You can get all sorts of specialist snacks in Japan. The Japanese are known for bringing back souvenirs from the places they visit. This often equates to cheap snacks from the far and exotic to nearby towns and places within Tokyo. The exclusive green tea KitKat from Kyoto is a case in point. That it is actually better tasting than a regular KitKat, may be a matter of opinion, but it is tasty.
The famous chocolate covered pretzel sticks called Pocky Sticks(Japanese: 小枝 , Koeda) come in a taste to cater to any demographic, such as the bittersweet chocolate one known as the Men’s Pocky or the Decorer Pocky (which features extra decorative icing). There is even a Mousse Pocky (which features extra thick, “creamy” mousse-like icing and is more exclusive). Unlike other Pocky variations, Mousse Pocky packages contain fewer pieces than regular Pocky with only nine pieces per pack.
Pocky come in dozens of varieties such as chocolate, strawberry, and almond. Some of the more unusual flavors include the seasonal flavors of honey (spring) and kiwifruit mango (summer). Regional flavors of Pocky include grape (Nagano), yūbari melon (Hokkaidō), giant mikan (tangerine, sold in the Kyūshū region), powdered tea azuki bean (Kyoto), Kobe wine (Kobe). There are also such flavors as banana, coffee, caramel, marble royal milk tea, melon, milk, honey and milk, cream cheese, berry, sweet potato, coconut, crush (crunchy cracker pieces in chocolate), pineapple, pumpkin, hazelnut, kurogoma (black sesame), kinako (soy bean flour), marron, and green tea.
The Japanese also have a wide range of tastes in their snacks, whether its chocolate, eel, or squid. Yes, that’s right squid. There has been a resurgence in nostalgic candy and vintage snacks in Tokyo among baby boomers and the younger crowd. It has gained popularity in pop-culture as well, especially after being featured in the blockbuster film 20th Century Boys.
Dagashi originated in the Edo period and was made for the common classes and was usually made using inexpensive ingredients and lots of unrefined sugar. Dagashi sweets became popular because they were cheap and they were usually bundled with lottery tickets that could be redeemed for cheap prizes.
Dagashi is distinct from the Meiji period candies that followed afterward, which include some of the more familiar chocolate and artificially flavored snacks that can be found at convenience stores today.
Vintage Sweet shops peddling cheap junk foods and snacks, (駄菓子 , Dagashi), can still be found around the city though in smaller numbers. There are a few that have been around for over a century.
Here’s a list of some of the still around in Tokyo today. Kamikawaguchi-ya is the oldest one in the Kanto area and has been in business for 227 years through 13 generations. It’s a small stand located within reach of the Kishi Bojin temple.
Kamikawaguchi-ya 3-15 Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku. Tel: 03-3980-9779. Open daily 10am-6pm(summer) ; 10am-5pm(winter). Closed on rainy days. Nearest stn: Zoshigaya.
Ebisu Dagashi Bar 1-13-7 Ebisu Nishi, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5458-5150. Open Mon-Sat 6:30pm-4:30am, Sun & hols 6pm-1am. Nearest stn: Ebisu. For other locations, see www.servicemart.co.jp
Daiba Itchome Shotengai Decks Tokyo Beach, 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3599-6500. Open daily 11am-9pm. Nearest stn: Odaiba Kaihin Koen. www.odaiba-decks.com
Inokuchi Shoten 1-18-11 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku. Tel: 03-3807-4321. Open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, closed Sun, holidays and first, third and fifth Sat. Nearest stn: Minowa. www.inokuchi.net
Shibasaki Shoten 4-32-7 Kuramae, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3861-6637. Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; Sat 9am-3pm. Closed on Sun and holidays. Nearest stn: Kuramae. www.dagashino-shibasaki.com