Gift Ideas for a 13yo Japanese Girl
February 21, 2018 9:20 AM   Subscribe

My partner's niece is a 13yo Japanese girl who lives in Tokyo. We have no clue as to what a nice present would be, and we haven't been able to get any ideas from her family. She doesn't speak much English, and Google is returning a lot of weirdly gendered results (paint your own apron!). Do you have any wonderful ideas? Thank you!
posted by Carravanquelo to Shopping (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a price range? Are you coming from a different place and trying to bring something from that place, or is a Japanese-purchased gift for the Japanese girl?
posted by mosst at 9:29 AM on February 21, 2018

Go to Walgrens, and buy a great big universal tray of makeup, and a few more things, make-uppy, like various colors of smudgy eye liner, and lip liner. Box it up and send it, it is bound to be a bonanza, as I assume that stuff is expensive in Japan for a 13 year old. This is all an assumption. You might want to research colors and current trends here and there. I might be wrong about all of this.
posted by Oyéah at 9:37 AM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hmmmm I would try to give her something she can't really find in Tokyo, but that's just me thinking about what I would have loved when I was 13. Maybe something from a local store where you reside? Something unique from your city/town?
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:44 AM on February 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

It looks like you're in London from your profile? That's perfect. You can't go wrong with snacks and 13 year olds in Japan. Find the weirdest flavors of crisps and candy at your local store, box, and ship. If you want to send something nicer, go for higher end chocolate.

The cosmetics are really good in Japan, but special flavors of lip balm and hand cream would also work, especially if they have pretty packaging.
posted by Alison at 10:09 AM on February 21, 2018 [8 favorites]

Are you still in London? If so, fancy confectionery from one of the big food halls, or London-based stores. Easter candy from Fortnum & Mason is gorgeous, especially if you get it wrapped in-store beforehand. It will ping as being prestigious and a show of respect for the family connection, while also being pretty in a way that most teenage girls appreciate.

(Side note: the quality of Japanese drugstore makeup products is leeeeeeeeeegendary. Like, broke-ass Japanese grad students packing an entire suitcase with their preferred stuff because they don't like the quality of goods available at similar price points in the US or UK legendary. It may also read as cheap to the kid and/or parents, on top of going over like a lead balloon if the kid is actively anti-makeup. Far fewer teenagers are anti-sugar.)
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:37 AM on February 21, 2018 [15 favorites]

Failing that, or if you don't want to ship or carry comestibles, a Liberty notebook or wash bag might be good -- classic London, fancy enough so that her parents don't feel like their family member is cheaping out, but also an accessory so that if it's not her aesthetic, it isn't the end of the world.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:51 AM on February 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

+1 weird snacks
posted by Jacen at 11:30 AM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

+n weird snacks.
maybe a selection of old-fashioned sweets 'sweet shop' style? at a conference recently we had paper bags to fill with cola bottles, foam shrimps, toffees etc. It was a big hit and I'm thinking something that would be different?
posted by sedimentary_deer at 11:36 AM on February 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yes- any sort of food item that is related to where you live (this is a traditional gift in Japan- most places have a special food you can only get there, and it is sold to the tourists to bring back home.) English language teen magazines. School supplies that are from your area- cute pencils or pens, art supplies- anything that seems uniquely from where you live.
posted by momochan at 11:45 AM on February 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Another vote for weird snacks and/or fancy candy. Or, along the lines of what joyceanmachine said, something from Harrods, if you're still in London? Or Cath Kidston or something? Something quintessentially British.

And yeah, a very heartfelt hell no to makeup. I haven't been a teenager in some time, but I was entirely makeup averse back then and even now I only really wear it when I need to be really fancy, or to make my mum happy. I would've been so upset to get a gigantic box of makeup as a gift. You can't know, so don't try it - go for something less risky.
posted by sailoreagle at 11:46 AM on February 21, 2018 [10 favorites]

I agree that something unique or nice that you can't get in Japan would be best, so no to cheap make-up but yes to UK snacks or confections. You could make a small package of assorted UK/London snacks, and throw in a small tin of tea or maybe a pretty trinket.

PS: All those things-- confectionery, getting gifts that are special from your region (all those omiyage stores with the regional meibutsu...), tea-drinking--are more "standard" there so I think it's a safe option too. With food, she could also share with friends and family.

Whenever I poll friends and family in Japan for their gift requests, the number one request is something from Trader Joes! So, even for cheap snacks, the exotic-ness goes a long way...
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 11:48 AM on February 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

Oh - also - things from museums in London - just little things like pens or keyrings or postcards or magnets but they can only be found in London. I was certainly into that kind of thing as a 13 year old girl (still am).
posted by sedimentary_deer at 12:00 PM on February 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

When I've given gifts to Japanese people the biggest hits are always the things that are a) specific to your home country and b) surprisingly food/trinkety.

(This is also true the other way around—every time Japanese people give gifts to us we ask for... those little sticks of Japanese instant coffee.)
posted by Polycarp at 12:33 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

There are a bunch of Cath Kidstons in Japan, but I think that's a good example of the kinds of things that appeal to the Japanese market. Stuff that might feel overly touristy to you would probably actually go over pretty well. Here's what one of the major Japanese guidebooks says you should buy when traveling to England.

Fortnum and Mason has this very giftable merry-go-round biscuit tin.
posted by mshrike at 2:50 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ooh, or Alice in Wonderland something?
posted by mshrike at 2:57 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

A variety of boiled sweets from an old-school shop.
posted by brujita at 2:59 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

+1 snacks. In a tin. She will likely immediately want to share them. It's not ecologically sound, but people in Japan really like if the individual biscuits etc are individually wrapped for ease of sharing. She can give one to each friend at school without mess. That's really a bonus though.
posted by Gotanda at 3:31 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Small fancy soaps, wrapped nicely.
posted by SPrintF at 7:47 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, weird snacks are great. My Japanese friend has a son of a similar age, and he likes sweets and things he can share with his classmates. I got him a nutella with his name on it (Selfridges were doing them back in November but you can get it done on the website) a while ago which he really liked.

Items with Royal Warrants generally go down well with Japanese people, although she may be a bit young.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:03 AM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

You are all amazing, thank you so much for your ideas!!
posted by Carravanquelo at 8:25 AM on February 22, 2018

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