Perhaps because I sew, I take an interest when I see people making stuff by hand. Factory made souvenirs don’t interest me much. I don’t buy a lot since mostly travel alone I need to stay light. But watching and learning doesn’t cost, or weigh, anything.
Traditional Chinese bamboo framed kite making:
Lucky monkey baby dolls are a local specialty in Takayama:
A few other examples of Japanese hand made items:
When you take an interest in someone making something, or even just noticing that something is exceptionally lovely or interesting, sometimes people will invite you in and show you a bit about how they work.
While handiwork might not be your thing, expressing interest or admiration for something gives you an opportunity to have an exchange with people on a more meaningful level than asking for directions to the bathroom or how much something costs.