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Japan is not just famous for its technological advancements, Mt. Fuji, anime and manga, matcha and ramen, and its beautiful sights. The Land of the Rising Sun is also home to yummy, and sometimes quirky, Japanese snacks!
Snacks in Japanese
Before we dive into this extensive list of best snacks to buy in Japan, acquaint yourself with these general terms for Japanese snacks.
Kashi or Okashi
Kashi (菓子) originally referred to fruits and nuts but is now known as the umbrella term for any kind of snacks and confectionery, regardless of where and how they are made.
The “O (お)” in okashi (お菓子) is a Japanese prefix to make a polite expression. Thus, okashi is the polite expression of kashi but they refer to the same thing.
The most common word for Japanese snacks, wagashi (和菓子) refers to traditional Japanese confections that are made using ancient recipes.
Wagashi are often served with green tea. Most of them are made from plant-based ingredients like azuki bean paste.
Popular Japanese snacks that are considered wagashi include mochi (rice cakes), dorayaki (mini panackes with red bean inside), dango (sticky dumplings), and senbei (rice crackers).
Nowadays, wagashi are no longer limited to tea ceremonies but are consumed and enjoyed as souvenirs and afternoon snacks.
Dagashi (駄菓子) is the generic name for cheap and relatively small Japanese snacks, sweets, and candies that cost about 10 yen to 200 yen. Children especially love these Japanese snacks because they can buy these with their pocket money.
The term was coined during the Edo Period (1603-1868) when resources were scarce and sugar was expensive. Dagashi, typically made of corn syrup and grains, was the cheaper, less healthy alternative to the expensive wagashi.
These Japanese snacks usually come in bright packaging and are sold in small quantities, often individually wrapped.
Popular dagashi incude Umaibo, Karinto, Ramune, and Kabayaki.
Dagashi were sold in specialty stores called dagashiya, a popular place for kids to stop after school. These stores are rare now, replaced by convenience stores. This is why most Japanese adults do feel a sense of nostalgia for these inexpensive snacks.
Now that that’s out of the way, prepare to drool as we jump into this list of yummy snacks from Japan. We’re sure that in no time, you’re ready to buy Japanese snacks online.
Best-selling and classic Japanese snacks
Amanoya is one of Japan’s famous rice cracker manufacturers and Himemaru is their most beloved product. Himemaru is a type of senbei (rice crackers) that is deep fried.
Crunchy with a sweet-salty soy sauce flavor, these light rice crackers are delicious and almost impossible to stop munching on once you start. It pairs well with green tea and alcoholic beverages, too!
Who doesn’t remember this retro kawaii packaging? Japanese kids and adults alike love these tiny strawberry chocolates! It’s even famous in neighboring Asian countries. We’re sure this has less to do with its taste than the nostalgic vibes, but it also doesn’t taste bad.
This Japanese candy is a nod to Apollo 11’s successful moon landing in 1969 – that’s how far back these chocolates go! It notably resembles Mt. Fuji, too.
As for the taste, it has a gentle cacao flavor and sour-sweet hints from the strawberry layer.
Konpeito has roots from the early 16th century when Portuguese traders introduced the production of small colored candies made from pure sugar. As it uses a lot of sugar, konpeito was very rare and expensive.
These colorful, star-shaped Japanese rock candies are sweet and cute, that they make for great snacks and Japanese gifts. Today, konpeito comes in various flavors like vanilla, strawberry, plum, yogurt, mango, cherry and peach.
It’s amazing how the simplest Japanese crisps are also the most popular. These crescent-shaped rice crackers are so unassuming and yet so bold, flavorful, and quite addictive.
Kaki no tane originated from Nagaoka City in Niigata Prefecture, a prominent rice production center in the northern region of Japan. It is essentially small pieces of sticky rice with spicy soy sauce glaze.
Kameda’s kaki no tane is also known ‘kakipi,’ or kaki-peanuts, because it mixes kaki no tane rice crackers with peanuts. This Japanese treat pairs well with beer.
No list of iconic Japanese snacks is complete without Fujiya’s Milky Candy, one of the most famous sweets from the 50s.
This classic, chewy treat is so iconic partly because of its creamy flavor, thanks to the high-quality milk from Hokkaido. But it is also famous for Peko-chan, the cute, lip-licking girl with pigtails on the packaging of Milky. Both the candies and Peko-chan are still going strong even after 50+ years!
Like most popular Japanese snacks, eating ramune soda candies is like taking a trip down memory lane.
These fizzy soda-flavored candies are made after Ramune, a popular carbonated lemon-line drink that dates back to 1876. The beverage reminds locals of summer festivals, where the drink is sold in stalls.
Morinaga’s Ramune Soda Candy is a recreation of the ramune soda bottle.
