The Giving Season

The Giving Season

Leave the holiday shopping blues behind with our essential gift guide


Originally published on on December 2009

for the ladies
Comfort sounds


They just keep finding new places to hide speakers, don’t they? This comfortable neck cushion keeps the music right next to your ears, allowing you to enjoy your tunes sans headphones—but without irritating the people around you. The design is similar to a flight cushion, and while we’re not convinced you’d be able to get away with using one on a plane, it might come in handy when you want to zone out in the comfort of your own home after a busy day at work or looking after the kids.

Necker, designed and licensed by Semk, ¥2,079. Available from branches of Loft.

Summery radiance


Yeah, we know it’s midwinter rather than midsummer, but isn’t that all the more reason to counter the seasonal gloom with a spot of flowery cheer? This lovely lampshade from Holland-born, France-based designer Tord Boontje is made to be used with a soft 40W bulb, giving off a diffuse, red-tinted glow that should warm even the chilliest of rooms. The material has the soft feel of paper but is coated with a fire-resistant plastic sheen.

Midsummer Light, ¥8,925. Available from MoMA Design Store: 3F Gyre, 5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5468-5801. Open daily 11am-8pm. Nearest stn: Meiji-Jingumae.

Otaku style


Now you can groove to the beat of your favorite tunes while looking sickeningly cute with this furry cat-ear hair band that doubles as a pair of headphones. Available in either white or black, it’s the perfect gift for the misunderstood cosplayer who wants to drown out the jeers of uncomprehending pedestrians when she takes a trip to the shops. Maid outfit not included, but recommended to up the moe factor to nuclear meltdown temperatures.

Thanko Neko Mimi Earphones, ¥1,980. Available from Thanko Rare Mono Shop: 3-9-10 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3526-5472. Open Mon-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun & hols 11am-7pm. Nearest stn: Akihabara.

White lines


This hot pink top by Blablahospital should cure the sartorial ills of even the most fashion-illiterate lady. Its colorful design, unusual cut and dynamic white lines are sure to turn heads—as is the fun ribbon and button motif. Meanwhile, the slimming wide waistband would look fantastic coupled with some skinny jeans. A wonderful present for anyone who needs a zap of color to shock their dull clothes collection back to life.

White Lines by Blablahospital, ¥8,820. Available from Tokyo Made (

Making the date


Yuki Koishikawa gained renown for her work with fashion and fragrance designer Anna Sui, and we can’t get enough of the groovy illustrations in her 2010 calendar. By dragging ’50s aesthetics into the 21st century, she produces images that are witty, stylish and cute at the same time, depicting super-chic girls nestling on the backs of their boyfriend’s mopeds or slurping on groovy-looking cocktails. A cut above your average calendar, this comes complete with an elegant white wood frame.

¥1,890. Available from branches of Loft and select shops.

for the guys


When you’re sick of surfing cyberspace, enjoy some tactile fun with Takara Tomy’s Transformer Mouse. Available in Grimlock and Trypticon versions, it transforms into a fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex robo-thingy that can then do battle with the knickknacks on your desk. You might also get one of the Transformer USB sticks, styled after Jaguar and Tigatron (er, ask a 6-year-old), then keep them handy to pounce and destroy any pesky paperwork that stands between you and your plans for world domination.

Transformer Device Label Operating Optical Mouse ¥6,300; Operating USB Memory, ¥3,990. Available at grown-up toy stores.

Off the cuff


We’d like to think that any self-respecting bloke could distinguish his left from his right, but Acme Studios isn’t leaving anything to chance. The company’s name gives a clue to its designer’s character: Fredi Brodmann was a cartoonist before he began making accessories, and much of his playful humor comes across in these elegant cufflinks. Don’t go mistaking them for novelty items, though: they’e silver-plated with enamel inlay on their faces, making them the kind of item that any man would be proud to sport during the party season.

Left & Right Cufflinks, ¥7,350. Available from MoMA Design Store: 3F Gyre, 5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5468-5801. Open daily 11am-8pm. Nearest stn: Meiji-Jingumae.

Surrender to the dark side


For the man of mystery, what could be more alluring than this black number that displays the date and time in a combination of colored lights? We think it bears more than a passing resemblance to Darth Vader’s get-up, lending the wearer a rather awesome Death Star chic (not something you get every day). Sadly, it doesn’t endow you with the ability to crush your enemies by waving a clenched fist in front of them, but you can have fun pretending to, at least.

Kisai Tenmetsu Black Watch, ¥21,000. Available from Tokyo Flash (

Scribe style


If writing by hand is a dying art form, fountain pens could be said to have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Yet there remains something intensely satisfying about dashing off your signature in wet ink across a crisp white page. This streamlined black aluminum model was created by award-winning designer Dietrich Lubs, who used to work for Braun and has his products on show in museums such as London’s V&A and New York’s MoMA. It’d make a great gift for someone who doesn’t have a hanko but wants to leave their mark on contracts in style.

Düller Fountain Pen, ¥5,250. Available at branches of Idea Seventh Sense (

The look of love


This sexy but stylish book documents the relationships of 56 couples who posed for ace snapper Photographer Hal in the comfort of their own bathtubs. There’s a real mix of people here, from futuristic club kids to traditional kimono-wearing types. Some couples even dispensed with clothing altogether as they wound their limbs together to embrace the project with playful abandon. Printed on glossy paper, the photos are anything but squeaky-clean, displaying the powerful chemistry between partners as they wriggle around in front of the camera.

