2018 Holiday Gift Ideas for Japanese Learners

Published November 21st, 2018

It’s that time of year again. The weather is getting colder and everyone is frantically racing around trying to figure out what to get as gifts for the special people in their lives. If you happen to have a Japanese learner in your life, your job is even harder thanks to the multitude of products aimed at those who love Japanese or even just Japan itself. For the last month, I have been pouring through the internet to come up with a sure-fire list of gift ideas to please even the hardest to satisfy gift recipients. From books and study aids all the way to stuff that is just for fun, you should definitely bookmark this list and refer back to it if you find yourself stuck on what to get for your special someone.

Books/Magazines/Study Aids

Hiragana Times Cover Hiragana Times - Since 1986, the Hiragana Times has been publishing a bi-lingual monthly magazine which caters to those learning Japanese. With interesting articles that are printed in both English and Japanese (complete with furigana for the difficult kanji), this is a great magazine to learn not only more about Japan but brush up on reading comprehension. You can subscribe to either a physical or digital edition via their official website. Studio Ghibli picture books - If magazine-style articles aren’t your thing, how about some simple picture books to practice basic reading skills? With so many children’s books to choose from though, getting the right one can be a challenge which is why I recommend this series of picture books which are based on famous Studio Ghibli movies. There are a number of them available including Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Kagura, and more! Lonely Planet Phrasebook - One of the most trusted series of travel guides out there, this handy book will fill a student’s brain with tons of handy phrases and words that they need in order to navigate Japan. Available from Amazon. Amy's Guide to Best Behavior in Japan: Do It Right and Be Polite! Book - DO NOT visit Japan without doing diligent research on proper manners and etiquette! This book is a great way to start that! Available from Amazon. Manga magazines - Unfortunately, there are literally dozens of different manga magazines in Japan which cater to different audiences. Some are shoujo based, some are shounen, and don’t even get me started on the myriad of cosplay magazines that are available! Luckily for you, there is a website which offers subscriptions to various magazines from Japan but I warn you that you should do your research to make sure that the manga magazine you’re ordering is actually something that your intended will actually enjoy. For more information about a regular monthly subscription, contact Kinokuniya or you can purchase magazines one month at a time via J-Box. Kanji Flashcards - When I decided that I wanted to include physical flashcards on this list, I quickly found out that flashcards are slowly disappearing from the world and are being replaced by mobile apps. Luckily there is still one place to get high-quality flashcards to study kanji with: White Rabbit! While they are not cheap, these sets still set a gold standard for what information a kanji flashcard should contain so don’t let the price tag scare you away!


Casio Japanese to English Electronic Dictionary - This item might not be for everyone but if you have a serious student of Japanese in your life, this will eventually become an essential purchase so make someone’s entire holiday with this big-ticket purchase. Available via Amazon. Nihongo Master Subscription - I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t at least mention that now is the perfect time to get a subscription to this fine site that you’re reading right now! Simply head over to the subscription page and choose the plan that fits your needs and budget!


Japanese Whiskey - I know that when you read the word ‘whisky’, Japan is not the first country to come to mind but Japan has been brewing quality whiskey for over a decade now and has become of the world leaders in the alcoholic beverage. I’m not saying that this bottle of 12-year-old Yamazaki is the best whiskey you’ll ever have (because tastes vary) but it was the best selling whiskey in Japan in 2017. Hard to argue with that. Head over to Dekanta to get your own. Kit-Kat - Every year, the Japanese branch of Nestle puts out special flavors of Kit-Kats which are considered a treat for fans of both the candy and the country. If you want to put a smile on the chocolate-loving face of the Japanese learner in your life, head over to World of Snacks and order yourself some of these sweet treats!


Yukata or Kimono - These beautiful works of art have been worn in Japan since at least the Heian era. This style has withstood the test of time and would make a wonderful addition to anyone’s wardrobe. Check out the multitude of styles available here.

Just for Fun

Japan Subscription Box - So you’ve gone through this list and still don’t see anything that you think would be a good fit? How about letting someone else pick for you by getting a Japanese subscription box? Just like other items on this list, you’ll want to do good research into each box company to make sure that you’ll be getting exactly what you paid for. CrateJoy has a huge selection of Japan-themed boxes to sort through including some aimed at anime lovers or even just general fans of Japanese culture. Omamori - This is a gift that I know for a fact that your loved one won’t see coming; an authentic Japanese shrine charm! Coming straight from Japan, wish your intended good luck on any number of different situations such as good grades, car safety, health and more! Head over to Omamori.com to find out more info. That’s our list of awesome gift ideas for this year! Be sure to check back next year around this time for another list of awesome gifts.