[soo-vuh-neer, soo-vuh-neer]

A souvenir (from French, for memory), memento or keepsake is an object a traveler brings home for the memories associated with it. Souvenirs include clothing such as T-shirts or hats, and household items such as mugs and bowls, ashtrays, egg timers, spoons and notepads. They may be marked to indicate their origin: "A Souvenir from Clacton-on-Sea". Souvenirs frequently have a reputation for being tasteless.

In Japan, souvenirs are known as meibutsu (products associated with a particular region); and omiyage, candies or other edibles to be shared with co-workers. Omiyage sales are big business at Japanese tourist sites.

Travelers may buy souvenirs as gifts for those who did not make the trip. In Cameroon, the principle is that someone who can afford to travel can afford to bring something back (as a gift, or cadeau) for those who cannot. French bread is a popular cadeau.


Similar to a souvenir, memorabilia (from Latin, for memorable) is an object that is treasured for its memories; however, unlike souvenirs, memorabilia are valued for a connection to a historical, sporting event, culture, entertainment. Such items include cigarette cards, air sickness bags, publicity photographs, posters, entertainment-related merchandise, movie memorabilia, pins and other, often-licensed, items.

Souvenirs in Japan

In Japan, souvenirs are called omiyage. These are customary gifts typically given by someone upon returning from a trip to be given to family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, business associates, teachers, classmates and any other person socially related to the returning vacationer. By age-old Japanese conventions, it is shameful to arrive or return empty-handed and such acts as going on a vacation away from one's society could be perceived as selfish in a manner, anti-social at the very least. The omiyage gift placates all concerned and smooths intricate social ties, absolving the traveler of such shame. Omiyage shows the traveler was thinking of his or her family and community members while away.

Because of the number of omiyage often required following a vacation, travelers need to buy souvenirs in bulk (it is not unusual to bring one empty suitcase solely for the omiyage). Thoughtfulness is always an issue. It cannot look too cheap, and it is preferred it be something universally practical like towels, dinnerware, tasteful decorative items, broadly-popular foods and the like. It is not even necessary the choice of omiyage be particularly relevant to the place visited. Key chains and unfamiliar foods are not well received.

Places that cater to Japanese travelers will offer selections of suitable omiyage arranged by price, size and category. Several items of all-purpose omiyage are often kept by wise housewives to give on a moment's notice to avoid embarrassments. Due to the expense and effort involved in collecting and distributing omiyage, Japanese are often very close-lipped about their travel plans, hoping to minimize their omiyage responsibilities.

See also

Search another word or see souveniron Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature