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Souvenir from Shikoku: face towel showing Hello Kitty dressed as a pilgrim in front of a suspension bridgeSouvenir from Shikoku: face towel showing Hello Kitty dressed as a pilgrim in front of a suspension bridge

 

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Collecting souvenirs in Japan: a diary

Collecting souvenirs in Japan: a diary


Between 15 January and 6 February 2001, Sara Pimpaneau, a curator in the Department of Ethnography, travelled in Japan collecting objects for the BP Ethnography Showcase Souvenirs in contemporary Japan (14 June 2001 - 13 January 2002). The display is based on research carried out in The British Museum and by the co-curator, Inge Daniels, an independent researcher. It explores the scope and variety of souvenirs in domestic travel, their role as gifts and their place in the home.

The most common Japanese word for souvenirs is omiyage. 'Miya', meaning shrine, is a reminder of the religious origins of leisure travel in Japan. Shintō shrines are dedicated to native Japanese deities, and temples are associated with Buddhist gods, though distinctions are rarely made between the two in everyday practice, and they offer similar goods for sale to visitors. Omiyage now refers more generally to a large variety of popular items which convey the ephemeral memory of places and events. They are highly specialized and illustrate the particular identity of local communities. They are also based on recognized famous products, or meibutsu. Souvenirs are also crucial for new places to establish themselves as travel destinations.

The media, literature, advertising and transport networks combine to promote the pleasure and convenience of domestic tourism. Most Japanese are very well informed about historical and recent attractions. Shopping for souvenirs is an essential part of the experience of travel. Trips are remembered with photographs and videos, but also with personal mementoes and gifts associated with places visited. Food is a preferred souvenir, perhaps because it creates a social occasion when later eaten, shared and discussed. Returning with souvenirs is both a way of recording a trip and sharing it with those who have stayed at home.

Illustrated here is a souvenir from Shikoku, a face towel showing Hello Kitty dressed as a pilgrim in front of a suspension bridge.

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History of Iron Age swords and scabbards, £85.00

History of Iron Age swords and scabbards, £85.00