My recent trip to Japan that I took back in May seems lightyears away by now, but all the treasures that I brought home with me serve as a constant reminder of my incredible trip. While I tent to limit my shopping on such trips in favors of cultural and culinary experiences (which you can read all about here), I did do my fair share of shopping and beauty discovery. Part of being in Japan is exploring and seeking out those hidden gems where you might find something that will always remind you of your trip. For all of you to plan to travel to Japan in the future, use this guide to help you navigate your way.
TOKYO While in Tokyo, I had the most luck shopping for beauty at the two stores below, and it was where I uncovered a few life-changing products.
1. Matsumoto Kiyoshi – This is a drugstore chain that you will find all of Toyko and even Kyoto. There you’ll find…
- The Best Exfoliator on the Market: Cure Natural Aqua Gel – This is the best exfoliator and it’s a staple in every Japanese woman’s medicine cabinet. Fortunately, we can buy it here in the US from Amazon, or even Urban Outfitters!
- Cheap, Yet Totally Effective Japanese Facemasks that you Can Bring home for Your Friends: Lululun Face Masks – They are so cheap, and come with major benefits (think SK-II but way more affordable). If you can find them, STOCK UP.
- Injection-Free Collagen: Puré Inner Support Collagen 4500 mg. – This baby plumps in all the right places. Need I say more?
- SK-II: Yes, you can actually buy the famed Facial Treatment Mask, Facial Essence and a host of serums and creams at a discount price. I actually love the brand so much that I traveled to the P&G headquarters in Kobe, Japan to meet with their head scientist to learn all about Sk-II’s life-changing products. More on this to come.
2. The Beauty Library – The place to shop for organic and all natural. There you’ll find…
- The SPF for Girls Who Hate Sunscreen: Hana Organic Wearlure UV – This SPF 30 (pictured above, middle) is oh-so-slightly tinted, so it gives you that BB cream-like effect, yet doesn’t feel heavy. I wish I bought 10 of these.
- The Chicest SPF on this Planet: Franes Sunscreen Agecream – Can we talk about the packaging here (pictured below, right)? I have no idea what this website says or means, but this is one of the best (and most beautiful) sunscreens I’ve tried all year.
- Hair and Nail Oils that Secretly Double as Perfume: Uka Hair Oil – You girls have heard of Uka nails oils right (pictured above, left)? Well this Tokyo based brand sells much more in Japan than we’ve got over here. This lovely oil smells heavenly and makes your hair softer than ever before.
KYOTO My shopping in Kyoto was less about specific stores and more about specific products. I focused on finding products featuring uniquely Japanese ingredients or techniques.
The Secret of Sake
Have you heard about the research that explains why all the old, wrinkly men who work in Sake breweries have the most beautiful, youthful hands? It’s all about fermentation. Sake is a type of rice wine that, through fermentation, produces kojic acid, which lightens and brightens skin. In Japan, you can buy sake-infused beauty products right next to a bottle of your favorite sake. You can buy inexpensive toners that are so pure that you can even drink them (I suggest saving these for toning your body or pouring into the bath), more concentrated toner for brighter skin and even hand and face creams.
It’s no secret that the Japanese are known for their blotting paper, and Yojiya is the mecca for all things oil removal. Stock up on these papers ASAP. They make the best gifts too.
Geishas have long relied on gold to give their skin an incandescent glow. Gold leaf has been used for centuries in Eastern diets, beauty and medicine. There are a number of specialty shops in Japan where you can buy gold in many different ways, like lotions, cleansers and toners. There are 24kt gold sheet masks, gold-infused salt, bath salts with real gold inside and even various sized jars filled with edible gold flakes to use as garnish on top of food. Gold even shows up in sweet treats – 24-kt gold solf-serve frozen yogurt, anyone? My favorite gold products were the tiny paper-thin rectangular sheets to use as the final step of your skincare routine. They blend into the face to make your complexion really glow. Look for brands like Hakuza, Hakuichi and Kinka.
Yes, this miracle elixir falls under the beauty category. It has been consumed for ages in the Far East, and is now considered to be one of the most powerful super foods on the market today. Matcha Green Tea is the highest quality powdered green tea available. You must stop by Ippodo in Kyoto for the finest matcha of all. Expect benefits like antioxidant boost, calm temperament, better memory, calorie burning and detoxification. You also must try the matcha soft-serve I am now addicted too. My favorite little ice cream shop is Puppy in Kyoto.
Hakuhodo sells everything from Calligraphy and Kabuki Brushes to Japanese paining brushes and even antiques made of porcelain, hand painted or bedazzled with gold.
*NON-BEAUTY BONUS* This post would not be complete if I didn’t mention a few of the other non-beauty souvenirs I picked up while shopping in the country. They’re just too good to leave out!
Culinary Tour of Japan and Salt-Preserved Cherry Blossoms
Hit up the Nishiki Food Market in Kyoto or the Farmer’s Market at UNU in Tokyo. They have almost every kind of food and many offer samples. In Kyoto, there are even restaurants tucked behind some of the food stalls, and every meal I had there was incredible. While you’re there, make sure to buy the salt-preserved cherry blossoms and bring them home. You can bring them back to life by simply putting them in a glass of water. There perfect as cake garnishes!
There’s an amazing knife store at the Nishiki Food Market in Kyoto run by a family that once made samurai swords. The knives are pricey, but talking to the family and seeing their wares gives you a little glimpse into Japanese history. You can also get the knife engraved in Japanese characters. I got “Annie” engraved on a very special vegetable knife in Japanese letters.
Miyawaki Baisenan has provided handcrafted fans for celebrities, geishas, sumo wrestlers and the Imperial family for generations. The craftsmanship is unreal. You can spend hours there. I certainly did!
Planning a trip to Japan or always dreamed about visiting the country? Let me know in the comments and I can give you extra tips!