The Japanese are all about thoughtful, visual-appealing gifts and that aesthetic is what make shopping in Japantown so special. Many shops offer complimentary gift wrapping, particularly convenient during the holiday season. Unique shops with trendy gifts and affordable stocking stuffers allow you to do all your holiday shopping in one place.

With such a variety of gifts to choose from, it’s easy to find something for everyone, even those hard-to-shop for people… like dads. Katachi has an impressive line of swords and knives. They carry some cool t-shirts too… for adults. Soko Hardware, an independent, family owned business, is the place to shop for tools. The store is especially appealing to gardeners for a variety of planters and seeds, including those to grow specialty Asian vegetables. Soko also carries Japanese cookware with a selection cast iron and other housewares. And, there’s always the ever practical, yet attractive coffee mug for Dad. Kinokuniya has books in English as well as Japanese and novelty gift items such as games, puzzles, and collectibles. Their stationery store, Mai Do, carries high quality writing implements, including calligraphy supplies, fine stationery, and specialty papers. Shop Forest Books for rare, out of print books and signed editions in world culture, the arts, literature and the humanities and social sciences. The family run bookshop also carries a large selection of popular fiction, pocket-size and hardbacks.

For musical lovers, shop Aloha Warehouse for ukuleles and everything else “island.” Sharaku is the store for Japanese music where koto, shamisen, and shakuhachi, among other instruments and supplies can be found.

Shopping for mom, grandma, auntie, or anyone who loves pretty is easy at Sakura Sakura. The elegant shop carries unique women’s apparel by Asian, American, and European designers, as well as handmade jewelry and Japanese-inspired accessories. They are also have kimonos from Kyoto, shibori scarves, and many other stylish items. Sou Sou from Kyoto has Japanese fashions not found anywhere else. Find kimono-inspired women’s fashions in vibrant, graphic patterns and men’s apparel in beautifully subdued colors. Sou Sou is the only company dedicated to making tabi shoes, split toe, handmade creations with durable soles.

For cosmetics, Candy Doll, Fujiya Cosmetics, The Face Shop, K-Pop Beauty, Zen Aesthetic, Day2Nite Glam, have the latest in Japanese and Korean beauty products along with other popular makeup and skincare lines. Fujiya Cosmetics is a specialist in Shiseido, Japan’s best-known line that’s been beautifying Japanese women for 147 years. The Face Shop also carries skincare especially for men, beyond aftershave. Currently they’re promoting the WHOO Premium line form Korea. Candy Doll, K-Pop, and Day2Nite Glam have products that especially appeal to young women, everything from tinted foundation in cute, little containers to masks for everything, including the feet! Soap, lip balm, hand lotion and more in adorable packaging make great stocking stuffers, for everyone.

If you’re looking to splurge for someone special a browse through Miseki Jewlery is inspiring. Having been in the business since 1967, pearls, jade, and wedding bands are among their specialties, Owner, Masahura Nagasuga is a gemologist and appraiser and Miseki is the exclusive authorized dealer of Seiko watches in Northern California.

For kids, or anyone who loves comics and cartoons, there are several stores that carry anime and manga paraphernalia. Books, dvds, backpacks, lunchboxes, t-shirts, hats, keychains (and the list goes on) can be found at several stores. In addition to Kinokuniya, Japantown Collectibles, has model kits, figures, posters, and a staff that knows comic culture. Amiko Boutique has one of the biggest selections of kawaii items for all ages, and for the holidays they carry surprise bags especially for kids filled with an assortment of goodies. Japantown Video and Media, Moritaya, Suki Boutique, Yumi Boutique and are also good sources for children’s gifts or anyone who loves J-Pop culture. All the shops carry the ever popular plushies and charming socks that make great stocking stuffers. Paper Tree, while the source for origami paper and books, also has buildable kits, eraser sets, plushies, and art supplies.

For those especially appreciative of Japanese culture, Asakichi has it all, chopsticks, tea sets, jewelry, kimono and hapa coats, decorative noren to hang from doorways, among many other treasures. Neat Asian Things also has Japanese clothing as well as furnishings, from tatami mats to shoji screens. For elegant vases, tea and sake sets, lacquer trays, and cute bento boxes, Daikoku by Shiki, is a visual delight. Find functional yet stylish dinnerware at Sanko Kitchen Essentials as well as traditional crafts. A complimentary cup of tea at Chato is a nice respite during a busy shopping day. The knowledgeable staff guide you in tea selections and tea ware and everything is packaged for gift giving. Both Asakichi Incense and Kohshi offer a variety of incense in fragrances for every taste. In addition to stylish holders and burners, the stores carry gift items such as chic tea sets, charming windchimes, delightful handkerchiefs, even plants. And speaking of plants, Kasura Gardens is the place for bonsai. The helpful staff offers advice whether one is investing in a cultivated miniature tree, an everyday houseplant, or cut flowers.

Particularly during the holidays, it’s easy to get swept up in a shopping frenzy, but Japantown offers a wonderful alternative to the malls. Shop for unique gifts, enjoy the decorations, take a break with a delicious meal or a soothing cup of tea, and then shop some more.