Couple Jam by Photographer Hal, ¥1,800. Available from Tokyo Made (

for the young ’uns
Bigger is better


Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy—my very own gigantic purin! Kids who like to live large are guaranteed to go bonkers for this jumbo-sized incarnation of Japan’s favorite conbini dessert. Parents might want to set some ground rules before letting their rugrats dive into this wobbly treat, which weighs in at 20 times the size of a normal purin. Then again, you could just hand over a gigantic spoon and let them learn the perils of gluttony the hard way. Whatever you decide, there’ll be tears and tantrums before bedtime—but hey, that’s what Christmas is all about.

Giga Pudding, ¥3,675. Available at branches of Loft and other stores.

Pond life


What better excuse to wallow just a little bit longer in the tub? These cheerful amphibians come in three attractive shades of green and, more excitingly, also glow in the dark, making them a child-friendly alternative to using candles for ambient lighting as you bathe. Though this frog wears a splendid yellow crown, we can’t guarantee he’ll transform into a handsome prince when kissed—but you can always try.

I Love New York Crown Frog, ¥819. Available at branches of Loft.

Beautiful beastie


Each of these plush monsters is a one-of-a-kind piece—ideal for children who want something that none of the other kids at school have. The Monjack Niwa’s zipper mouth can be stuffed full of money, candy or any other exciting stuff that comes your child’s way. Then attach him to a bag, mobile phone or set of keys to ensure that he doesn’t stray too far away from his owner. Made from traditional fabrics, he’ll also double as a nice souvenir of your child’s time in Japan.

Monjack Niwa Monster Purse, ¥2,625. Available from Tokyo Made (

Clerk kids


What better way to inspire your child’s ambitions than to give them this conbini-inspired set? Simply force them to play with the 7-Eleven Ukiuki Register for extended periods of time—preferably under spirit-sapping fluorescent lighting—and soon they’ll be promising to study harder to become a well-paid lawyer rather than settle for a lifetime of menial furitaa jobs. Seriously, though, this is a nice way for kids to learn about money and have fun at the same time. Note the striking attention to detail, like the nikuman display case and the barcode reader that emits a satisfying beep when scanning “products.”

7-Eleven Ukiuki Register, ¥6,825. Available at all good toy stores.



If you’re looking to keep the kids quiet for awhile after you’ve gorged yourself silly with Christmas turkey and fine wine, this is the gift for you. Nanoblocks are similar to Lego bricks, just a wee bit smaller. They come in sets modeled after some of the world’s most iconic tourist traps, including Tokyo Tower and Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia. We particularly like the one of Himeji Castle, better known as the secret ninja training school in the Bond classic You Only Live Twice.

Nanoblock Himeji Castle, ¥8,400. Available from Amazon Japan and at branches of Tokyu Hands, Bic Camera and other stores.

stocking fillers
Phone pouch


For people who love their cellphone just that little bit too much, this sweet mobile bag will prevent their precious keitai from getting scratched or otherwise damaged in their pocket. We love the unisex design from Golla, featuring an edgy floral pattern on practical gray cloth. The bag can be stuffed into a pocket or strapped to a belt—the latter being preferable for showing off the funky Finnish design to your envious friends.

Golla Mobile Bag Matilda, ¥1,280. Available at branches of Yodobashi Camera.

Classy cover


A novel (boom boom) idea from Microworks Design, this polypropylene book cover will protect your reading materials from the elements when you’re out and about. Simply fit it around your tome of choice and use the attached tag as a bookmark to save your place. The Book Packs come in a range of motifs and colors that should appeal to men and women alike: choose between a clover, anchor or plug and a rainbow’s worth of colors from pink to black. Best of all, if you want to travel light, you can simply carry your book like a bag.

Microworks Book Pack, ¥1,155. Available from Tokyo Made (

Christmas cracker


If anyone starts getting upset that Santa didn’t deliver everything he was supposed to, throw them one of these and watch them calm down before your eyes. When crushed together, the Yubipoki produces a passable imitation of the knuckle-cracking sound beloved of tough-guy characters in anime and action flicks. Bizarrely, this has the same stress-soothing effect as those squishy rubber toys that used to be all the rage. It can be used as an oversized keitai strap, and also doubles up as a back scratcher.

Yubipoki, ¥500. Available at all good toy stores.

The sweetness lies within


Calling all chocoholics with an addiction to portable tunes. Not only does this iPod case from Versos look good enough to eat, it actually comes in disposable packaging, exactly like a candy wrapper. The rubber material is sure to keep your iPod pristine while you’re bouncing around town to your favorite songs. Just keep it out of the way of children, who might be so tempted by the lifelike design that they try to take a bite out of it.

Chocolate iPod case, ¥1,980. Available at branches of Kiddy Land (

The safe bet


You can never go wrong with a day planner. Unlike novelty plastic toys, which inevitably end up as landfill by the end of January, you’re guaranteed that the recipient will actually be glad when they finish ripping open the gift wrapping. We like this one from Mark’s, with its refreshingly modern cover design, available in a range of funky colors. As an added bonus, the transparent front doubles as a nifty pocket that can store pens, erasers and anything else that might be cluttering up your bag.

Mark’s 2010 Diary, ¥1,785. Available at branches of Tokyu Hands.