After living in Japan for months, its equal parts familiar and weird. And this extends to snacks. Find an American favorite with a Japanese twist like blueberry Pringles to corn-flavored Kit-Kats. Or sample a unique Japanese favorite, like fish egg chips. And even the fruit and sodas offer new tastes. Here’s my list of Japanese snacks you must try.
Japanese Sweet Snacks
In Japan, find gum in a mind-blowing amount of different colors and flavors. Although the most common flavors, mint and fruit, are sold in almost every convenience store, it’s still quite common to come across flavors that may surprise you.
A common example is called Black Black. This gum claims to help you snap out of your sleepy haze with the help of caffeine. It’s crazy popular in Japan for the caffeine and it’s strong minty flavor.
Soda-flavored candy is popular with all in Japan. The sweet flavor is tops with kids. Some of the most popular varieties are hard candy with fizzy centers, gummy candy with pieces of fizzy candy inside, and mints flavored with popular Japanese soda flavors.
One of Japan’s most well-known treats and widely available in the U.S. Pocky is still very popular in Japan. Find an endless amount varieties.
The most common flavors are chocolate, matcha, choco-almond, and strawberry. Some variations include chocolate-filled, crushed almond topping, and fruit-flavored. And don’t forget to look for a special size called Midi, a smaller size with a thicker layer of chocolate.
In America, fruit snacks are known for their sugary taste that’s beloved by children. While visiting, you simply cannot miss out on trying Japanese fruit snacks. Japanese fruit snacks have surprisingly realistic flavors, like orange, grape, and melon.
To a visitor, Japanese snacks can seem a little weird or sometimes flat-out outrageous. However, this is not the case with chocolate. Japanese chocolate snacks include everything from simple chocolate-covered nuts or a classic chocolate bar, to strawberry-flavored chocolate in the shape of a mushroom. December 12th is even dedicated to celebrating Dars, a very popular brand of chocolate in Japan.
Dars are small chocolate pieces that America is missing out on. It comes in a variety of different flavors, its small size makes them a favorite for school lunchboxes.
Chocolate-Dipped Roll Cookies
Another example of how Japanese snacks don’t always have to be so original. These cookies are a thin, wafer-like cookie rolled and dipped in different flavors of chocolate. Enjoy with a bowl of ice cream as dessert, or eat alone as a snack. Although difficult to find in convenience stores, find the cookies in select vending machines.
Small, single-bite caramels aren’t the first thing visitors think of with Japanese candy. But caramels are popular during the fall. They offer a nice treat to get you in the mood for the spectacular colors of the Japanese maples.
Surprisingly, doughnuts are crazy popular in Japan. Mister Donut, a Japanese chain restaurant, is one of the most successful chain restaurants in Japan.
The main difference between Japanese and American doughnuts are the doughnut decorations. Japanese doughnuts showcase elaborate designs and minute attention to detail.
Mochi is a traditional Japanese food that’s been adapted to fit modern Japanese cuisine. Made from a special sticky rice and pounded into a paste, mochi has a very stretchy consistency. It’s best freshly made but still delicious several days after it has been made.
Mochi isvery versatile food. It can be served plain as a part of a traditional ceremony. Or flavored with fruit and red bean paste, available for under $1 at a convenience store for a quick snack.
Find different varieties and flavors of mochi across Japan. Look for mochi with a whole fresh strawberry and red bean paste inside. Or try flavored mochi with custard inside. And tiny unflavored mochi balls are served with ice cream. Japanese like grass-flavored mochi and green tea-flavored mochi too.
Fruit is very popular in Japan both served as a snack and a dessert. Fruit in Japan tends to be more expensive than fruit in North America.
Like America, tangerines are a very popular snack for both kids and adults. Slightly more expensive than America’s Cuties, Japanese tangerines are juicier and sweeter.
Like the tangerines, Japanese grapes are more expensive, starting at about $11 US a bunch. You eat Japanese grapes different as well. Before eating, you must peel them, due to the grape’s thicker skin. The taste is similar to grape juice, but beware; the grape juice will stain your clothing.
Popular Savory Snacks in Japan
Potato-based snacks are popular in almost every modern culture, and Japan is no exception. While products like Lay’s Potato Chips, Pringles and McDonald’s French fries are quite popular. Wasabi, sweet potato, fish egg, and fried chicken-flavored chips are favorites in Japan too.
Fish Egg-Flavored Chips
A beloved example of Japanese potato snacks are Calbee Fish Egg-Flavored Potato Sticks. Fish-flavored snacks are very common in Japan, and this brand is one of the most popular.
After traveling across the world, this might be the most unusual potato chip I’ve ever tasted. And the chips actually contain small fish eggs.
Rice balls, or Onigiri, are balls made of rice with flavoring in the middle. Eat rice balls on the go, like before sports practices and find them in bento boxes.
My personal favorite is the pickled red plum flavor, with a pickled red plum in the middle and tastes both salty and sour. Find salmon, miso and green onion, seaweed, beef, curry, or plain salted rice. Sold in convenience stores, most eat Onigiri right outside as a quick snack.
Rice crackers are extremely popular as a snack in Japan. They usually come in small, serving-sized packages and assorted flavors and sizes. Find wasabi, salt, soy sauce, shrimp, and seaweed.
My favorite are wrapped in Nori, a type of seaweed. Or the ones flavored with soy sauce. Find rice cracker snacks everywhere from summer festivals to the local convenience store so pick some up and give them a try!
Chestnut-flavored foods are popular in Japan, especially during the autumn. Roasted chestnuts can be found at many Shrines, festivals, and supermarkets.
Find chestnut-flavored coffee drinks, cakes, pies, and bread in Japan during the fall. It’s even common to eat chestnut rice at dinner.
Japanese Frozen Treats
Ice cream and other frozen snacks are really popular in Japan. The varieties are seemingly endless and can be found in convenience stores throughout the year.
Just like in the U.S., ice cream shops are very popular in Japan. One of the most popular shops is called 31, known as Baskin Robbins in the U.S.
Japanese ice cream shops offer lots of American flavors, but they also sell local flavors. Find Japanese ice cream flavors like Matcha, Black Sesame, Melon, Musk fruit (similar to a green grape), and sweet potato. My personal favorite is Matcha, but every flavor is unique and worth a try.
Another popular type of Japanese ice cream is mochi ice cream. Shaped into a ball and wrapped in a thin layer of mochi, it’s a squishy consistency and comes in many different flavors. Kids love the interesting texture and fun flavor combinations.
Along with ice cream find frozen fruit in some convenience stores in Japan. With individual serving-sized packages, grab some grapes, strawberries or blueberries.
What to Find in a Japanese Vending Machine
I dare you to walk down a street and not see a vending machine. Actually Japan has the highest number of vending machines per capita. So carry lots of Japanese Yen in your pocket for an on-the-go treat or drink.
Ice Cream Vending Machines
Find Ice cream vending machines at tourist hot spots during the summer. Find a wide variety of frozen treats, like prepackaged ice cream cones, ice cream bars, frozen fruit juice and soda bars, and ice cream sandwiches.
Drink Vending Machines
Tea–Tea is available both hot and cold in vending machines. The most common type of tea sold is green tea, but Jasmine, fruit-flavored, and roasted teas are very popular as well.
Coffee Drinks–Hot coffee is incredibly convenient in a pinch. Find everything from black coffee to a vanilla latte.
Fruit Drinks–Fruit juices and fruit-flavored drinks are very popular in Japan. Always worth a try, especially with kids.
Soda–Just like any modern society, the Japanese love soda. Find famous American brands like Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepperalmost anywhere. Though try Japanese soda too.
Ramune–Pronounced Ramunay, is a popular soda in Japan. It tastes like a sweeter version of Sprite. And the packaging fascinateds everyone. The glass bottle is pinched in the middle and contains a marble. Using the included tool, you pop the marble out of the bottle cap, releasing the carbonation.
The original flavor is lemon-lime. Though find other flavors like strawberry, coconut, and melon.
Mitsuya Cider--A light lemon lime drink that even has its own carbonated candy.
Melon Soda–A bright green, incredibly sugary drink that tastes like melon candy.
Pocari Sweat–An electron replacement drink that has a mild citrus flavor.
Energy Drinks–Findenergy drinks in almost every vending machine and convenience store in Japan. The most popular brands are Monster Energy and Red Bull, but find unique Japan varieties too.
Liquid Vitamin Supplements–Found everywherein Japan and most vending machines will sell at least one kind. And some convenience stores offer large sections devoted to supplements. Though beware, they’re bitter and lack of English descriptions or ingredient lists.
Water–Find bottled water in every drink vending machine. However convenient, bring your own water bottle drink tap water.
First Trip to Japan?
I’m a high school exchange student living in Tokyo for a year. Here’s a list of articles that will help you plan a trip.
3 Day Itinerary for Tokyo–Spend at least a few days exploring the largest city in the world.
Prep and Pack for Japan–Get all the details for planning your trip or year abroad.
Japanese Exchange Student Packing List–Pack what you need without going over your weight limit for checked baggage.
Robot Restaurant–This pop culture show is a favorite because of its pyrotechnics and fast-paced show.
Food Tour--Sample Japanese cuisine with a local guide, a must for a must time visitor.