8 Iconic Japanese Sweets
Japanese sweets are extremely popular, both within the country and around the globe. What’s more, iconic Japanese treats can be found in a plethora of anime and movies—so you’ve probably already seen some!
Whether you prefer candy, cake, ice cream, or some other kind of confection, there’s definitely a Japanese treat that can satisfy your sweet tooth.
Check out this list of some of our favorite iconic Japanese sweets.
Hi-Chew is a Japanese candy also known as “haichu.” A mix between a fruit gummy and taffy, these soft, chewy candies are similar to Starbursts.
Hi-Chew come in a variety of flavors, from classic fruits like apple, grape, and strawberry to more uniques flavors like cola soda, yogurt, and liliko (Hawaiian passion fruit).
Some flavors of Hi-Chew are available in America, but others need to be either ordered online or discovered in Japan.
Even if the traditional Kit Kat isn’t your favorite candy, there are over 300 regional, seasonal, and limited edition flavors of Kit Kats in Japan!
Kit Kats were introduced to Japan in the 70s. They’re sometimes called “Kitto Katsu,” which translates to "you will surely win,” and so they’re given to students as good luck charms during exam season. They’re also used for the tradition of omiyage, where people bring back regional souvenirs as gifts.
Some Japanese Kit Kat flavors include matcha, sake, and sakura. There’s also a soy sauce flavored Kit Kat!
Also spelled kompeitō, konpeitō are small, colorful sugar candies. They were inspired by a similar Portuguese candy and were originally un-flavored sugar.
Today, Japanese konpeitō come in an array of colors and flavors, like cherry, mango, peach, plum, strawberry, and vanilla—as well as some special limited edition flavors, like sakura (for spring) and chestnut (for fall).
You’ve likely seen konpeitō if you’ve watched the Studio Ghibli film “Spirited Away,” where the adorable soot sprites are given konpeitō candies.
Pocky is a chocolate-dipped biscuit stick that’s known abroad for its iconic red box. The name “Pocky” comes from the Japanese onomatopoeia for the snapping sound Pocky makes when you eat them.
Classic flavors include chocolate, of course, as well as cookies and cream, matcha green tea, and chocolate banana. Some lesser-known flavors include almond crush, cantaloupe, cheesecake, red wine and whiskey.
Pocky can be found in many anime. They’re often being snacked on, but are sometimes used for a kind of “kissing game” between potential love interests.
Taiyaki is a cute fish-shaped Japanese cake commonly sold at food stalls. The shape of taiyaki is inspired by a sea bream, a type of fish that’s lucky in Japanese culture.
This iconic street food is made from a thin, waffle-like batter that’s baked inside a fish-shaped mold until it’s golden brown. The crispy edges and chewy center make it a super tasty treat!
Taiyaki are often filled with sweet red bean paste, also called anko, but other popular fillings include ice cream, chocolate, and custard.
Tokyo Banana is a famous Tokyo snack, and is one of the most popular souvenir gifts purchased when people visit the city. It is a small, banana-shaped sponge cake filled with creamy banana custard. Other flavors feature hints of honey, coffee milk, or maple in the custard. These are often decorated to look like cute little bears, otters, and pandas.
Like Kit Kats, Tokyo Bananas are used as omiyage, as some varieties can only be found at certain locations, like major Japanese airports.
Though this Japanese cake is incredibly popular, it can be difficult to find outside of Japan because its fresh custard filling requires refrigerated shipping and it has a very short shelf-life.
One way to get a taste of this iconic snack is with Kit Kats! There was actually a crossover between Tokyo Banana and Kit Kats, where both banana and banana caramel Kit Kats were made.
Also called melon bread and melon bun, melon pan is a Japanese sweet bun. It’s made from enriched dough that’s covered with a thin cookie crust.
Melon pan is made to look like a melon, or more specifically a cantaloupe. The crosshatch design and texture the crust gets after baking is reminiscent of melon rind.
Additions like chocolate chips or melon flavor—because of the name—are sometimes added, though not traditional. Caramel, chocolate, maple syrup, and whipped cream are some other popular extras.
Mochi is made from pounded rice that becomes incredibly chewy and is commonly shaped into spheres. This ionic Japanese rice cake is eaten during certain celebrations and year-round.
Mochi can be flavored and/or filled with ice cream. Celebratory varieties include sakura-flavored mochi for spring, stacked kagami mochi for New Year’s, and oak leaf-wrapped kashiwa mochi stuffed with red bean paste for Children’s Day.
We love sweets, especially these Japanese treats that are as cute as they are tasty. Whether you go for candy or pastries, there’s a confection for every sweet tooth in Japan.