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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2010

Trader Joe's latest choice for omiyage

By Rodney Lee

Omiyage is a Japanese word meaning souvenirs, most commonly gifts of food related to the area visited.

Here in the Islands, bringing back omiyage from Vegas is almost a tradition. Whether we win or lose, bringing home omiyage for family, friends and coworkers is a must.

For the longest time, the omiyage of choice was beef jerky. You'd see weary travelers returning home holding that familiar white box the one with the built-in handle a sure sign that they visited the Jerky Shop at the Plaza Hotel and Casino. Those who don't venture outside of the California Hotel and Casino buy their beef jerky omiyage from Vegas 808 located right on the mezzanine.

For a while, the omiyage of choice was Ethel M's chocolates until a store opened here, making it no longer a coveted item. And although the Ethel M's store here has closed, it never did make it back onto the omiyage list.

Today's omiyage of choice is Trader Joe's. In fact, at the Trader Joe's on Decatur Boulevard, there is a list in the store of the top 10 omiyage suggestions for Hawaii folks to bring home. Some of our Trader Joe's favorites include half-salt cashews, pistachios, triple ginger snap cookies and butter waffle cookies. And we always make it a point to bring home a few boxes of Trader Joe's unbleached No. 4 coffee filters for our own use.

Another popular omiyage used to be hand soaps and body lotions from Bath & Body Works. But due to Transportation Security Administration limitations on liquids and weight restrictions for luggage, those items are sadly no longer on the omiyage list.

Starting to take hold are food items from Harry & David. Powder mixes for dips, candies and dried fruits make great omiyage gifts: They are lightweight, easy to pack, and taste good too!

My retired coworker friend is very imaginative when it comes to omiyage. Her gifts included a $5 anniversary chip from the California Hotel and Casino, lottery tickets (from Primm), a handy telescopic back scratcher (that I use quite often), dried scallops and, lately, bottles of "Two Buck Chuck" wine from Trader Joe's, although the price for the Two Buck Chuck has gone up over two bucks and it costs more to mail the case home than the price of the wine. But it's the thought that makes her omiyage so special.

Now how about omiyage that we take to Vegas? We always make it a point to bring something for our favorite slot hostess (Carrie Ciudadano) at the California Hotel and Casino for taking care of us during our stay. We bring her Kona coffee, macadamia nuts and other local treats to show our appreciation for the great service she provides. With the hours she keeps, I'm sure the coffee omiyage is put to good use.