Why Japanese Candy is So Unique – A History of Candy in Japan
Japanese candies are unique because there is so much variety of products to choose from, and Japanese candy makers often incorporate traditional flavors and ingredients into their creations resulting in a unique taste that can’t be replicated outside of Japan.
Traditional Japanese confectionary known as wagashi, became popular during Japan’s Edo period and is often served with green tea to balance the bitterness with something sweet. Examples of popular wagashi items include daifuku – soft mochi cakes made from glutinous rice with sweet fillings such as red bean paste and strawberry, namagashi – traditional sweets filled with bean paste, and taiyaki – fish-shaped snacks made of batter with fillings such as chocolate, custard, and red bean paste.
Japanese candy evolved during Japan’s Showa period (1926-1989), when kids would often visit dagashiya – specialist candy stores that sold low-priced candies targeted at children. Typical examples of popular dagashi sweets include ramune soda flavored candy, candy cigarettes, Cheeto or cheese puff like snacks, corn puffs, milk-flavored candies, caramel cubes, and Big Katsu, a kind of breaded fish snack. There are still a few traditional dagashi shops left today that you can visit if you are in Japan.
These days, modern Japanese candy is sold mainly at convenience stores and supermarkets, and many products have found popularity outside of Japan too, such as Pocky or unusual flavored Kit Kats, but there are so many more to discover, some of which we will introduce in this article. Read on to learn more about 15 fun and tasty Japanese candies you need to try right now!
Ramune Soda Candy
In Japan, ramune is a popular citrus-flavored carbonated beverage. The drink is traditionally sold in a glass bottle which has been sealed with a marble. Once the marble is removed from the opening of the bottle, the soda will then burst through and foam up. These fizzy sweets are a popular kind of Japanese candy and have the same taste as the traditional citrusy Japanese soda.
There are several manufacturers who produce ramune candy but we particularly like these ramune soda candy bottles from Morinaga who have developed these fizzy candies to mimic the original drink by packaging them in plastic bottles that look like the original glass ramune bottles.
Fujiya Milky Candies
A popular candy snack from Japan with more than 70 years of history, Fujiya Milky Candies are creamy, milky, chewy candies made with premium Japanese ingredients including natural spring water near Mt. Fuji and condensed milk from Hokkaido. The candy has been sold in Japan since 1951, and the colorful nostalgic packaging still features Fujiya’s official mascot Peko-chan, instantly recognizable by her cute pigtails and smiling face.
Meiji Gummy Candy
For fans of gummy candies, be sure to check out the selection of gummy products from leading confectionary manufacturer Meiji. Our favorite products include these mini-Japanese cola bottles, in addition to their fruity gummy candies. These chewy grape-flavored candies combine the sweet and sour flavors from real grape juice, whilst these peach-flavored gummies are infused with white peach juice and 2,800 mg of collagen to promote skin elasticity.
Konpeito is a Japanese take on traditional Portuguese candy and was first introduced to Japan during the 16th century. These nostalgic dagashi sweets are made from colorful lumps of sugar candy coated in a sweet syrup. These konpeito made by Kasugai are a perfect example of Japan’s kawaii (cute) culture with their pastel-colored crunchy sugary treats in a variety of fruity flavors including grape, orange, and apple.
Popin’ Cookin’ Candy Kits
These popular DIY candy kits are a hit with YouTubers who upload videos of themselves making these super cute miniature candies by simply adding water to powder sachets and cooking them in the microwave. Some of the candy kits you can buy include hamburger and fries, mini donuts, pizza party, ice creams, and even a Japanese matsuri festival kit!
Hi Chew Candy
This famous fruity chewy candy from Japan has been around since the 1960s and are similar in style to Starburst fruit chews. Available in a variety of fruity flavors such as cherry, strawberry, and pineapple, they come in a slim pack of 10 individually wrapped sweets.
Pocky are crunchy biscuit sticks coated in chocolate and have remained one of Japan’s most popular snack foods since they were first introduced to consumers in the 1960s by the Glico corporation. As well as the original chocolate flavor, other variations include strawberry, banana, cookies and cream, and green tea.
