Snack Like a Pro with Our Guide to the Best Japanese Chips

by Flora Baker

When the snack food cravings hit, Japan has plenty to offer - and the focus is particularly on chips. While other countries may douse their chips in all manner of flavors and ingredients, something rather special about Japanese chips is the focus on the flavor of the actual potato. Japan prides itself on its potatoes, you see, and Hokkaido Prefecture in particular is well known for growing the vegetable. So too is Nagasaki Prefecture, in the south of the country. 

To that end, there are plenty of Japanese snack food brands keeping the country stocked with their favorite chips. Calbee is perhaps the most well known, adored by millions for their hot and spicy chips. They also make a pizza flavor that actually includes dollops of melted cheese on each chip! Other famous brands include Koike-ya, Yamayoshi, Tohato and Amanoya. 

What Types of Japanese Chips are There?

Japanese chips are made with a variety of ingredients. You’ll see corn, rice and potato all acting as popular vehicles to bring chips to the masses in the form of corn puffs, rice crackers, potato chips and many more besides. Snackable mixes are common in Japan too, with combinations of nuts, crackers, seaweed and chips combining to make a satisfying variation of textures and flavors.

Potato Chips 

Japanese potato chips

Potato chips are big in Japan, with the Calbee brand of chips rivaling Lays in the US, and Chipstar being as popular as Pringles. Most potato chips are in bag form or tubed, and the chips themselves range from thick-cut and thinly sliced circles to waffle-shaped, rectangular, ridged and thin potato sticks. 

Bear in mind that Japan also uses sweet roasted potatoes to make chips, which might explain why some chip bags taste suspiciously sweeter than you may expect. 

Rice Crackers 

Senbei, Japanese rice crackers

Japan’s rice cracker obsession knows no bounds, so of course they’re included in the best Japanese chips. Broadly speaking, there are three groups of rice crackers: senbei, which are large, flattened disc-shaped crackers; okaki, which are smaller crackers made from puffed rice mochi dough; and arare, which are bite sized spherical crackers and the smallest of the three. 

Rice crackers in Japan come in a multitude of flavors, but most often you’ll find them in savory format with delicious ingredients like soy sauce, bonito flakes, seaweed, wasabi, and shrimp. 

Corn Chips 

Japanese umaibo puffed corn stick snacks

There are some wonderfully shaped corn chips in Japan: Try the crunchy Tongari Corn, Japan’s answer to Bugles, or a great corn snack called umaibō (うまい棒) which translates to ‘delicious stick’. As you might expect, these corn snacks look like little stick shapes and come in plenty of flavors including teriyaki, cheese, mentaiko (spicy pollock roe), and even nattō, Japan’s famously glutinous fermented soybean dish. 

Lotus Root Chips 

Japanese lotus root chips

Lotus roots are a popular snack choice in Japan too: sliced extremely thinly and deep fried, these root vegetables offer just as much of a satisfying crunch as potato chips do. What’s more, lotus root chips are actually rather beautiful thanks to their intricate pattern of holes! Lotus root chips are a little healthier than their potato counterparts too – they are a vegetable, after all. 

What Kind of Chip Flavors are Available in Japan?

Perhaps the best thing about Japanese chips is the sheer imagination that’s involved in their flavoring. We’re going far beyond sour cream and onion or barbecue here! 

Japan’s chip flavor palette runs far and wide, even straying into combinations like soy sauce and butter, or nori seaweed and plum. So if you’re wondering what the Japanese convenience store shelves might have in stock, keep reading – you might just find your new favorite chip flavor! 

Soy Sauce Potato Chips

Kataage means ‘hard fried’,  so using ‘Kataage potatoes’ in these Calbee soy sauce chips means they’ve been cut thick enough to warrant a certain amount of chewing – as well as a particularly satisfying crunch. Despite being flavored with soy sauce, there isn’t an excess of salty seasoning so they’re incredibly moreish. There’s also a sprinkling of seaweed and bonito seasoning to add in another flavor element.

Hokkaido Butter Chips

Potato Chips: Hokkaido Rich Butter

Hokkaido is renowned for its rich and creamy, almost vanilla-like butter, so using it on chips is a no-brainer. These Hokkaido Butter chips aim to replicate the delicious taste of a baked potato covered in local Hokkaido butter, and we think they pretty much hit the mark. 

Seaweed Tempura Chips

While not potato chips per se, these battered and fried seaweed tempura chips have a wonderfully tangy and tart edge to them thanks to the citrus notes of the sudachi fruit. It’s an ingredient commonly used in ponzu sauce that’s absolutely divine in chip form. We dare you to try not to finish the whole pack in one sitting…

Wasabi Potato Chips 

Potato Chips: Wasabi

If you’re a fan of the pungent, nose-wrinkling effects of wasabi when eating your sushi, why not try it in chip form? Wasabi is a fantastically out-there flavor, and these Yamayoshi chips use Nagano-grown wasabi along with a rich beef umami to create a gorgeous flavor profile.

Chocolate Potato Chips

We’re pretty sure that the desire to sample chocolate potato chips is a common one the world over – we’re just jealous that Japan thought of it first! The Jaga version of this chip combo is particularly luxurious thanks to the quality of chocolate used, and it’s wonderfully sweet and salty all at once. 

Curry Potato Chips

Potato Snack: Curry Flavor

Curry may seem like a somewhat odd choice for a chip flavor, but these potato-based crackers really make it work. They’re especially light and the hint of spice in each crispy bite makes it difficult to stop eating.

Sour Plum Lotus Root Chips

Sour Plum Lotus Root Chips

The savory and sour note of ume plums is a common flavor in Japanese chips, and it pairs particularly well with the lotus root style of chips as there’s already an inherent sweetness in the lotus. 

When and Where to Try Japanese Chips 

The Japanese aren’t as likely to pop open a bag of chips and eat them on the street – eating in public is less acceptable here than in other countries. Instead, snacking on potato chips is more of a home situation: they’ll purchase their bags from a local convenience store and eat with green tea or beer. Fun fact: the bags themselves are actually somewhat smaller in Japan than in the US, because portion sizes are generally smaller. 

 

If you haven’t already tried some Japanese chips yet, you’re in luck. There are plenty of Japanese chips available at Bokksu Boutique, so why not sample a bag of the wasabi rice crackers, or alternatively crunch your way through some Hokkaido cheese puffs

When you’re feeling in a particularly snacky mood, check out our sweet and savory snack combos  – we guarantee you’ll find a combo you’ll love! 

You can explore more in Bokksu Japanese snack box. It's a subscription box that delivers a variety of authentic Japanese chips and other snacks to your door, along with a culture guide that explains the story and origin of each snack. You'll get to enjoy different kinds and flavors of chips, from wasabi to cheese, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Plus, you'll get free shipping worldwide when you order Bokksu. Don't wait, subscribe to Bokksu now and treat yourself to a crunchy and delicious journey through Japan!

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Author Bio

Flora Baker is a writer, blogger and author based in London, UK. She runs the award-winning travel website Flora The Explorer and has written for Coastal Living, Telegraph, and National Geographic Traveler.