Japan boasts an incredible number of snack options – over 2000, with 100 snacks added annually, which should be no surprise since snacks have been around in Japan since the 15th century. Though new snacks are available, there's always room for traditional Japanese snack options on grocery store shelves. Some of these snack options include Pocky, mochi, and melon pan, three sweet treats that are equally tasty.
Continue reading to learn about popular Japanese foods, from traditional Japanese treats to modern snack options.
Pocky is a snack that features biscuit sticks dipped in chocolate. These biscuit sticks come in various flavors ranging from chocolate to Japanese fruit. It’s only dipped in chocolate on one side, so you can enjoy a mess-free snack on the go. This snack was created in 1966 by Glico and remains a popular option throughout Asia. Chocolate was the original flavor and remains a top choice for many. However, there have been hundreds of flavors throughout the years.
You’ll recognize this snack because of its melon-like appearance. This delightful snack is a type of sweet bread (pan meaning bread in Japanese) topped with crunchy cookie dough to make it resemble melon. While it looks like a melon, it does not feature a melon taste. In some parts of Japan, you may hear this snack called sunrise bread.
The origin of melon pan is a bit blurry, with some claiming it was created in 1910 when an Armenian baker was brought to Japan. Others say the grandfather of the owners of Kinseido, a bakery in Kobe, invented melon pan.
Monaka is a treat that features two thin, crispy wafers on the outside and a creamy filling on the inside. These treats often feature detailed designs on their outside, including flowers, buildings, and more. The original version of monaka was called monaka no tsuki, which you’d typically find at a senbei (rice cracker) shop. The typical sweet bean paste filling was not included in monaka until later and is now considered traditional.
Curious about the most popular snack in Japan? It's mochi – a delicious Japanese rice cake treat that has a chewy exterior and soft filling. Many varieties of Japan’s favorite snack exist, from sweet fillings like mango to dishes featuring plain mochi with savory sauce. You can find mochi as an ice cream, deep fried, or its traditional Japanese snack served at room temperature or hot.
As mentioned, senbei are Japanese rice crackers. They feature various flavors, from sweet to savory and everything in between. You'll find options with sesame seeds, soy sauce flavoring, fruit flavors, and more. These rice crackers have been around since the 1600s and were thought to be created by a Japanese woman named Osen.
Umeboshi are pickled plums that are typically eaten by themselves. However, many people also use this snack as an ingredient in various Japanese food recipes. It has a bold, sour, umami flavor you'll taste with each bite. Originally, umeboshi was used as a treatment in Chinese medicine and was first introduced to Japan around 1500.
This is one of the oldest traditional Japanese snack options. Konpeito is a hard candy made from sugar that comes in various flavors, including vanilla, plum, peach, and mango. This Japanese dessert was first introduced in Japan in the 1500s, it was challenging for the country to source sugar. So, it was typically only eaten by the wealthy and usually received as a gift. Now, it's an affordable candy that you can enjoy whenever.
This is one of the traditional Japanese treats that is common to see offered by street vendors. Dango is a chewy treat made from glutinous rice flour typically sold in the shape of a ball. This classic Japanese snack usually comes on a skewer in a three or five-piece serving. There are sweet and savory options, which are accentuated with sauces (like a brown sugar sauce). It is thought that dango originated in the late 1500s, though there are multiple stories noting different inventors of this snack.
Dorayaki is one of the best Japanese snacks. This sweet snack is usually made with two pancakes and a filling (usually red bean paste). It can also include other toppings like whipped cream. The first version of this treat was invented in the Edo period (1603-1867), and it had a similar appearance to an omelet instead of a sandwich.
You'll recognize the Koala's March cookies by the cute koala faces printed on the packaging and outside of the cookies. These crunchy sweet treats include a decadent filling with different flavors, including strawberry and chocolate. Koala’s March was introduced in Japan by the brand Lotte in 1984.
Choco banana is one of the top Japanese snack foods for festivals. As you might expect from this treat, bananas are covered in melted chocolate and then topped with sprinkles, nuts, or other candies. They’re displayed and sold on a skewer, so they’re easy to eat while spending time at a festival.
Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, choco bananas are a real treat. As with most Japanese snacks, the origin of these chocolate-covered bananas is unclear. However, chocolate was introduced in Japan in the 1870s, so choco banana was created sometime after. Now, you'll find frozen chocolate covered bananas as a common summertime treat in the States, so they've become Western-style snacks.
This treat translates to strawberry candy and is a sweet summer treat you can find at Japanese street vendors. Ichigo ame consists of fresh strawberries, which have been dipped in a melted sugar coating. Once they cool, the sugar coating hardens, so you get a juicy, crunchy snack.
One of the first available types of ame was ringo ame, a candied apple. This candied apple has existed since the Heian period (794-1185 AD).
Get Traditional Japanese Treats Without Grocery Shopping
If this list made you hungry, consider ordering a Japanese subscription box from Bokksu. Each shipment includes 20+ snacks and tea pairings to try. You’ll find a combination of traditional treats and more modern options. Or, check out Bokksu Boutique for traditional Japanese snack options you can order individually, like Strawberry Daifuku Mochi, Cultured Butter Pocky, and White Peach Kibi Dango Mochi. Get Japanese snacks box delivered right to your door with Bokksu.