One of the most popular Japanese podcast channels is Jun Returns a Favor (Jun No Ongaeshi), a collection of 50 stories in which Jun Miura, an illustrator, essayist, cartoonist, and musician talks about important people and things in his life history.
What’s notable about him is the invention of new Japanese words including “Iyagemono,” “Maibuumu,” “Tonmatsuri,” “Kasuhaga,” etc. (He talks about them in his podcast channel.) They are all interesting to me, but today I wanna talk about “Iyagemono.”
Iyagemono is a concise and convenient word to describe a no-thank-you souvenir. It’s a combination of “Iya” (no thank you) and “Miyagemono” (souvenir). It could also be understood as a combination of “Iyage” (no-thank-you-ish) and “Mono” (thing).
[Jun Miura’s book on Iyagemono.]
Japanese give souvenirs quite frequently and casually. For example, when someone comes back from a business travel, he or she usually gives his/her colleagues souvenirs. But, what if you must travel to the same city every month? You might not want to buy the same souvenir every time. Perhaps because of this and other reasons, there’s a market for “unique” souvenirs. But the problem is that they can be merely “unique” and not make the people who receive them particularly happy. Oh, that’s Iyagemono.
[Sample Iyagemono. left: a statue of a person looking through in-between his legs. right: a difficult-to-handle miniature ship made of shells. ]
By the way, Miura thinks Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario Brothers, should receive Nobel Prize. That’s what he said in another podcast story.