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Food gift ideas for host


heidih
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My son's friend (16 year old) will be in Japan (probably Tokyo area) for 6 weeks starting in June. The program directors strongly suggested the students bring their host families a gift. He is coming from Southern California. The suggestions given them were"local handicrafts" (not exactly a Los Angeles thing), and chocolate like See's candy. I told him I knew some people who might be able to help (EG!). Thanks!

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My son's friend (16 year old) will be in Japan (probably Tokyo area) for 6 weeks starting in June. The program directors strongly suggested the students bring their host families a gift. He is coming from Southern California. The suggestions given them were"local handicrafts" (not exactly a Los Angeles thing), and chocolate like See's candy. I told him I knew some people who might be able to help (EG!). Thanks!

I would not recommend See's candy myself. I think See's is too sweet and the bonbons too big for most Japanese.

Knickknacks like pins and keychains would probably be welcome. On the food front, flavored teas pack well and would be universally appreciated. Or packages of (unusual) dried fruit or nuts. Also, whatever candies are local to the state and not widely distributed, particularly jellies and jelly-type confections.

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Jams or marmalades, maple syrup, salsa, local preserves (for example I'd bring some PA Dutch home canned treats from my home area) or anything unusual like that is probably unavailable there and a really welcome gift.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Is there any other information about where he'll be staying? Not just area (rural vs urban, large city vs small city), but what kind of host family (rotary club types, average Japanese family, etc.)?

In my experience, it's difficult to know what type of gift to give unless you know the above. I very rarely give my neighbours (urban Rotary Club types) food gifts, for example, as they get so many of them from others that most are re-gifted. For them, I tend to buy wines that might be difficult to buy in Japan (since I'm Canadian, I often buy ice wine and I pack it in my check-in using special wine carriers I got from BevMo), or niche-brand candies (last year it was chocolates from LA Burdick's).

When I lived in a more rural area, I gave a lot of coffee (ground, not beans, as many don't have coffee grinders, and they prefer dark roasts, in general) and locally-made jams.

Whatever he gives, the more attractively wrapped the better.

Just to add, whatever he gives, the family will be very appreciative, and it will be heartfelt. So really he could give anything and it would be well-received.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Thank you all for your input. He really wants to do the right thing, so this will reassure him.

Rona- he won't know where he is going until last minute. This is through his high school. The note about "nice packaging" makes a good point he would never have thought of.

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I'd have an easier time suggesting things from the Bay Area, since I haven't been to LA since childhood, but I think there are plenty of locally-made treats in the L.A. area; perhaps some local chocolatier (less clever in mid-summer though) would work.

I sometimes cook for friends or parts of Hiromi's family, and I've done the same when visiting people in Germany, even when my cooking skills were fairly basic... don't know if he has the skills to pull together a taco, but if he can throw together a salsa (or buy a good jarred one) and grill some meat or marinate a ceviche, and bring some corn tortillas along, that could be fun. Avocados are easy enough to get in Tokyo.

From Seattle, I bring locally produced dried fruits, chocolates, nuts, and so on. I've been advised over time not to bring jams in jars bigger than about a half-cup, though; most people don't consume jams that often, even if they do toast for breakfast. It's not so cool to have something big languish in the refrigerator because the quantity was too big.

Coffee's good, though most people don't have grinders at home, so I don't bring it unless I know for sure. I've sometimes brought some sampler packs in small sizes, pre-ground, from "local" coffee companies big enough to vacuum-seal their stuff.

It's the wrong part of California, perhaps, but maybe something like a jarred artichoke spread or olives would be good.

Local crackers or cookies would be good too.

Also, even if the product packaging isn't spectacular, you can always put something in a nice box with a ribbon as a gift, so if there's something you love that doesn't look that nice on its own, you have some options.

Finally, don't bring too much (though I break that rule constantly). It's a bit overwhelming to leave five or six different completely unfamiliar products... something small and interesting is good.

My little brother came with me to Japan from Idaho on my last trip to Japan, and he brought some local-to-Idaho huckleberry candies, and some face moisturizing cream and soap made with potatoes.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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Another thing to consider is non-food kitchen items - things like dish-towels or aprons (as aprons are a kind of uniform required for all kinds of school and community activities).

People here are as interested in the different color sense and designs of foreign items as people overseas are interested in Japanese design.

Instant seasonings that your son can use to help prepare a meal here would also be popular (but stick to REALLY basic things like sauces for pasta or sachets for chicken/pork dishes etc.

If you bring food items such as confectionery, if possible try to get something with individually wrapped items or packets - easier to share around, which is half the pleasure here.

In June the weather will be getting humid and rainy, so candy which gets sticky easily or loose-packaged cookies may not be such a good choice.

...can you tell that recently I've been going over gift selections with my local friends recently, for Japanese kids heading overseas on similar school trips?

