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South Holland's Trish Burgess discovers holiday souvenirs back in Spalding

Bringing back souvenirs from holidays never used to be a problem years ago. Tuck a straw donkey under your arm and there was always room in the overhead lockers. Now, with strict airline baggage rules, picking up a handmade whatsit made by a grizzled old artisan can be fraught with difficulties.

Fridge magnets usually fit the bill for size and weight. It is lovely to have a little reminder of sunnier climes when I'm reaching in for the semi-skimmed, but they're hardly an example of traditional craftsmanship.

When we've been to Portugal we bring back items made from local cork: the perfect souvenir for today's low-frills flyer. You can secrete coasters and bookmarks about your luggage without any fear of having to jettison your underwear at the check-in desk.

Trish Burgess found these traditional Japanese items in Spalding (26561508)
Trish Burgess found these traditional Japanese items in Spalding (26561508)

During our trip to Japan we were keen to return with something more interesting than a replica of Mount Fuji and broken Scottish dreams. With a decent amount of luggage allowance, we could invest in some proper mementos.

I struck gold in a craft fair in Tokyo, spotting some yukatas which are lightweight, cotton kimonos. The fair was about to close so prices had been slashed. An elderly Japanese lady dressed me in the robe and cleverly wrapped the wide 'obi' sash around my waist: my souvenir sorted.

Dougie, feeling left out, picked up a similar robe designed for men. In a fetching navy and decorated with Japanese carp, it causes him to bow reverentially when he comes downstairs for his breakfast.

A lacquerware bowl
A lacquerware bowl


As a joint gift to ourselves, we also bought a piece of traditional Japanese lacquerware. Made from the sap of the lacquer tree (who knew you got lacquer from a tree?) the small bowl is decorated with the official flower of Japan, the chrysanthemum (kiku). The craftsman who painted the bowl was in the Tokyo store, demonstrating his talent. Cue lots of bows and smiles when we purchased his work.

We brought back our Japanese mementos and gifts, feeling pretty pleased with our choices. Just before Christmas, however, we found surprising additions to our collection here in Spalding. Looking for presents in M&M Antiques in The Crescent, we spotted some adorable wooden animals. They were netsuke: tiny, Japanese sculptures carved from boxwood. Originally used to fasten cords which are hung from the sashes of men's kimonos, they are now more usually made as ornaments.

We bought a little crouching dog and two miniature mice on a sack of grain. They are so gorgeous: tactile treasures that fit snugly in the centre of my palm.

To think, we spent hours looking for the perfect souvenir the length and breadth of Japan and found just what we wanted just a few miles from home.

You can read Trish's blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk

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