Everybody loves snacks, and it’s no secret that there is a huge variety to choose from when it comes to sweets, potato chips, fruit, and more. Japan is not only famous for its mouth-watering savory food such as sushi, tempura, ramen, soba noodles, yakitori, and okonomiyaki, but also for its unique and fancy snacks that come in a variety of shapes and sizes and feature interesting and sometimes quite bizarre flavors. People can go crazy over them and they continue to order them online long after they go back to their home country!
You can either buy them and hoard them if you’re a huge fan, and they also make a great souvenir for anyone you love. The good news is that all these snacks are extremely popular and are available to buy in major airports such as Tokyo Haneda Airport, Tokyo Narita Airport, and Kansai International Airport, so you should never have a problem in finding them even if you are looking for them at the last minute. If you worry that your luggage will be overweight, you can also opt to get them from the specialty shops after the security checkpoints inside the airport.
“Shiroi Koibito” literally means “white lovers”. This yummy treat originated in Hokkaido and consists of two crispy biscuits with chocolate cream in between. Shiroi Koibito is available in two flavors: white chocolate, which is the original flavor, and conventional milk chocolate which is sometimes referred to as the “black version” of Shiroi Koibito.
Many people are so crazy about this snack because of the special flavor of its chocolate cream and the crispy texture of its biscuits. The biscuits taste like butter cookies flavored with fine sugar. Shiroi Koibito is best served chilled (but do not put them in the freezer because you want to avoid the chocolate freezing). The best bite of Shiroi Koibito is when you feel the biscuits cracking and the half-melted chocolate cream in your mouth.
Shiroi Koibito is available in various sizes including the 12-packet, 24-packet, and 36-packet sizes, which are more commonly seen in airports. Though it is always cheaper to buy them directly from the factory in Hokkaido, a 12-pack of Shiroi Koibito in a duty-free shop is normally priced at around 700 yen and 1,400 yen for a 24-pack one.
For me, Shiroi Koibito is ranked number 1 not only because of its taste, but also because of its immense popularity. It is sold in other countries like Malaysia and Singapore as well but the price is normally double what you will find in its country of origin. If you go to Hokkaido, do not forget to pay a visit to the Shiroi Koibito Park! You will get the chance to see the whole process of how this popular snack is made and you can buy them at a lower price there, too!
Royce’ chocolate, sometimes called Royce chocolate, is a “fancier” snack that comes second in the ranking after Shiroi Koibito. It is very popular among travelers and has branches even abroad. If you are a chocolate lover, Royce’ is indeed recommended for you to buy in Japan. It was established in 1983 and is the favorite of many. Royce’ products are manufactured in Hokkaido as well. The high quality of this chocolate makes it a competitor with high-class confectionary brands such as Godiva and Lindt.
Royce’ offers a wide range of variety of chocolate products such as Nama Chocolate, chocolate chips, pure chocolate, chocolate wafers, and chocolate bars. It seems that the Nama Chocolate is the most in-demand out of all their products. Nama Chocolates are divided into two categories: containing liquor and without liquor, and many flavors are available for both categories! Some commonly seen flavors in duty-free shops include matcha green tea, champagne, and of course, their original flavor. If you are lucky, you may find limited time only flavors like banana, Calvados, and strawberry. However, they are only available in a very limited quantity. If you see a limited edition, be sure to grab one because the chance may soon disappear!
A Royce’ Nama Chocolate will typically cost you around 800 yen a pack which contains 20 pieces. One thing I should tell you in advance is that Royce’ Nama Chocolates have a very short shelf time of only one month, so make sure you finish them all in time or you will have to throw them out, which would of course be a huge waste. They are also not like the usual chocolates that you buy from stores as it has to be stored below 10°C and will melt within a few hours if left unfrozen. So if you are going to spend a long time on the plane to your intended destination, you can always ask for an ice pack which will normally cost you around 100 yen each. Otherwise, you may be devastated to see them turn into an awful lump of melted chocolate when you open the package! However, airport staff are prepared for this, and they will usually ask if you need an ice pack so that your Royce’ chocolates can safely arrive home with you completely intact and ready to eat.
Once again, this snack is from Japan’s northern region of Hokkaido, but is available to buy all over Japan. Jaga Pokkuru is a sort of mix between french fries and potato chips, with a snack-like, crispy texture. Jaga Pokkuru has been one of the best-selling products in duty-free shops for a very long time because of its crunchiness, originality, and, of course, its delicious variety of flavors.
If you have never eaten this snack before, you may be surprised with how the small, french fry shaped treat can be so crunchy while retaining its flavor. Well, the fact is that each Jaga Pokkuru is 100% made from Hokkaido-raised potatoes and is flavored with roasted salt brought all the way from the Okhotsk District. On top of that, only good quality potatoes are selected to make this popular snack. To enhance its potato flavor, even the skin is left unpeeled when those freshly cut potatoes are sent to the oven.
