Few countries in the world can compete with Japan in terms of number of souvenirs available for tourists. Some, like those I selected as must have Japanese souvenirs, can be found almost everywhere in Japan, with small regional differences. However, there are many other souvenirs available only in certain places, generally connected with local legends or traditions. That’s the case with the Miyajima rice scoop (shakushi):
Around the year 1800, at the Tokidera Temple lived a Buddhist monk named Seishin. One night, Seishin had a special dream: he saw Benzaiten, the goddess of water, music, poetry and good fortune, singind at a biwa (Japanese lute). Since the biwa looks similar to a wooden rice scoop, the monk thought this was a sign and he sculpted a special wooden scoop, modeled after the shape of the biwa. Then, he started teaching people living on the island to make their own wooden scoops.
In time, the Miyajima rice scoops became famous in the entire Japan, and they are sold today as lucky charms, but also as general household items.
Travel tip: The people in Miyajima still like to teach other to make rice scoops: there is a place where you can go and learn to bake the famous and delicious momiji manjū (I’ll write about them in another article) and you can also learn to make your own rice scoop. Sounds like fun, so check their web page for more info: Miyajima Traditional Product Hall
Here’s a photo of one of the numerous Miyajima shops selling them:
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: