Arts and Culture
Any visitor to Japan will be struck by the variety of omiyage (souvenirs) available in the vicinity of tourist destinations, and in kiosks and shops at railroad stations. Although the origin of the custom of bringing a gift from a trip is centuries old and is rooted in pilgrimage, it has been completely transformed by the development of the modern rail network and food processing industry. Today, omiyage should ideally contain a specialty food from the area one is visiting, which makes the task of inventing an appropriate item an essential duty of municipalities that seek to attract tourists. In this paper I will explore the strategies involved in fabricating “local food”, paying particular attention to the packaging design of omiyage, which since the 1960s onwards assumed an increasingly critical role in this process.