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Moscow / Russia

From Russia! Souvenir recommendations

Yasuhiro Ashitani / Marubeni Corporation Moscow Office

In May of 2008, I was assigned to a post in Moscow for the first time in ten years, and I was quite surprised at what I found when I returned. Luxury brand shops appeared one after another in the large shopping malls throughout the city, which was also flooded with foreign cars. There had to be at least 200 Japanese restaurants that were packed with Russians smiling and saying "sushi! sushi!" as they filled up on nigirizushi dunked in copious soy sauce.

As I observed all of the developments in front of me, I remembered various elements of the unstable period the last time I was posted in Moscow, right after the Soviet collapse. It occurred to me how vital foreign investors had been in Russian development, and further how vital breaking into this market had been for foreign investors.

At any rate, when it comes to Russian souvenirs, ten years ago it was a simple matter of choosing Matryoshka dolls, caviar, and for those who drink a bottle of vodka. But these days every household seems to already have Matryoshka dolls, caviar sales are restricted due to fishing ban measures, and it is prohibited to bring vodka onto the plane. As a result, it seems that finding souvenirs must be quite a bit more challenging for those coming on business trips now, so I thought it would be a good idea to suggest some topical and convenient souvenir ideas, with the help of some others assigned to posts in Moscow.

(1) Starbucks Matryoshka coffee bottles
These bottles are only available in Moscow. The Starbucks staff offered me service with a smile in English.

(2) T-shirts
Moscow metro map T-shirts and Hard Rock Cafe Moscow T-shirts have scarcity value in Japan.

(3) Picture postcards and playing cards featuring famous Moscow sights
I especially recommend these playing cards, which feature Saint Basil’s Cathedral printed on the ace. Place this ace in the middle of the deck and then snap your fingers. You’ll find that the ace amazingly jumps to the top of the deck!

(4) Kira Plastinina: The fashion brand launched by the fifteen-year-old Russian girl millionaire of the same name
Although the 2008 US launch failed, incurring losses of approximately 80 million dollars, the brand is still going strong in Russia. If I had a daughter, I’m sure I would buy some Kira Plastinina products myself.
(Official website  http://www.kiraplastinina.com/)

(5) Russian-made mechanical watches for devoted fans
You can have the same Sturmanskie brand watch that Yuri Gagarin wore as he famously observed how beautiful and blue the earth was. These watches are so reliable that they even work in outer space.
(Official website  http://www.aviatorwatch.ru/)

Please check out these souvenir suggestions and see what you think of them on your next business trip.

Marubeni Group magazine "M-SPIRIT" VOL.50 (March, 2009)

  • Kutuzov Avenue beautifully illuminated on Christmas night.

  • Although these are called Matryoshka coffee bottles, they do not have a series of increasingly smaller bottles inside.
  • It is nearly impossible to take a beautiful picture in Moscow in the winter. Am I the only one who is surprised by this discovery?
  • For those who feel that they have hit a wall in their Russian language studies, the Casio Russian electronic dictionary is very convenient, complete with audio pronunciation. Of course this isn't really a souvenir, but....

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