Now that the holiday season is over, and everyone is back to work or school, one of the things you will notice is people bringing gifts to the office or classroom to share with everyone.
These gifts are called Omiyage お土産 and can loosely be translated as a gift of souvenir. It is customary for Japanese, when travelling, to bring something back from the place they visited, whether it`s their hometown or somewhere they went to on holiday. In the Japanese collective mindset, it`s a way of sharing the journey with everyone and showing your good intentions that you care enough about them to bring them something back.
When you travel about Japan, or even in your area, you will find lots of souvenir shops (miyage mono ya土産物屋) in the stations, or the vicinity. These omiyage come in boxes that represent a specialty (meibutsu 名物) of the area or region.
For example, Shizuoka prefecture is famous for it`s strawberries, oranges and tea so you will find lots of omiyage that have these ingredients. Osaka is famous for it takoyaki たこ焼き, small dumplings filled with octopus, grilled on special skillets. However, since they are perishable, you can buy takoyaki sembei (rice crackers) instead. In Hokkaido, you can buy the famous white chocolate called Shiroi Koibito 白い恋人. All these products come specially packed that customers can buy and bring back to the office. They are all individually wrapped, making it easy to share with co-workers.
If you`re travelling overseas, then bring back something from that country like chocolates, candy or other edibles that can last the journey home and easily shared out. This avoids the embarrassing situation of there not being enough for everyone.
An omiyage can also be a gift you bring to someone`s house when visiting.
This is called a Temiyage 手土産, literally a gift you carry with your hands 手 =te.
You might also hear the term miyage banashi 土産話. While omiyage is an actual physical souvenir of your trip, the miyage banashi is a verbal report/story of what you did on your travels.
When you get back to the office with your omiyage, you can just say to everyone present “Minasan de, dozo 皆さんでどうぞ！” This means “This is for everyone or please share with everybody”. You can also say, especially with food, “Minasan de meshiagatte kudasai 皆さんで召し上がって下さい.” This means “Please eat this/these with everyone”.
Being a foreigner does not exempt you from this tradition. Buying something back from your travels, especially if you went back to your home country, will help you to bond with your colleagues as it shows that you are open and respectful of their tradition. Anyway, if you are going to eat someone else`s omiyage, it`s only fair you should bring something back yourself!