The clever design of the Pocky stick features a unique biscuit handle which can be used to pick up the biscuit without getting covered in chocolate. Pocky are so popular in Japan that there is even a Pocky day – celebrated on November 11 each year!
Some of our favorite Pocky products these Almond Crush Chocolate Sticks coated with delicious milk chocolate and roasted almonds, and their adult variations like these Amber Chocolate Sticks which are ideal for whiskey pairing, and these Megami no Ruby Pocky that include cheese, black pepper, clove, and three kinds of berry aroma for pairing with red wine.
Black Thunder bars are convenient pocket-sized chocolate snacks filled with pieces of chocolate biscuits and chocolate coated rice puffs. These chocolate bars are made by the Yuraku Confectionery Company and can be found in virtually every convenience store in Japan. Aside from the original chocolate flavor, you can also find other flavors like matcha, as well as a version which features pieces of melted French butter inside.
Meiji Almond Chocolate Snack
A best-selling snack from one of Japan’s leading chocolate manufacturers Meiji, these chocolate covered almonds covered in chocolate are perfect for sharing with friends and family!
Sweet buttery chocolate covers crispy pieces of California-grown almonds, imported to Japan especially for Meiji. Only the best quality almonds are selected by the Meiji factory staff before they are roasted and covered in a chocolate coating. After the almonds have been covered in chocolate, they are polished to give them a shiny appearance before they are boxed and finally distributed to customers.
For a candy that’s unmistakably Japanese, try these sour umeboshi hard candies. Umeboshi is a Japanese pickled plum that has a strong and intense flavor. Due to its high content of citric acid, umeboshi tastes very sour, tangy, and salty, so it can be considered somewhat of an acquired taste, especially if you are not used to eating them!
Itohkyuemon Matcha Green Tea Raw Chocolate
For a Japanese candy that’s more similar in style to traditional wagashi sweets, try this raw chocolate made by Itohkyuemon, a Japanese tea shop established in 1832 in Uji, Kyoto that specializes in green tea and matcha sweets.
Coated in exclusive premium matcha powder, the sweetness of the white chocolate is balances out the bitterness of the green tea to create a beautiful, rich-tasting chocolate candy. Each product is presented in hand-wrapped elegant washi paper and come with a kuromoji wooden pick used to pick up the chocolate without getting powder on your hands.
Glico Giant Caplico Strawberry Chocolate Cone
These fun and playful chocolate candies from Glico are a favorite snack among Japanese kids and are made to look like real ice creams. Made from crispy wafer cones and topped with foamy double layered chocolate, these chocolates are light and delicious tasting. The outer chocolate layer is strawberry flavored with an inner milk chocolate layer that melts in the mouth. They can be stored at room temperature or enjoy chilled by keeping them in the refrigerator.
Japanese Kit Kats
Whilst milk chocolate Kit Kats are easily available to purchase in many countries, in Japan, more than 300 varieties of Kit Kat have been created to make unique regional and seasonal chocolate bars. Unusual Kit Kat flavors with a Japanese twist include sake, matcha, and yuzu. In Japan, Kit Kats are often purchased on trips as a popular ‘omiyage’ item: souvenirs given to friends and co-workers that showcase regional specialties or flavors.
Nobel Melon Candy
These unique Japanese hard candy drops combine milk and melon to create a tasty, smooth, sweet treat. The candy contains real melon juice and has a rich milky flavor combined with the sweetness from the melon. The candy’s melon juice comes from melons grown in Yubari, Hokkaido which are one of Japan’s most expensive and luxurious fruits. The individually wrapped candies are ideal for sharing with friends and family.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
These best-selling snacks by Muji feature crunchy freeze-dried whole strawberries covered in a fine layer of chocolate. The original version of these candies are white chocolate flavor covered strawberries, but you can also buy other variations such as milk chocolate, matcha green tea, and strawberry flavored chocolate. Thanks to their beautiful appearance when cut in half, these candies are perfect for sharing on Instagram and social media!