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Also worth mentioning, and this is particularly relevant to food gifts, in some instances that gift may end up on the family altar. This allows departed family members to have their share too.

There is no way of knowing in advance if the host family will present your son's friend's gift to their shrine, but seeing a thoughtfully wrapped package sitting by the photographs of the hosts' grandparents won't be embarrassing in the way that having a gift swathed in a crumpled plastic bag occupy this honoured position would be.

Edited by MoGa (log)
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a friend of mine took beef jerkey to Japan when she went to see her family and the teens went wild over it! if you have good local jerky do not over look it as a gift!

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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a friend of mine took beef jerkey to Japan when she went to see her family and the teens went wild over it! if you have good local jerky do not over look it as a gift!

Beef jerky (and other beef products) from the US and Canada are prohibited in Japan, except by specially authorized and inspected companies.

From Japan Customs

Bringing animals and meat products into Japan requires an inspection certificate. . . No animals or meat products can be brought into Japan without this inspection certificate, even if they have been bought at the Tax-free shops of the airport.

And from The Animal Quarantine Office

However, it is impossible to import from Canada and U.S.A beef products (e.g. beef jerky, ham, sausage) into Japan.

Which brings another point to mind--check what is and isn't allowed. I know beef and pork products are generally a big fat no, as well as fruits and vegetables, but there may be other products I've forgotten about.

If your son's friend takes decongestants, psuedoephidrine (sp?) is a big big no.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Having lived in Japan it seems the following gifts were most appreciated:

Fancy chocolates beautifully boxed and wrapped.

Golf balls and tees.

Grouund coffees-flavored and regular. They are big on Italian and and french roasts.

Jewelry-preferably gold (platinun but its expensive). A pretty bracelet or necklace for the women and cufflinkls or tie clips for the men. Inexpensive vermeil with semiprecious stones is good too.

Guest towels that are fancy. Towels of any kind are expensive there. Pick up some deals at local discount stores.

An expensive bottle of wine or chamapagne.

As long as the present is beautiully wrapped it will be graciously accepted.

What disease did cured ham actually have?

Megan sandwich: White bread, Miracle Whip and Italian submarine dressing. {Megan is 4 y.o.}

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Having lived in Japan it seems the following gifts were most appreciated:

Fancy chocolates beautifully boxed and wrapped.

Golf balls and tees.

Grouund coffees-flavored and regular.  They are big on  Italian and and french roasts.

Jewelry-preferably gold (platinun but its expensive).  A pretty bracelet or necklace for the women and cufflinkls or tie clips for the men. Inexpensive vermeil with semiprecious stones is good too.

Guest towels  that are fancy.  Towels of any kind are expensive there.  Pick up some deals at local discount stores.

An expensive bottle of wine or chamapagne.

As long as the present is beautiully wrapped it will be graciously accepted.

10-15 years ago, golf balls and tees would have been appropriate, but I find more recently, far fewer people are playing golf. If the guy is staying with a Rotary Club-type family, they're still great, but for your average Japanese family, they may never get to use them (but they're highly re-giftable, so they won't go unappreciated).

I'd never give jewelry to any Japanese person I didn't know (nor most Japanese I know--it's a very personal gift).

I've found that Japanese people don't like towels designed for the Western market. They complain they're too thick. Most Japanese still hang their laundry out to dry, and especially during rainy season, the thicker the towel, the longer it takes to dry (and the greater the chance for becoming smelly).

If towels are purchased, make sure they're pretty. If they're plain, they should have some embroidered insignia on them, or lace. Don't buy anything larger than hand-towels, as bath sheets or bath towels may not be used (see above paragraph).

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Salmon jerky is popular and may be easier to bring in to Japan (also light to carry!).

Flavored green tea teabags - these are *sometimes* popular. My friends liked green tea chai, but not the US version, because Japanese people generally don't care for cassia cinnamon if the flavor is strong. However they may be interested in other flavors.

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I would hesitate to bring wine because of the airline prohibitions on liquids in checked baggage, plus the weight and fragility in checked luggage. I would also not bring meats or fresh fruits and vegetables. A young student will not be able to buy alcohol in the airport duty free.

What about chocolate chip cookies, preserves, or beautiful linen tea towels? Kids may enjoy typical American snacks and candies. T-shirts should be small or medium.

I remember my Japanese host family was seriously into luxury brands, so the label was important.

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Thank you for all your suggestions. I ended up calling an old neighbor who is from Japan and travels back every year. The boy found out he is going to Sapporo and that the family has one child (16 year old boy). My friend suggested a t-shirt for the boy (with an internationally known surf logo) and mentioned that the weather would probably be nicer in Sapporo so the humidity would not be such a factor. She agreed that See's candy was too chocolatey and sweet, and suggested coffee flavored candies- individually wrapped. We have some tasty ones in our local markets, so that may be the plan. Also won;t take up much space in the luggage.

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