taking about 30 seconds to print on the coin. Additionally, you need to input the details manually for each coin.
A typical machine for creating a coin medal or souvenir.
Photo: ながいの on Flickr
Sure, Japan has a lot of weird and crazy souvenirs, but imagine being able to commemorate every landmark with a souvenir coin, not just with some photos? I’m sure once you’ve collected a lot of coins it would look fantastic if hung on a frame, with all the dates printed directly onto the coins themselves. Since they’re metal, they’re also very durable and you’d have no trouble stashing them in your luggage. Not only that, but the actual experience of getting one of these is interesting in itself. These are unique souvenirs you won't get anywhere else but at a particular sight-seeing destination, which I think makes it extra special compared to the usual generic keychains or magnets, don't you think? When you decide to give them as a gift, it shows you were thinking of that person while you were touring that location, which portrays you as pretty thoughtful.
DOESN’T TAKE MUCH LUGGAGE SPACE
Seriously, if you have an extra coin purse, it’s as easy as stashing them in it, and you don’t even have to worry about smashing it, as some souvenirs are prone to breaking. If you have only brought your carry-on with you and no check-in luggage, then you won’t have a problem, as the coin souvenirs are small, durable, and take up waaaay less space and are way less risky than bringing home bottles of sake.
SO HOW DO WE USE THEM?
The machines are pretty straightforward, just insert the amount and select the design you want, often displayed on the front screen so you know what you're getting. Other more complicated machines (i.e. the ones that require printing out text and dates, etc) have English instructions making them user friendly for foreign tourists.
Personally, the major attraction in getting these coins (aside from how they're unique to the location) is that they're just so darn fun! It's really cool getting it stamped before your very eyes, and sometimes you can even put a name and the date on it!
A more advanced machine for creating coin souvenirs.
So where can you find these machines? Well, frankly they're everywhere. There's probably one in every major tourist destination Tokyo Skytree, Osaka Tsutenkaku etc. and even some train stations, so keep your eyes peeled! Be careful though, it's so fun you can easily amass quite a collection for your souvenirs (for your friends or for yourself).
Coin collector or not, getting coin souvenirs is a unique and tangible way to commemorate your travels throughout Japan without major spending, so why not find a machine, personalize as many as you can and create a collection of your own? It's sentimental, easy, cheap and fun!