Sweet Japanese snacks
Nestle introduced KitKat in Japan in 1973 and like everywhere else in the world, the chocolate-covered wafers were an instant hit.
KitKat has since released over 350 flavors. But the Matcha Kitkat, a Japanese exclusive, is undoubtedly the most famous flavor in Japan and is also one of the most popular Japanese snacks worldwide.
First released in 1979, Hello Panda biscuits are bite-sized shortbread pillows filled with creamy chocolate. It is recognizable for its hexagonal packaging featuring cartoon pandas doing various sports activities like fencing and archery.
Hello Panda biscuits are also available in flavors like vanilla, strawberry, double chocolate, coconut, and of course, the Japanese favorite matcha flavor.
If you grew up reading or watching the Japanese manga and anime character Doraemon, then you know what a dorayaki is. Doraemon loves this Azuki red bean paste-filled small pancake patties.
It’s not hard to see why. One of the oldest and most popular Japanese snacks sold, these small pancakes are typically made from castella sponge cake and filled with anko (red bean paste). They’re soft, sweet, and delicious. Newer versions also use chestnut or ice cream as filling.
First manufactured by Morinaga in June 1913, Milk Caramel is one of the most popular Japanese snacks, a long-time favorite across generation.
Caramel is a western sweet that arrived in Japan in the late 19th century. But like most foreign things that make it to Japan, the Japanese people found a way to make it their own, introducing different flavors along the way.
Morinaga Milk Caramel comes in a distinctive yellow box and continues to be a best-seller.
Korea has Pepero, Japan has Pocky. The striking similarity has even spawned lawsuits and Reddit debates.
Long-standing rivalry aside, Pocky, which has been around since 1966, is a light, convenient, and delicious snack. These thin, chocolate-coated biscuit sticks are a cult hit and can be quite addicting.
Today, there are plenty of flavors to choose from: almond, coconut, honey, strawberry, matcha, cookies & cream, chocolate banana, pistachio, melon, and whiskey, which is only available in Japan.
Mochi is rice cake that uses glutinous rice, and sometimes other ingredients like water, sugar, and cornstarch. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape.
Daifukumochi, or simply daifuku, is basically sweet, stuffed mochi. The most popular filling is sweet red bean paste, but other variants use peanuts, sesame, and strawberry, which is a springtime treat.
13. Tokyo Banana
One of the best Tokyo treats to take home, these banana-shaped sponge cakes filled with delicious custard cream have been exclusively available in Tokyo since 1991.
Tokyo Banana now comes in a range of flavors and forms like honey, coffee, Tokyo Banana Castella cake, Tokyo Banana pie, and Tokyo Banana raisin sandwich cookies.
These kinoko (mushroom) shaped chocolate biscuits have been around since 1975.
Manufactured by Meiji, Japan’s top chocolate manufacturer, these bite-sized treats are sweet and crunchy. The mushroom heads feature two layers of chocolate – a sweeter milk chocolate underneath and a richer dark chocolate on top.
Melonpan is a misnomer; only resembling a melon but doesn’t taste like one. New makers sometimes add melon, but in its simplest form, melonpan is a sweet bun with a thin layer of crunchy cookie dough.
Newer variations use flavors like caramel, maple syrup, chocolate, whipped or flavored cream, or custard as a filling.
A popular wagashi, manju usually has a shell made from wheat flour, rice powder, or buckwheat flour, with a filling of sweet red bean paste.
Nowadays, you can find manju with a variety of fillings like sweet purple potato, butter, matcha, chestnut jam.
The maple leaf shaped manju, known as Momiji manju, is a specialty in Hiroshima.
Senbei is a traditional Japanese rice cracker made of non-glutinous rice. It usually comes in a big round shape and is savory as it is mainly seasoned with soy sauce or salt. However, modern senbei can be sweet, too.
Sanko-Seika’s best-selling senbei has been around since 1977. As “yuki (雪)” means “snow” in Japanese, the surface of this Japanese rice cracker has white, creamy glaze which is sweet and perfect for afternoon tea.
Savory Japanese snacks
Manufacturing both sweet and savory flavors, Glico has a monopoly on biscuit sticks in Japan.
While Pocky has sweet variants, Pretz come in a variety of savory flavors like pizza, roast, butter, cheddar cheese, bacon, and salmon.
There are around 80 flavors of Pretz, with some only available in Japan and some exclusive to other countries.
One of the best chips in Japan to pair with alcoholic Japanese drinks, Wasabeef chips are potato chips inspired by roast beef topped with wasabi (Japanese horseradish).
This savory, salty-spicy Japanese snack has been a favorite of locals since 1987. A word of warning, these chips can be very addictive.
You can’t make a list of Japanese snacks and not include Calbee. This Japanese company is one of the biggest snack manufacturers in Japan, and one of its earliest and most beloved products is Kappa Ebisen.
