What is it about Japanese candy and confections that enchants the world? We think it has a lot to do with the same reasons why people love Japanese culture as a whole: it’s fun, colorful, and, in many ways, unexpected, all while maintaining a level of sugary sweetness.
While you can certainly find plenty of chocolate in the Land of the Rising Sun—the country is unabashedly obsessed with Kit Kats, we’re sure you know—Japanese candy is all about being over-the-top, and that is often best achieved through easy-to-manipulate ingredients, like bean paste and gelatins. The result is a spread of mesmerizing, multicolored creations that just so happen to be uber-delicious, too. For newbies, we’re here to help introduce you to the great, big world of Japanese candy and to break it open for you like an Osaka Chocolate Egg.
1. Japanese Kit Kat
Chokoreeto (「チョコレート」) first-timers will want to start their journey with the biggest craze in Japanese snacking to date: Kit Kats. Nestlé Japan brought these chocolatey wafers to the forefront of Japanese culture in the early 2000s with the debut of the strawberry Kit Kat. From there, things went wild, with the company producing Kit Kats in over 400 flavors, from sake to wasabi to sweet potato. Rarity and novelty tend to edge out deliciousness when it comes to Tokyo’s chocolate wafer candies, but all the flavors we’ve tried have been undeniably tasty.
Though it’s usually branded as a cookie or a snack, pocky holds an important place on this list purely for its popularity both in Japan and the United States. Invented by Yoshiaki Koma in 1966 (and produced by the huge Japanese food manufacturer Ezaki Glico), these iconic snacks consist of chocolate-covered biscuit sticks finished with all sorts of coatings and decorations. Tons of global and regional flavors exist, from melon and mango to tiramisu and yogurt.
Japanese mochi is a rice cake made from a type of glutinous rice, which allows it to be formed into all sorts of fun shapes and sizes (but usually a ball). Commonly enjoyed on Japanese New Year and throughout the year, too, this yummy confection is sweetened with tasty regional and seasonal flavors like black syrup, sakura, persimmon, and more. You’ll also want to try mochi’s mouthwatering sibling, dango. Both of these sticky, chewy treats are great at taking on other flavors, so they vary widely in taste.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten those big ones out of the way, let’s make room for some classics. This traditional Japanese confectionery is made by simmering azuki and other beans with sugar and then drying them and covering them in sugar or syrup. The result is a supremely enjoyable taste and texture. Amanatto candies come in all sorts of colors based on the beans they’re made from. If you’re in the market for some classic Japanese candy, amanatto is definitely one you want to add to the tasting list.
5. Japanese Hard Candy
Get a taste of Kyoto with small-batch Japanese candy by Daimonji Ame Honpo. The fifth-generation family-run business produces super flavorful hard candies that are distinctly shokunin (職人), meaning they are all made with an artisan touch by experienced craftsmen. Try tasty flavors like Yuzu Sake (crafted exclusively for Bokksu) and Persimmon.
The thick, jelly-like Japanese dessert known as Yokan is often sliced into small bites and then served with tea. It’s made from sugar, agar, and red bean paste (or, in some cases, real fruit juice, and other sweeteners) and may be chilled or eaten at room temperature. In summer, a popular variety is mizu yokan, which means it was made with additional water and should be served chilled.
Another traditional Japanese candy, manju is made with rice powder, flour, and buckwheat with a red bean filling, creating a fluffy, delicate flavor, and a mix of distinct textures. You can find manju in a variety of different flavors, with classics like chestnut, sweet potato, and more. These cute little puffs of dough can come in many different colors like white, pink, or green.
The Best Way to Try Japanese Candy
Hungry yet? The only real way to satisfy your sweet tooth and to enjoy all these unique flavors for yourself is to try the Bokksu Japanese candy box. Every month, we’ll send you a medley of mouthwatering Japanese treats with between 10 and 25 authentic candies, snacks, teas, and sweets, depending on which subscription you choose. Itadakimasu!