Gift for teacher moving to Japan?
December 5, 2007 5:58 AM   Subscribe

What is a good gift for someone who will be moving to Japan for four months?

My 13 year old son's favorite teacher is leaving for a semester in Japan. We'd like to give him a unique yet inexpensive gift that he will appreciate having use of while he's there.

Other details: he's in his late 20's/early 30's, teaches social studies, and is in law school. He's gone out of his way to be there for my son.

posted by pammo to Shopping (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Thick socks and comfortable walking shoes were top priorities when I lived there. Lots of walking involved.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:09 AM on December 5, 2007

My brother was in my wedding shortly before he moved to Japan, so for his groomsman's gift my husband got him a nice blank book he could use as a travel journal. He appreciated its small size since it was expensive for him to bring lots of luggage, and he wanted room for souvenirs so he wouldn't have to pay to have things shipped back home.
posted by christinetheslp at 6:35 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Does he speak Japanese? If not, how about a nice English-Japanese dictionary?
posted by gfrobe at 6:36 AM on December 5, 2007

Four months is a long enough time to merit acquiring a lot of basic-needs kind of stuff in Japan. Anything besides basic-needs is probably best left at home. He'll probably need that suitcase space to bring back all the cool Japanese stuff he can't get in his home country.

Do you think Favorite Teacher will have any time (say, weekends or school breaks) to do some traveling? If so, a guidebook could be of good use. Lonely Planet just issued the latest Japan edition a few months ago which means the information is really up to date (and might mean you could get the two year old edition that much cheaper online).

Failing the guidebook suggestion, do you think Favorite Teacher knows how much he means to your son? A heartfelt letter expressing something along those lines would mean a lot more to me than some warm socks.

on preview: seconding the travel journal and the dictionary
posted by liverbisque at 6:49 AM on December 5, 2007

The best thing about Japan is the onsens, but if he's only there for a while he might chicken out on going. This is a mistake. I would suggest this book would be a nice & useful present.
posted by dydecker at 7:14 AM on December 5, 2007

sorry, that one is for ryokans! I mean this one
posted by dydecker at 7:16 AM on December 5, 2007

Gifts to give out to people he will meet in Japan? Omiyage is a big part of the culture and souvenirs or alcohol (whiskey?) would be helpful for him to have, depending on who he will be hanging out with.
posted by hala mass at 7:22 AM on December 5, 2007

Best answer: What's What in Japanese Restaurants by Robb Satterwhite. I used this book every time I went out to eat during my first couple of months here. Many restaurants don't have plastic food in the windows or pictures on the menu and it can be really frustrating trying to read kanji when you're hungry.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:22 AM on December 5, 2007

This is a fun and useful little book that I enjoyed having while I was there. Check out some of the other ones in the series as well. If he likes history then the biography of Hirohito is excellent. These guys here sell cool stuff that can help him learn the language, like Katakana and Hiragana mouse pads, charts, etc.
posted by vito90 at 7:26 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A compass... it's the one thing I did not have in Japan which I wished I had. It's so easy to get lost in a place that does not have street names, especially in the big cities.

Oh and in my experience Lonely Planet was liar planet... I got so much more out of the Rough Guide.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:28 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If he doesn't speak Japanese, this could be useful.
posted by Shebear at 9:27 AM on December 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks hivemind! These were all great suggestions (now I wish I could go to Japan and check out the hot springs!).

I picked the two that I thought would suit him best and that he might not otherwise have considered:

I just ordered an inexpensive compass with OK reviews on Amazon, plus the Japanese food book suggested by betweenthebars. And we will definitely write a nice note as well. I'm sure he'll be touched.
posted by pammo at 9:33 AM on December 5, 2007

If you know where he's going, a map. A nice fold out travel map of the city where he'll be going. If he doesn't have one, he'll get very lost very easily.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:36 AM on December 5, 2007

Response by poster: Shebear, PointIt looks seriously useful. I doubt he knows Japanese, so at the risk of overdoing it, I think this will go on the list too. If we feel like it's too much and we decide to keep it, I know the book will come in handy next time I go to India (hopefully soon!).
posted by pammo at 9:38 AM on December 5, 2007

Western toothpaste is appreciated by many longterm visitors. Japanese brands aren't fluoridated or particularly minty.
posted by cwhitfcd at 4:03 PM on December 5, 2007

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