Japan is the country of the cute and the adorable. A notable sub-category of adorable things sold all over the country in an infinite variety are little charms and phone straps. They come in all imaginable materials, such as paper, sea shells, metal, textiles, ceramics, wood, glass, leather, and nowadays obviously also a lot of plastic. Many are adorned with a small bell or are even bells themselves. Every self-respecting temple or shrine sells them, and so does every souvenir shop. While in the former case, the function of good luck charm is probably the more important one, in the latter case cuteness and local craft are the defining attributes. They make indeed a lovely souvenir since they are both small and lightweight and characteristic of the place.
The little bear on top comes from my favorite paper shop in Asakusa, and it definitely makes my kawaii-meter go off the scale. The little acorns come from Kiso Valley, where wood-working is the local craft.
Lucky cat charms are a classic and can be found all over the country. This one is from Asakusa’s Nakamisedori.
This little fox we bought at the Ainu Village at Lake Akan, Hokkaido. The Ainu excel in wood carvings.
This charm with gourd-shaped pendants comes from Nariai-ji, a temple on a hill above Amanohashidate.
This little dragon with the wobbling head is of the plasticky variety, but no less adorable. It is one of the signs of the Chinese Zodiac (2012 is the year of the dragon!) and comes from Sendai.
This fugu strap comes straight from Uwajima on Shikoku.
The kawaii-meter goes off-scale again with the adorable straps sold at Nola Epocraft, a small shop in Yanaka.
As you see, the variety of charms and straps is endless in Japan. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I have more than one dangling from each of my purses… The only problem is that some of them are too delicate to actually use. Even the more sturdy ones tend to get a beating out of daily use and have to be replaced after some months, which proves that you can never have enough of them 😉