How haishop is turning Japan’s souvenir culture into a force for good
- On 2021/12/20
Choosing a gift for someone or buying a treat for yourself from time to time is delightful. What if that shopping is sustainable or contributes to realizing a better society? Wouldn’t it be even more fulfilling? Today, we are at a point where products have diverse features that it is difficult to differentiate one washing detergent from another.
Japan’s omiyage culture as a medium for stories
However, some brands have a story behind their product, which sets them apart from others. And that story plays a vital role in our consumption habits and in improving our society today. Each story attracts different consumers, and the story often tells the brands’ effort to achieve a better society.
Omiyage is a Japanese word for souvenirs, but omiyage isn’t just a gift that one takes home from a trip. In Japan, it’s often used to build a good relationship in various communities. The origin of Japanese omiyage culture can be traced back to the Edo Period, when ordinary people could travel. And even back then, giving omiyage was not just sending gifts, but sharing the experience with others. Now, after 150 years, omiyage still plays an essential role in our society, sharing and spreading the story behind it.
haishop, where every item has a good story behind it
The gift shop, haishop, strives to solve various social issues in Japan by selling unique “omiyage” goods at their store in Yokohama. Each omiyage has a story to tell. Anything you pick up from the store’s shelf is related to a social issue of some kind, like reducing food loss and CO2 emission, or inheriting traditional culture by transforming the products to meet modern needs.
One such product with a story at haishop is “siinomi sweets.” There are additive-free confectionery baked at a factory managed by “siinomi-kai,” a welfare service that creates jobs and supports financial independence for persons with disabilities. Furthermore, the significance of siinomi-kai is not just its economic aspect but also how it is an accepting place in society for persons with disabilities. Work keeps people connected with society, an essential factor in everyone’s life. An inclusive society provides for all, and siinomi sweets shows us an effective model to do so. haishop supports this inclusive action by selling their delightful sweets and spreading their story.
More than just shopping, but a hub of stories
The store is not only just a gift shop. It is also a cafe for people to gather and interact, and a market that supports local farmers. It aims to become a hub of spreading messages and stories that each brand or product has.
Customers who visit the store may or may not have the knowledge or particular interest in the social issue. Nevertheless, the products provide an opportunity to get exposure. The staff becomes storytellers, communicating the stories behind the products. And customers wishing to support the cause can purchase the product or share the stories with others.
haishop carries goods manufactured in Japan because one of the store’s aims is to revitalize the Japanese economy. But it has exceptions for fairtrade products. haishop also sells colorful upcycled products assembled in developing countries, which supports job creation. It also promotes knowledge about child labor and education issues in those countries. And of course, supporting fairtrade is in line with the store’s main focus, which is to bring a change in people’s lifestyle through omiyage and to save the environment.
Having a story behind a product draws consumers in because it’s original and draws attention. Especially when we choose a gift for someone, it becomes more important because we look for something unique. More people are shifting towards a sustainable lifestyle. The messages behind products will become more meaningful, hence accelerating a sustainable and ethical economy. This shift seems ideal for the consumers, too, since pleasurable shopping can also create a better society.
[Original post] Zenbird
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