When you think of Japan, a few things will surely spring to mind – experimentation with the cool and unusual, tradition with a twist, and delicious mouth-watering flavours.
Well, in my opinion, the best Japanese snacks are all that and more! Whether you’re looking for a snack to get you through the morning, a tea-time treat, or even just a snack to get you through a bad day, these top Japanese sweets and snacks - including some of my personal favourites - will contain something perfect for you!
Pocky is a true Asian Snack and Japanese Snack Hall of Famer. Blending together a winning combination of crunchy Japanese biscuit stick and creamy chocolate, it has reigned as a family favourite for over five decades. Pocky gets its name from the snapping sound the biscuit makes when it’s bitten into and comes in a variety of flavours including chocolate, cookies and cream, strawberry and my favourite, matcha.
#2 Kit Kat
Japanese ingenuity in Kit Kat bars is a marvel in its own right. Innovating on Kit Kat’s classic chocolate wafer fingers, Japan has produced 300 different limited edition Kit Kat flavours including cherry blossom, passion fruit and red bean. If you are stuck, and can't decide which flavour to try first, I strongly recommend sampling a green tea Kit Kat.
In Japan, giving Kit Kats to students about to sit for their exams is customary. This is because 'Kit Kat' sounds similar to 'Kitto Katsu', a phrase that translates to 'you will surely win'!
#3 Dream Animals
Ginbis’s Dream Animals – or Tabekko Doubutsu, as it’s known in Japan – are light, buttery biscuits in the shape of animals. Each animal is labelled with its name in English so that eating it is not only a delicious experience but also an educational one for children. Dream Animals come in several yummy flavours such as butter, nori and coconut.
#4 Koala’s March
We all know that koalas are cute and cuddly but do you know that they’re also delicious? No, not real koalas, we’re talking about Koala’s March cookies! This delicious snack by Lotte consists of soft, crunchy biscuits in the shape of koalas, filled with sweet crème that comes in a variety of flavours such as chocolate, cocoa vanilla and strawberry
#5 Hello Panda
Rounding up the trifecta of adorable animal snacks is none other than the Japanese heavyweight, Hello Panda! Hello Panda was first launched in Japan in the 1970s and this fun-filled biscuit treat became an instant hit. Crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, this panda shaped snack is available in many flavours including chocolate, caramel, strawberry, and vanilla.
#6 Caramel Corn Snacks
This best-selling Japanese snack was first introduced in the 1970s by Tohato Inc and consists of light airy corn puffs glazed with a thin layer of sweet caramel and mixed with roasted peanuts for a hint of umami flavour. Caramel Corn’s iconic bright red packaging and cute cartoon mascot also makes this snack instantly recognisable on supermarket shelves!
#7 Kinoko No Yama
In Japanese ‘kinoko no yama’ literally means mushroom mountain and it’s a popular snack by Meiji that is shaped like a little mushroom, with a crunchy Japanese biscuit stem and a chocolate mushroom cap. This addictive snack also comes in other delicious flavours such as white chocolate, caramel and sweet potato.
#8 Shiroi Koibito
Shiroi Koibito or ‘white lovers’ is one of the best Japanese sweet snacks originating from Hokkaido, Japan. Shiroi Koibito is made up of a layer of delicious white chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of melt-in-your-mouth biscuits and is one of the most famous souvenirs for visitors to bring home from Japan. There’s even a Shiroi Koibito theme park in Hokkaido!
#9 Cartoon-themed Snacks
The Japanese love a good collaboration, with snack brands often teaming up with popular anime to produce unique cartoon-themed snacks with sweets, chocolates, biscuits and more. Often these snacks will also contain cards, stickers and other collectibles for anime lovers to rack up and build a prized collection. Popular cartoons with their own themed snacks include Ultraman, Pokemon, Dragonball, Hello Kitty and many more.
Dorayaki is a well-known traditional Japanese snack made from sandwiching sweet red bean paste between two honey pancakes. This delicately sweet snack is miniature in size and is popular with the young and old alike. It’s even the snack of choice and a featured plot device for Doraemon, the cartoon robot cat from one of Japan’s most famous mangas.
Taiyaki is a Japanese snack that is golden and crispy on the outside and subtly sweet on the inside! Taiyaki is uniquely shaped like a fish (as ‘tai’ refers to a type of Japanese seabream) and is a well-loved Japanese street food. Made with a waffle-like exterior and traditionally filled with sweet azuki red bean paste, modern versions also include fillings such as custard or chocolate. I am always on the look out for Samanco ice cream Taiyaki when I'm looking for a cold, sweet treat.
#12 Daifuku Mochi
Hailing from Japan, daifuku mochis are small, round glutinous rice cakes stuffed with a sweet filling and one of my favourite types of mochi. Fillings include red bean, cream cheese, chestnuts and even ice cream! The combination of a soft, chewy outer layer and cold, creamy ice cream on the inside has proven a hit for brands like Yukimi Daifuku. This delicious dessert is also given as gifts as the name ‘daifuku mochi’ literally means ‘great luck rice cake’.
#13 Dried Seaweed
Dried seaweed is one of the most popular Japanese snacks and features prominently in a Japanese daily diet. Rich in vitamin and minerals, these healthy Japanese snacks are often roasted and lightly salted, with a crispy texture and savoury, umami flavour. These days, dried seaweed snacks also come in different flavours such as wasabi and sesame. I love these as a snack when I'm looking to diet or eat healthily.
#14 Instant Ramen
Nothing screams top Japanese snack to me more than instant ramen! Whether in a cup or in a bowl, this blend of springy chewy noodles and hot broth is the ultimate comfort food. Instant ramen noodles are available in a wide variety of flavours such as shrimp, tonkotsu and shoyu. Popular ramen brands include Nissin and Ichiran.
#15 Calbee Chips
If you’ve ever tried to order Japanese snacks online, chances are you’ve come across Calbee chips. Calbee is a top snack manufacturer from Japan famous for its range of snackable potato chips. Calbee chips come in a dizzying array of flavours such as soy sauce mayo, seaweed salt and Hokkaido butter.
#16 Jagabee Potato Sticks
To all the french fries lovers out there, what if we told you there are french fries that never go soggy? Well, they actually exist in the form of Jagabee potato sticks! These addictive potato sticks are baked, not fried and always crunchy. Jagabee potato sticks include flavours such as original, buttery soy sauce and black pepper. It even comes in small resealable packs which makes it perfect for snacking on-the-go.
#17 Spicy Rice Crackers and Peanuts
Japanese spicy rice crackers with peanuts, otherwise known as ‘kaki no tane’ are a mix of small, orange rice crackers flavoured with soy and mild chilli pepper and crispy peanuts. This snack has long been a favourite with children and at bars and has recently even been a favourite with astronauts, as the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has certified it a ‘Japanese Space Food’.
#18 Japanese Rice Crackers
Rice crackers in Japan are known as ‘senbei’ and recognised by their circular shape. One of my favourite types of Japanese rice crackers are thick soy sauce rice crackers. These are thicker than your regular rice crackers and layered with a dark soy sauce for a rich, umami flavour. With its crisp, hard texture these chunky rice crackers will be a sure favourite for an afternoon snack.
Got the munchies yet? Grab any one of these best Japanese sweets and snacks and you can’t go wrong! These yummy, delicious snacks will be a surefire hit with your tastebuds, though a word of warning from my personal experience: once you start, you might find it hard to stop!