Why Are Japanese Snacks so Popular?
Japanese snacks and candies come in a vast array of flavor variations inspired by traditional, regional, and seasonal ingredients. The easy transferability of snacks allows people to taste big flavors anywhere and/or on the go. Japanese snacks are so appealing because, thanks to the wide variety of textures and flavors, there’s truly something for everyone. Eating Japanese snacks is like tasting Japan in one bite!
Experience traditional, regional, and seasonal Japanese flavors with a tasty sweet or savory snack, and see for yourself why Japanese snacks are so popular.
Traditionally Inspired Snacks
Some ingredients have been part of Japanese cuisine for thousands of years, starring in iconic Japanese dishes still enjoyed today. Traditional Japanese ingredients range in flavor from spicy and salty to nutty and sweet, and they make great snack seasonings.
As Japan’s second most popular bean, behind soybeans, azuki are used to make the anko (sweet red bean paste) filling for many Japanese confections. You’ll find azuki flavor in sweet snacks like Chocolate Azuki Beans, Hokkaido Red Bean Doughnuts, and Mini Red Bean Crackers.
Kinako is roasted soybean flour. Its nutty, slightly sweet flavor profile and powder-like texture make it a great topping for sweets like mochi and ice cream. Kinako-flavored snacks like Funwari Meijin Mochi Puffs: Black Syrup Kinako and Funwari Meijin Mochi Puffs: Kinako are tasty treats too.
Sesame is delicious in both sweet and savory applications. Goma (black sesame) can be found in sweet snacks, like Black Sesame Cookies, and savory snacks like Black Sesame Taiko. For munch-able Japanese chips and crackers flavored with sesame oil, there’s Yokohama Sesame Oil Okaki Rice Crackers and Pure Potato Chips: Sesame Oil + Salt.
Soy sauce is used in many Japanese glazes, sauces, and to build soup broths. The distinct umami flavor of soy sauce is also used to season many Japanese snacks, often balancing the sweetness of other ingredients. Some prime examples are Zarame Mochi Rice Crackers, Anpanman Age Senbei, and Mike Popcorn: Butter Soy Sauce Flavor.
Sometimes referred to as “Japanese horseradish,” wasabi is traditionally eaten with sushi or sashimi, but it also adds a great spicy flavor to savory snacks. We like Wasabi no Kiwami Rice Crackers and Onigiri Senbei Wasabi. If you’re looking for a sweet, there’s a limited edition wasabi-flavored Kit Kat.
Regionally Inspired Snacks
Different regions across Japan have signature dishes, often featuring special ingredients made or grown in the area. Japan is home to a variety of climates, allowing for food scenes in cities and growing food in lush farmlands.
Hokkaido is home to many regional ingredients. There’s the fresh, local corn on the cob, sold at Hokkaido’s Odori Park, that inspires fantastic corn-flavored snacks like Oh! Yaki Tokibi and Tomoriko Corn Sticks. There’s also Hokkaido-grown potatoes, which are used in snacks like Jaga Pokkuru.
Hokkaido is also the premier region for Japan’s dairy production. For a tasty snack, reach for Natural Yeast Bread made with Hokkaido cream or Funwari Meijin Mochi Puffs made with Hokkaido cheese.
Kyoto is a haven for tea-lovers. An iconic, popular, and traditional ingredient, Uji Matcha is also a premium, culinary grade matcha that hails from Kyoto. The intense, earthy flavor of Uji Matcha powder can be found in Japanese Kit Kats and Matcha Chocolate Stick Cake.
Hojicha (slow-roasted green tea) also originated in Kyoto. The rich, toasty flavor of hojicha is great in baked treats like Hojicha Roasted Green Tea Financier Cake and candies like Hojicha Tea Otona No Amasa Kit Kats. Enjoy either with a warm cup of hojicha tea to make it a magical experience.
Ogura Toast is a popular dish served in cafés across Nagoya, the capital of Aichi Prefecture. The dish is made with toasted shokupan (Japanese milk bread) that’s topped with sweet red bean paste, butter, and whipped cream. To enjoy this dish in snack form, there’s Ogura Toast Langue de Chat sandwich cookies.
Typically enjoyed in a lunch bento, ebi furai (fried shrimp) is another popular Nagoya dish. Luckily, you can taste the sweet, peppery, curry powder, and garam masala flavors of ebi furai with a bag of crave-able Ebi Crunch.
Kokuto is a special kind of sugar that’s made in seven of Okinawa’s 48 inhabited islands. This ingredient is one of Okinawa’s most famous products, flavoring a variety of sweets like Kokuto Black Sugar Candied Walnuts, Okinawa Kokuto Black Sugar Cookies, and Natural Yeast Bread: Okinawa Black Sugar.
Seasonally Inspired Snacks
From floral spring and refreshing summer flavors to warming fall and popular winter flavors, every season brings its own seasonal ingredients in Japan.
An iconic springtime flavor, the floral aroma and subtle sweetness of sakura gets incorporated into many Japanese treats, including Handmade Sakura Candy, Kit Kats, and teas. Similarly, Hanami dango is a type of mochi eaten during hanami (flower viewing) season. You can celebrate the season with some chewy Mocchan Dango Mochi.
Yuzu is a sour citrus fruit that’s popular during hot summer months in Japan. Enjoy the tart flavor of yuzu with treats like Candied Yuzu Peel, Yuzu Konjac Jelly, and Yuzu Sake Kit Kats. Inspired by the iconic summertime drink, Handmade Yuzu Sake Candy is another tasty treat to enjoy when you’re feeling thirsty.
On a chilly autumn day, pair a warm of mug of tea with a baked treat like a Kocha Black Tea Donut, Koganeimo Golden Sweet Potato Cake, or Chestnut Drum Manju. Fall flavors can also be found in candies like Autumn Sweet Potato and Fall Chestnut flavored Kit Kats.
Kurisumasu keki (Japanese Christmas Cake) is a strawberry cake. Enjoy this iconic winter flavor with strawberry-flavored Kit Kats and Pocky, a Strawberry Tartlet, or Strawberry and Milk Tea Cookie. If you prefer things savory, go for a snack inspired by another wintertime favorite, Koikeya Minit's Stick Potato: Nissin Chicken Ramen.
If none of these delicious snacks made you hungry, well, I don’t know what to tell you! Japan’s wide variety of snacks continues to wow us, and every year snackmakers come up with new ideas for delicious flavors to keep snackers like us excited. We can’t wait to see what new snacks are coming!