This snack uses wheat flour, vegetable oil, starch, shrimp, sugar, salt, and baking powder. First sold in 1964, it is now available internationally.
If crunchy cheese corn chips are your thing, Aerial is one of the best snacks to buy in Japan.
This crumbly, cheesy bites is both flavorful and crunch. Light and crispy, you can easily finish a pack in one seating.
If matcha is the flavor of choice for most Japanese sweets, norishio (seaweed and salt) is the best-selling flavor for Japanese chips.
Calbee’s seaweed salt chips are pleasantly salty, not overpowering. Crunchy and light, it pairs well with beer.
Jagariko sticks are finger-length and pencil-thick snacks made from potatoes mixed with parsley, carrots, and cheese. These potato sticks are crunchy with a soft core.
The snack comes in a convenient peel-off cup and is one of the most popular Japanese snacks among young people.
Jagabee potato sticks are exactly what it sounds. They closely resemble fries and come in flavors like butter soy sauce, salted, seaweed, and sweet purple potato.
The only difference with Jagariko is that Jagabee’s outer sheel and core are both crunchy.
Healthy Japanese snacks
25. Roasted seaweed
Looking for a healthy alternative to Japanese crisps and chips? Nori (seaweed) is one of the best snacks in Japan that’s not heavy with carbs, cholesterol, or sodium.
Seaweed is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. But dried sheets of seaweed are not just for wrapping rice; it’s also a lightweight, low-carb, crispy snack.
Hoshigaki (dried persimmon) is a common snack in East Asia.
Drying persimmons is also an ancient art in Japan. The fruits are peeled and then suspended by strings from their stems. They are massaged daily after they have started to dry, giving the fruits a distinctive shape and texture that is different from those from China and Korea.
One of the healthiest Japanese snacks, hoshigaki are a good source of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Yay for guilt-free snacking!
Another type of dried fruit snack is hoshiume or dried pickled Japanese plums. Although called plums, they are actually more closely related to the apricot.
A spring favorite, these sweet, seedless bites are perfect for healthy snacking.
28. Konjac Jerky
Yes, you can buy Japanese snacks online sans the guilt.
Konjac, also known as konnyaku, is a plant with an edible corm (bulbo-tuber). It is a favorite among the health-conscious due to its low calorie count.
These strips of beef-flavored konjac jerky is a great choice for those looking for healthy Japanese snacks. And despite having only 24 calories per serving, you will feel full after consuming it.
Japanese snacks for kids
Umaibo literally means “tasty stick,” an apt name for these puffy corn snacks.
These small, cylindrical corn snack has been around since 1979. A popular and nostalgic dagashi, its mascot is Umaemon, a pun for the popular animated character, Doraemon.
Flavors include takoyaki, cheese, cocoa, caramel, tonkatsu, and nori.
For kid-friendly Japanese snacks, Glico’s Bisuko cream biscuits are great options.
These cream sandwich biscuits are a lunchbox favorite in Japan. It comes in flavors like chocolate, lemon, strawberry, and butter. And with 100 million lactic acid bacilli in each serving, it’s good for the tummy, too!
31. Morinaga Hi-Chew
These soft, taffy-like chewy candies were first release in 1975, a result of Morinaga wanting to create an edible kind of chewing gum.
Hi-Chew comes in different fruit flavors like watermelon, strawberry, green apple, dragon fruit, mango, grape, peach, and banana. Seasonal flavors like Hokkaido’s yunari lemon and persimmon are also available exclusively in Japan.
Kameda-Seika’s Happy Turn senbei are light, crisp, and has a sweet, mildly salty taste, making it very popular among kids and kids-at-heart.
Its soft crispiness and generous dusting of sweet and salty soy sauce powder makes this Japanese snack ideal for tea breaks.
Kasugai is a popular Japanese snack manufacturer that has been around since 1928. It is well-known for its line of fruit-flavored gummy candies that include mango, lychee, peach, and watermelon among others.
Juicy and delectable, these sweet treats comes in individual packaging so you can enjoy it on the go.
Tohato’s sweet-savory, crunchy caramel corn chips are one of the timeless Japanese snacks that both kids and adults enjoy.
This delicious snack consist of crunchy corn bites covered in toasted caramel glaze with roasted peanuts. The result is a sweet, but not overpoweringly sweet, and savory snack.
Last but definitely not the least, a Japanese treat for the whole family.
Bakauke is a thin banana-looking senbei. Befco’s assortment of 40 rice crackers includes five delectable flavors: the light and airy soy sauce with aonori seaweed, corn soup, curry, cheese, and the deep-fried sesame soy sauce crackers.
Did you make it to the end of this list without getting hungry? We can’t blame you if you’re already on your way to buy Japanese snacks online. And if you haven’t started clicking, what are you waiting for? Itadakimasu!