An interesting fact is that Jaga Pokkuru was named after Koropokkuru, a dwarf from Ainu folklore. Koropokkuru was known as a shy dwarf that always hides from being seen but is kind enough to share his food by putting it near the homes of the Ainu during the night time.
In early 2017, Japan had some worries with a potato shortage, but instead of people buying and stockpiling actual potatoes, Jaga Pokkuru instead flew off the shelves as customers clamored to buy them in a state of panic! This surely shows just how popular this delicious treat is and how many people were startled to hear about a shortage.
Jaga Pokkuru is available in two sizes: 6-packet and 10-packet. However, a 10-packet one is more commonly seen and is priced at around 1,000 yen each. However, you may be disappointed if you are a big fan of Jaga Pokkuru. Since it is highly demanded, sometimes, to avoid a shortage of supply, some duty-free shops in airports put a limit to the quantity you can buy. Depending on the shops and stock flow, it can be limited to as low as a maximum of two packs for each person. If you’re traveling as a group, just buy a few boxes each.
As an expert in potato products, Potato Farm (a manufacturer of Jaga Pokkuru) also offers other potato products such as potato cubes (Jaga Pirika), potato chips (Imoko and Kobutaro), and even powdered potato soup! All of these are available at the airports as well and the prices are somewhat the same. Just in case Jaga Pokkuru is out of stock or you can’t get more, try Jaga Pirika! What makes it a little different from Jaga Pokkuro is that it is made from three different types of potatoes with different colors (yellow, red and purple). Not only do they taste slightly different, but the colors are 100% natural, too!
Whoever thought that a banana cake could look so cute? The Tokyo Banana can be easily recognized with its Minion-like shape and unique patterns. It tastes good as it looks, and they can be find all over Tokyo in souvenir shops as well as airports. Sometimes you can get area-specific styles, such as at Tokyo Skytree.
Tokyo Banana is available in six different flavors and some of them include maple, banana shake, and chocolate banana cream. Each flavor has its own unique pattern. For example, the one with the leopard skin is chocolate banana cream flavor.
Tokyo Banana is available in packs of four, eight, and twelve, but the eight-pack ones are more commonly seen and are typically priced at around 1,000 yen each. However, you can’t keep it for too long as its shelf life is only seven days. Be sure to grab them towards the end of your holiday if you decide to give them as souvenirs to loved ones back home. These are regarded as ideal gifts for your crush, too. Who knows, you may succeed in your romantic pursuits with a cute Tokyo banana!
Although the original Kit Kat came from a company called Rowntree’s based in York, England (later taken over by Nestlé), this crunchy and delicious snack has become insanely popular in Japan, causing them to become featured in a huge variety of flavors. You can visit any convenience store or chocolate shop and perhaps see three or four flavors, but that doesn’t even scratch the surface on how many varieties there are in Japan.
According to the Food Republic, there have been more than 200 flavors launched in Japan. Not to mention that there are multiple packaging and special editions for some flavors, too!
Kit Kat is ranked as one of the top five snacks to buy in Japan because for me, it represents the flavors (which some may sometimes be deemed weird) that can only be found in Japan. Though I personally think that for some flavors, you need a very sensitive tongue to tell the difference (because generally they just taste sweet), there are also many flavors that you will fall in love with after the first bite.
When you travel to Japan, it is guaranteed that you will see Kit Kats with sorts of unexpected flavors on shelves, from universally acceptable ones like matcha green tea and strawberry to exotic ones like wasabi, soybean, sake, sweet potato, and chili pepper powder. It is likely to be a business strategy, but some of these flavors are regional which means that you can only get certain flavors from certain places. So if you want to try all the flavors, you may need to travel to every corner of Japan!
Typically, a 12-pack package of Kit Kat is sold at around 800 yen each, though it may vary depending on the shop and flavor. If you’d like to try just a small amount before you buy (which is probably wise when it comes to the weirder flavors), you can generally get a pack in any convenience store for a couple of hundred yen.
Other than the snacks mentioned above, there are actually a lot more sweet and savoury treats that you can buy in Japan, not to mention the huge list of unique street food that you will spot at outdoor events and festivals. This list is not only based on my own opinions, but the thoughts of many as well as the snacks’ popularity. I opted to put these snacks as the top five because they are available in many specialty shops (especially the ones in airports) and are really tasty, meaning you’ll be going back for more in no time. So if it is your first time to travel to Japan and you don’t want to get a headache over what to buy, just get any of these five snacks to give your taste buds a treat and some easy souvenir ideas.