We need them, we love them, we hate them, and we consume them in the worst and the best of times. That’s right folks, today we are introducing snacks and just like many things which are out of the ordinary in the land of the rising sun, Japanese snacks are some of the most unique around.
In terms of the snack game, the Japanese would be a top contender. They love their snacks as they are enjoyed by all age ranges with many historical brands still being prevalent today. We want to showcase the best around Japan, for all those with a sweet tooth, the chocolate lovers, beer drinkers and partakers of all that is traditional. Open up a bag of potato chips and let’s get started.
Who hasn’t heard of Kit Kats? Probably no one, that’s who. It should be mentioned that Kit Kats aren’t even Japanese, but with the variety of Kit Kats that have been born in this country, Japan has basically reinvented it.
Have you heard of Sake Kit Kats? Think about that for a second. They legitimately taste like sake and if you manage to eat 50 of these you might manage to give yourself a hangover the next day.
Not a drinker? Well how about apple pie? Stick these in a dollop of ice cream and you have made yourself an apple pie, that’s a joke because you put the apple pie Kit Kats in the ice cream instead of the other way around if you didn’t get it.
Honestly I was never a fan of Kit Kats until I saw the craziness that Japan has thought of. Some of these are very delicious, some are a bit strange, but they are all worthy of trying. Maybe it’s time to throw a Kit Kat party night and try them all.
Here's a list of some of the most poular Japanese Kit Kats that are available on Amazon.
I would say the defining feature of Takenoko No Sato is its distinct bamboo shoot shape. Generally, I’m not a huge chocolate biscuit kind of person, but these are not too sweet which creates an addictive quality to continuously snack on. On top of that, they come in the perfect shape to pop in your mouth until they are gone in 15 seconds and you’re suddenly obese.
In recent days, Takenoko No Sato is popularized by the manga Himouto! Umaru-chan, which portrays a straight A, high achieving academic student by day, and upon returning home turns into a junk food consuming otaku who consumes mass amounts of these chocolate biscuits. Lets just say, with these little bamboo shoots, you could also become your own Umaru-chan and snack on these while wearing your one-sie and watch your favorite anime all day.
If you are a Cheetos lover, Umaibo will be right up your alley. Umaibo, also translated as ‘delicious stick’, is essentially an oily puff cracker in the shape of a tube of savory crunch. Their mascot is an Umaibo-loving cat which bears strong resemblance to the other well known feline, Doraemon. Every flavor of Umaibo takes on the trademark shape of a cylindrical tube.
Unlike Cheetos which mainly comes in cheese flavor, Umaibo does not really have a signature flavor and has come in countless types taking on the flavors of traditional Japanese cuisine such as takoyaki, fish eggs or fermented soybeans. Umaibo flavors are often rotated over time, so if you see a flavor you like, it might be a good idea to stock up as it might not be there the next time you crave this ‘delicious stick’’.
Hi-Chew is Japan’s answer to its western counterpart, Starburst. I am also a lover of Starburst and have had a fair share of cavities to thank them for, but Hi-Chew is in my opinion, the superior chewy candy. They have a slightly less artificial sweetness that Starburst has, which makes Hi-Chew a candy that is hard to stop eating once you have popped the first one. The original Hi-Chew flavors come in the fruity variety of muscat grape, strawberry, apple and more.
But there are also other unique flavors such as cola and whipping cream. Starburst needs to up their game because Hi-Chew is where it is at right now.
Kasugai Gummy Candy makes the strong boast of containing real, fresh, fruit juice in their gummy. I’ve been deceived by the slogans of corporate giants before, but Kasugai Gummy Candy do taste like their real fruity counterparts. Seriously, read the reviews, everyone agrees. They come in the almost entire fruity spectrum and have a soft, yet firm squish. If you are a gummy lover then Kasugai Gummy Candy is a must-try.
What does ‘Pocky’ mean anyways? I’ve eaten hundreds of these chocolate dipped biscuits and still don’t know, but I can tell you that they are delicious. If you’re like me, your first introduction to Japanese snacks came from a visit to the local international foods store and finding a stra`nge chocolate coated stick called.
Pocky is defined by a slightly salty biscuit which is dipped in a variety of flavors. If you want to get particularly zen then try out the matcha flavor. In a classy mood? We got you covered with cherry and almonds. Also, Pocky Day is November 11th everybody.
Now you might be looking at these Kanro Umeboshi Dried Plums, and thinking, ‘I’m looking for snacks, not constipation relief’. Or maybe you are constipated, then this is the perfect snack for you! Anyways this de-seeded dried plum snack is for those with a sour tongue and possibly looking for a healthy, non-enamel-melting snack (looking at you Warheads).
