Japan - The Dreamland for foodies to have the snack-hunting adventure of their life.
When it comes to variety, uniqueness, and quality, Japanese snacks are impossible to beat and you will soon see why.
Come along with us on this incredible journey to see for yourself the best Japanese snacks that you can only find in Japan!
Japanese Savory Snacks
Japan has a lot of exquisite ingredients and flavors that are reflected in their savory snacks.
Some of the flavors and ingredients that are unique to Japanese savory snacks are the well-balanced sweet-salty taste that is also commonly found in Japanese cooking, the use of seaweed (Nori), the umami-rich soy sauce (Shoyu) flavors.
1. Osenbei (おせんべい)
Osenbei or Senbei includes different kinds of Japanese rice crackers and there are endless types of osenbei – mass-produced ones in packages, hand-made specialty osenbei that you can find only at a certain location in Japan.
Not only that, osenbei vary in shape, size, texture, taste, flavor, ingredients!
If you are in Japan, you can try a different kind of Senbei every single day and still never run out of a new one to try out.
Buy Osenbei with Worldwide Shipping here!
2. Kameda Happy Turn Senbei
It comes in narrow, elongated oval shapes and is additively good!
The taste is an incredible balance between salty and sweet, the texture is somewhere between fluffy and crispy.
The packaging says "Spreading Happiness" and if it is referring to the happiness that it spreads on your palettes, it is not an exaggeration at all.
Buy Kameda Happy Turn Senbei with Worldwide Shipping here!
3. Kameda Aged Ichiban Senbei
If you like rich complex flavors and rustic texture with a bite, you will love this Osenbei.
It has a rugged surface that provides unrivaled crisp and crunch, along with a flavor profile that features honey and soy sauce. So unmistakably Japanese and undeniably good.
Buy Ichiban Senbei with Worldwide Shipping here!
Fun Fact: Okashi ( お菓子)
This is the Japanese equivalent of the word "Snacks" and includes all kinds of snacks – sweet, savory, packaged, homemade, etc. So if any of your Japanese friends ask you what to send you as a gift, you can say without a doubt – "Okashi!”
4. Kameda Tsumami-Dane
“Tsumami" in Japanese means "snacks to accompany drinks", meaning, snacks that are best for munching on during a drinking session, especially with beer.
Think of how cheese goes with wine. You get the idea.
This snack contains an assortment of bite-sized rice crackers with different kinds of flavors such as:
- soy sauce
It also contains dried small anchovies inside the packet.
Although it is called a Tsumami snack, it is totally enjoyable on any occasion and since it is an assortment, it is very good for family snack time.
You might be wondering why all the most popular Osenbei snacks are from Kameda, and the reason why is because it’s the most famous Japanese Osenbei maker on the market.
Nonetheless, there are countless different Osenbei brands you can try and if you go to a Japanese Convenience store, each of them has its own original series of Senbei snacks.
So feel free to explore and find the one that best suits your taste buds!
Buy Tsumami-Dane with Worldwide Shipping here!
5. Calbee Jagariko Potato Stick Snack
It is one of the most iconic Japanese snacks.
They come inside a cute cup-shaped packaging and compared to other potato snacks that usually come in a bag-like package, offer you a neat, mess-free, snacking experience.
Its packaging genius is nothing compared to the taste, texture, and flavor that it offers though.
It has the heavenly combination of potato and salt, enhanced by hints of carrots, parsley, and other ingredients.
Although the most popular one is the classic version, it offers lots of different flavors to choose from, such as
- potato & butter
- Tarako (seasoned Japanese cod roe) & butter
- Yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) & pepper
- ...and lots more.
They also have locality-specific limited-edition flavors so it is interesting to check out what flavors are available if you are visiting certain regions of Japan!
Buy Calbee Jagariko with Worldwide Shipping here!
6. Royce Chocolate-covered Potato Chips
Japan has a knack for making the wildest gastronomical fantasies come to reality and doing it impressively well.
This is a special Japanese snack from the Hokkaido region (the northernmost region of Japan known for nature and amazing cuisine), that combines chocolate and potato crisps.
