I don’t usually do a Take-Homes post until we’ve been in a place for a while, but Tokyo’s supermarkets and mini-marts are crammed with so many scrummy snack foods, both savoury and sweet, that I’ve found it hard to resist grabbing an armful each time we’ve popped in for some Kirin. So, here’s what I’ve found for you…
Retro labelling and packaging of soft drinks (or soda pops depending on where you come from), lemonades and ciders seems to be a growing trend if the products in the supermarket fridges are anything to go by. There are some very cool drinks around, including this Unzen lemonade, which is not actually from Tokyo, but from Nagasaki, but I couldn’t resist showing it to you.
I love seaweed and I love sesame, but these seaweed and sesame crackers are definitely an acquired taste: very pungent, very grassy, and even a tad peppery, they’re best in moderation, and are nicely matched with an icy glass of Asahi.
These cute senbei snacks have plastic wrappers that make them look like little girls and boys dressed in traditional costume. Inside there’s a soy-flavoured rice crisp that serves as the body and a soy-coated peanut for the head. They’re sweet and savoury at the same time. Delish!
These potato sticks are made from three different types of potatoes, and come in purple and pink as well as the usual creamy potato colour. They’re scrummy, full-flavoured, but not too salty, and while they’re sold right next to all the usual packets of crisps and are the same price here in Tokyo, I can imagine them only being sold in specialty shops and costing an arm and a leg in some countries.
Asakusa’s famous centuries-old shopping street, Nakamise, is famous for its Japanese souvenirs such as fans and brushes, and its traditional snacks, including ningyoyaki and agemanju, small soft cakes with red bean paste filling, along with osenbei (rice crackers) and kibidango (skewered soybean balls). They seem to be the local’s souvenir of choice and it’s something of a weekend ritual to line up for the things.
I admit that as much as I love drinking tea I initially bought the Sakura tea for the pretty packaging, however, it turned out to be delicious, made from quality black tea blended with cherry blossom essence and leaves.
Like any supermarket around the world, in Tokyo supermarkets you’ll see stands of chewing gum, bubble gum and cough drops beside the cash register, and if you’re like me you’ll be sampling some every day. The red packet of ‘Oxylish’ gum above is super-fruity and flavoursome, while the RyuKakuSan Origional Japanese Herbal Throat Drops do wonders for clearing the throat yet have a subtle flavour.
I’m curious to know the history of these colourful candies as you can buy similar old-fashioned sweets at The Rocks in Sydney and I recently saw some in Venice in the shape of Murano glass beads. These flower-patterned lollies are similar-looking but the flavours are distinctly Japanese, aromatic and tasting of exotic Asian fruits like lychee and mangosteen.
Do you have any favorite Japanese snacks? Any tips on unmissable things to try and buy?