Many people visit Japan thinking that everything will be expensive, however with careful planning (and the help of Live Japan), you can definitely enjoy the things that Japan has to offer without breaking the bank.
In Japan, cheap snacks are called dagashi, which comes from the Japanese words "da" (negligible) and "kashi" (snacks). In the past, these affordable snacks were sold in many dagashi shops around the neighborhood. There are not many old-fashioned dagashi shops in big cities of Japan anymore, however you can still find these cheap snacks in specialty snack shops.
We visited snack emporium Okashi-no-Machioka in Shinjuku with ¥300 in hand and left with plenty of Japanese snacks. Shop staff Erika helped us with picking these snacks. Curious? Let’s take a look at our loot!
1. Black Thunder (Yuraku) ¥30
Black Thunder is a cocoa-flavored cookie bar mixed with Japanese-style rice puffs and coated with chocolate. It is rich in flavor and yet reasonable in price. Their slogan translates to “delicious taste in a flash of lightning”. Although it has a somewhat heavy texture and dark chocolate taste, this snack is popular among both young and old.
Black Thunder is also really popular during Valentine’s Day because of their affordability; making these chocolate bars the perfect “thank-you chocolate” for people to give to their co-workers.
2. Pachi Pachi Panic Popping Rocks (Meisan) ¥30
Kids worldwide love popping candies because it gives a fun feeling as the candies pop as soon as they touch your tongue. Pachi Pachi Panic puts another exciting twist to this popular childhood snack. The popping candies are mixed with ramune (soda) fizzy tablets to create a mix of sensations in your mouth! It’s like having two different childhood candies merge into one, so this is definitely something for you to try if you are feeling nostalgic.
3. Kabayaki-san Taro, Eel Flavored Fish Flake (Kado) ¥12
Fish flakes are commonly eaten as snacks in Japan. “It is eel-flavored but it’s not actually made out of eels,” Erika explained. Kabayaki-san Taro uses Alaska Pollock that is compressed and baked to give it a thin and firm texture. Some travelers might not be familiar with this texture, however as this is sold individually for a very cheap price, you can definitely sample one with just your small change.
4. Sudako-san Taro, Vinegared Octopus Fish Flake (Kado) ¥12
Similar to Kabayaki-san Taro, Sudako-san is made from fish flakes that are flattened and baked. Sudako-san is made using vinegar and garlic seasoning, with a mild octopus flavor. You will be able to smell the vinegar as you open the package, but upon tasting, it is not overbearingly sour. In fact, it has a mixture of sweet, sour and savory in one bite.
5. Ninjin Carrot-shaped Rice Crisps (Yaokin) ¥30
The first thing you will notice from this snack is the packaging. It really is shaped like a carrot. Erika says that it neither contains carrots nor does it taste like one. In fact, the name of this product derives solely from the shape (and color) of the packaging. Inside, you will find a generous amount of sweet rice crisps that will surely be a favorite for young children.
6. ‘Choco Balls’ with Peanuts (Morinaga) ¥74
Choco Balls made by Morinaga are savory peanuts wrapped in a crisp layer and coated with chocolate. This type of snack is obviously not only unique to Japan, but we find that the packaging has been thoughtfully made so that it’s great for sharing. The box packaging has an easy flip that opens and allows the chocolate balls to slide out easily one by one.
7. Cheese Oyatsu Camembert Fish Flake (Ohgiya) ¥10
Cheese oyatsu combines two different flavors into one snack. It contains a thin slice of fish flake (surimi) topped with a thick cut of camembert cheese. You will like cheese oyatsu if you prefer savory snacks and if you love cheese of course. It comes in a tiny packaging, so give one a try and maybe buy a couple more to snack on while you travel around Japan!
8. Fugashi Bran Snack (Yaokin) ¥21
Fugashi is a Japanese dried wheat gluten snack with brown sugar. It has a light crispy yet fluffy texture with the caramelized brown sugar taste. This is a snack invented in the Edo period and popularized during the Showa period as the rod-like shape snack that we know now. Both the texture and taste might not be familiar to non-Japanese, therefore if you would like to try a truly Japanese snack tradition, this might be a good choice.
9. Umaibo Corn Potage Flavor (Yaokin) ¥9
Umaibo or "delicious stick" is a small, puffed, cylindrical corn snack that is very popular in Japan. Foreigners might mistake the mascot on the packaging as the beloved Doraemon, however, it has nothing to do with Doraemon. Umaibo comes in many different flavors, including this corn potage flavor that is deliciously addictive.
10. Umaibo Takoyaki Flavor (Yaokin) ¥9
Another flavor that is usually popular from the Umaibo range is the takoyaki flavor. Takoyaki is one of the quintessential foods in Japan and they're round balls of fluffy dough that are smothered with a special savory takoyaki sauce and have a tasty piece of octopus meat at the center. Octopus flavored snacks are very common in Japan so if you are going to try one of these delicious sticks, the takoyaki flavor might be a good one to try.
11. Nihonichi Nagai Choco (Riska) ¥32
This particular snack claims to be the longest chocolate snack in Japan. The inside is similar to the Umaibo snack we mentioned above, however this one is covered in chocolate and sprinkled with nuts. It is light in texture and easy to munch while you’re on the move because it is long and slender. Whether or not it’s Japan’s number one snack is up to you to decide.
12. Magokoro no Kotoba Choco(Chirin) ¥30
Magokoro no Kotoba choco are chocolate covered in crunchy sugar coating. The taste itself is similar to other sugar-coated chocolates, however it is the packaging and the intent that makes this particular snack unique.
Erika explains that there are words of encouragement or gratitude on the packaging, such as “thank you, always” and “please continue to take care of me”. These types of gratitude chocolates are usually given out to thank your co-workers.
Total Snacks: 12, Total Price: ¥299, Total Satisfaction: Priceless!
It was a lot of fun to see the final loot in our basket; a bucket filled with unique Japanese snacks. This is also a great way for travelers to try different snacks that have been well loved by Japanese over the years. If you’re traveling with children, this is also one way to spend time indoors, picking inexpensive snacks and trying them out (in moderation, of course).
You can find these cheap snacks in supermarkets or specialty snack stores such as Okashi-no-Machioka. We found ours at the Shinjuku branch, which is about a 5 minute walk from the West Exit of Shinjuku Station. Please note that prices do change, but we hope you get an idea of the amount of Japanese snacks that you can buy with just loose change. We did 12 snacks for under ¥300, now it’s your turn… Enjoy!
*Just remember that the products displayed may vary depending on the store and some of these snacks might not stay around.
*Prices listed in this article are those listed at the Okashi-no-machioka and may vary depending on other shops.
Okashi-no-Machioka (Shinjuku)おかしのまちおか 新宿店
- Address 1-12-1 Nishi-shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 1600023, Japan / 〒160-0023 東京都新宿区西新宿1-12-1
- Phone Number 03-3342-0321
Hours: 10:00 - 21:30
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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