30th birthday present for an older brother living in Japan. Home comforts need not apply.
August 24, 2012 2:28 AM   Subscribe

In two weeks it is my sibling's 30th birthday. He lives in Japan. I live in Western Europe. What can I get him? Inspire me!

My older brother turns thirty in two weeks. He lives in Tokyo, I live in Amsterdam. We are both British. I can't think of anything suitable to get him. Inspire me, mefites.

He likes: art (ranging from Rembrandt to Dali, not Hirst), socialising (food, drink), and film (Kubrick, Kawasawa). I'm equally as happy buying an experience as an object. My budget is around €100 ($125, ¥10000), but can easily be stretched for the correct present (doubled, etc.).

Original thoughts include: meal voucher(s) for him and his girlfriend at a nice restaurant, an annual/quarterly museum or gallery pass, an iPad for better communication with me and family back home.
posted by fakelvis to Shopping (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The only things that are somewhat hard to come by in Tokyo are foreign-style deodorant and (for many varieties) decent cheese.

I Love Cheese is a new importer who has an excellent selection of cheeses. Their site isn't really together yet, but if you mail them it seems they can arrange gift baskets.
posted by 23 at 2:49 AM on August 24, 2012

Food! You can send Harrods hampers to Japan, there should be some in your budget on the list.

Shoes in Western sizes?

English language books via Amazon?
posted by plep at 3:15 AM on August 24, 2012

Something from whichever country you grew up together in. And a photo.
posted by devnull at 3:38 AM on August 24, 2012

It sounds like he is a man who enjoys his food.

The meal at restaurant for him and GF is a great gift. The Japanese love a food centered outing. They anticipate the moments leading up, thoroughly enjoy the mix of food /outing /drink, and leave plenty of appreciation post-meal. They treat food and the experience in a very Japanese sort of way (which can be quite difference than American ways, including even other Asian experiences).

Japanese sensitivities range tremendously from gift to gift - on other words, you could go terribly wrong with a choice of a non-meal gift. But, you will totally be on the "safe zone" with a restaurant kind of gift.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:02 AM on August 24, 2012

Best answer: These woodblock prints by Mefi's own Dave Bull are hand-crafted and seriously beautiful. With your budget, you'll probably want to consider single print along with another gift. Here's a video about the print that I bought as a gift: "It's Not Garbage".
posted by ourobouros at 5:20 AM on August 24, 2012

I think some people may be overlooking the title...

An iPad is considerably outside your budget, but an iPod Touch will run FaceTime and iMessage, and the 8GB version is €189 in NL or ¥16,800 in Japan.

It would be easier for you to send him an object than to buy him an experience, by the looks of it. Things like the Grutt Pass for free/discounted museum entry, the Mori Art Museum + Tokyo City View Passport for a year's free entry to the Mori Tower's viewing decks and art museum (which admittedly can lean towards the Hirstian), and the Hakone Freepass for travel to and around Hakone (where, amongst many other things, he would find the Hakone Open-Air Museum with its surprise Picasso pavilion) are just not set up for purchase as a gift from overseas. You're assumed to have access to ticket counters or at least Japanese travel agents.

I'm afraid you might be best off just looking through amazon.co.jp for interesting presents, but even that will be tricky if you don't read Japanese; here's the site directory in English, but most departments only have product information in Japanese.

Sorry - I'll come back if I think of anything more helpful!
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:35 AM on August 24, 2012

Response by poster: The problem with home comforts (hampers, cheeses) is that my parents are likely to be getting him something like this already, in addition to other items.

A restaurant gift sounds great, but how to go about buying such a thing? I can't speak any Japanese.

The woodblock prints are unique and interesting. Definitely something to consider.

ManyLeggedCreature is right on the money with the Grutt Pass. This type of thing is great.
posted by fakelvis at 6:44 AM on August 24, 2012

Best answer: Well, it doesn't look as if any of my favourite Tokyo restaurants offer gift certificates; and, searching in English, I've only found gift cards for scarily expensive places.

For instance, I thought I was onto something with this (gourmet lunch or dinner for two at a specific restaurant in Tokyo) but my heart nearly stopped when I clicked through and saw the price. €560!

However, that led me to this page, where if you click on "gift certificates" you see that you can buy a €100 gift certificate, which should be valid at these two Tokyo restaurants.

Now, €100 would only really cover one person's meal, adding wine would possibly double the cost, they look like intimidatingly classy restaurants, and I have no idea how a certificate in euros would work in Japan... but the option is there, if you think it's something your brother and his girlfriend would enjoy.

Along similar lines, you can buy a gift certificate for use at the Four Seasons hotel in Tokyo, which is valid in the restaurants; you'd have to ring them up to order it, but presumably they have English-speaking staff. The minimum value is ¥5000. I can't find out from the website how expensive the restaurants are though, and I note that two of the three require "smart casual" attire.

And Nobu Tokyo apparently offers a ¥10,000 gift card (scroll down or search for 'gift card'), which you might be able to buy over the phone; again, that's really only enough to cover one person for dinner, but the lunch menu is a good bit cheaper.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:03 AM on August 24, 2012

Since you live in Amsterdam, Stroopwaffels are difficult to get, exotic and sought-after in Japan. I brought some into the office I was working at in Tokyo and everyone went mad for them.

The thing I missed most when I lived there was Heinz Baked Beans. They're hard to come by in Japan. Another one is Ambrosia Creamed Rice. If he likes brown bread and can bake, some bread mix is good. Crisps are a bit hard to find there too.

Another commenter said deodorant. This is a good one, along with painkillers. Japan has lousy painkillers. You might get in trouble for sending some of these though, especially codeine-based, so watch out.
posted by nevan at 9:22 AM on August 24, 2012

Response by poster: Revisiting to mark best answers, based on what I ordered: a restaurant gift card, thanks to 'ManyLeggedCreature' and a couple of woodblock prints, thanks to 'ourobouros'.

I'll be sending him some cheese for Christmas, so thanks also to '23'.
posted by fakelvis at 12:44 AM on September 3, 2012

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