And just like the saying goes, one pack of Kanro Umeboshi Dried Plums a day, keeps the impacted fecal matter away.
You can tell these are classy biscuits because they all have the engraving of a sailboat in their chocolate covering. Next time you have English tea time with the Queen of Britain, open up a pack of Alfort and she will devour these while thanking you for a lovely time.
Tohato Caramel Corn
Have you ever been eating caramel popcorn and wished it packed a little more of that oomph? Well here is what you’ve been asking for with Tohato Caramel Corn. This puffed corn curl snack has caramel sweetness with a nutty twist. I don’t have much else to say except these have that super addictive combination of salty sweetness and you will probably be looking just like the gaping mouthed picture by the time you are finishing off a bag of these.
Senbei is a classic Japanese snack, which is made from baked, puffed up rice flour. Most people only know of the plain slightly salty type of senbei, but there are many varieties out there. My personal favorite is the curry flavored senbei which is amazingly addictive and guaranteed to leave a stank aftertaste in your mouth. There are also many shrimp senbei, commonly referred to as ‘ebisen’.
Jagariko is a very crispy Pocky-shaped potato snack that comes in what looks like an instant ramen cup. The charm of these snacks is the crisp and the snack on-the-go convenience. These crispy sticks look like they would belong in an elementary student’s lunch box, but don’t be fooled, I’ve seen plenty of old salarymen eating these while getting wasted on Sapporo beer in the shinkansen. My personal favorite is the salad flavor, perfect for hanami picnics in the summertime.
Kaki no tane. Kaki, meaning persimmon and tane, meaning seed, is a weird name for a rice cracker snack and isn’t understood until you see their shape, which is coincidentally in the shape of miniature persimmon seeds. Unlike persimmon, these are salty and come with peanuts making it another common beer snack. As a newcomer to Japanese beer snacks, there was a period of time the wasabi flavor of Kaki no tane was a staple of my unhealthy diet. It is seriously good.
Calbee is like the Lays of Japan. What sets Calbee potato chips apart from Lays is a slightly less greasy and more real tasting potato chip. Coming from America I am more used to the artery constricting half a pound bag of Lays chips. But while Calbee does have ‘party size’ bags, most options are smaller, single person portions, and way more flavors.
Imagine trail mix, but instead of corn flour crackers they are rice crackers, and instead of MSG powder dusting each piece, there was none at all. Arare rice crackers are the snack of the old salaryman singing at the local karaoke bar. Get these crackers when you want to get a taste of old-school Japanese bar snacks.
Japanese Mochi is for when you have the urge to eat cake, but you want to feel healthy about it. Mochi itself is basically sweetened glutinous rice flour which has been pounded and stretched into the consistency of a silicone breast implant. It doesn’t have a strong flavor, but when combined with a variety of fillings and toppings, creates heaven.
Dorayaki is a traditional snack which consists of sweet red bean paste sandwiched between two pancake-like buns. In recent days, it is well known for being the beloved snack of the character Doraemon, but this pancake delicacy has origins that date back hundreds of years ago. The outward appearance of this snack looks simple as almost all versions of dorayaki are based on the red bean paste and pancake, but it is a skill to master the art of perfecting both.
The original flavor of ramune is lemon-lime, similar to Sprite, but has a slightly deeper kick. Over the hot summer season Ramune is very refreshing which also makes it popularly consumed at Japanese festivals.
Calpico is a carbonated yogurt soda. If you take a second to think about that sentence, “yogurt” and “soda” to make a beverage sounds like someone is playing a disgusting prank. But like a lot of weird combinations found in Japan, the combination of these two things is surprisingly good. You are not actually drinking curdled yogurt in a can, imagine a tangy and slightly milky beverage which is super refreshing on a hot day.
Let’s take a moment to think about this drink here. Apparently, this is a drink which is collected from the perspiration of the ‘pocari’. Now what a pocari is, and how they collect its sweat is a mystery. What we do know is that pocari sweat is marketed towards athletes and is supposedly good for restoring your electrolytes and keeping your hydration levels at a healthy level.
I don’t know the validity of these claims, but it's a pretty good tasting drink and it feels like it might be affecting something when I have it during my strenuous 50 pushup sessions.
Snacks for Gifts
Tokyo Banana clearly represents the universal symbol of the city of Tokyo in the form of a limp twinkie. Comparing it to a twinkie however, Tokyo Banana is way better and has overall higher quality ingredients with a distinct banana flavor in the filling.