Though in theory, it might sound suspicious, in reality, they have been loved throughout Japan and have become established as a popular souvenir from Hokkaido.
Although it is not cheap, the delicious combination of chocolate and the thick-cut wavy potato crisp is worth the price.
Buy Royce Chocolate-covered Chips with Worldwide Shipping here!
Fun Fact: Potechi (ポテチ)
The Japanese language has many abbreviated words like this where two words are combined to make a small word. Potechi is a combination of Potato + chips and used to describe Potato crisps. So if someone in Japan asks you to get a "Potechi” you know they are asking for Potato crisps.
7. Kaki no Tane or Kaki-pi
This snack consists of small crescent-shaped crispy rice cracker fragments and peanuts inside various sizes of packets.
They have been popular in Japan for many years and have fans of all ages.
"Kaki" is the Japanese for persimmon fruits, and “tane" means "seeds".
The name comes from the fact that the rice cracker fragments look like persimmon seeds. They are great snacks to share with your friends and family and are popular snacks to accompany beers in Japan.
Apart from the classic version, it also comes in different flavors such as Wasabi, chocolate-coated, white chocolate-coated, spicy peppers, etc.
Buy Kaki no Tane or Kaki-pi with Worldwide Shipping here!
“Umai” in Japanese means “delicious” and “bo” means stick, pretty self-explanatory, right?
These rod-shaped savory corn puff snacks are a classic Japanese snack loved by children and adults alike. They come in various flavors, the most popular ones being
- Mentai(cod roe) taste
- corn potage
- tonkatsu sauce
- ...and many more.
You can identify them easily from their shiny colorful packaging with the mascot character that looks like a Doraemon without the ears.
Buy Umaibō with Worldwide Shipping here!
9. Baby Star Dried Noodle Snack
Baby Star dried noodle snack is another classic Japanese snack that has a strong fan following.
There are different kinds but the most popular ones are dried Yakisoba (a popular Japanese street food noodle) and dried ramen.
They are crunchy and savory with an umami-rich flavor that packs a punch.
Buy Star Dried Noodle with Worldwide Shipping here!
Did You Know: Oishii ( おいしい)
Many of you who are beginner Japanese language learners might have already heard of the phrase but it means “delicious” or “tasty”.
You can use this word to describe a delicious Japanese snack.
Sweet Japanese Snacks
Brace yourselves, sweet-toothed snack lovers! From traditional sweet rice cakes to plum-filled candies, Japan has a wild range of sweet snacks to discover and enjoy.
10. Kitkat With Japan-Exclusive Flavors
If you are passionate about Japanese food you have probably heard about all the crazy flavors of KitKat that are exclusive to Japan
- Matcha Tiramisu
- Sakura flowers
- Amazake (Japanese sweet alcoholic drink)
- Adzuki (Sweet red beans)
- ...and many more mouth-watering flavors.
No wonder these premium Kitkat varieties are one of the most popular souvenirs from Japan.
There is a fun wordplay on KitKat in Japan that you would be excited to know and that is in Japanese “Kitto” means “surely” and “Katsu” means “Win”.
That is why KitKats are sometimes gifted as a good luck charm to friends and family who are going to play a sports match or going to sit for an exam.
A delicious snack that is also a lucky charm - the best of both worlds!
Buy KitKat with Worldwide Shipping here!
11. Ko-Ume Candy
This long-selling hard candy is a classic Japanese candy with a soft juicy filling.
Everything about this candy says “Japan” – from the very Japanese-style art on the packaging featuring a girl wearing a kimono to the plum flavor of the candy.
The sweet and sour balance of the candy and the fruity flavor of the plum hits all the right spots to make a refreshingly sweet confection.
A lesser-known fact is that each piece of candy is wrapped in a beautiful pink wrapper and there is a small poetic phrase written at the back of the wrapper about adolescent love.
Maybe the next gift to bring from Japan for your special someone? (wink* wink*)
Buy KitKat with Worldwide Shipping here!
12. Mochi (Japanese Rice Cake)
Omochi or Mochi is an umbrella term that includes many different variations of sweet snacks made of glutinous Japanese rice and other ingredients.
It has so many different types and is made by so many different brands that it is impossible to make a list or to choose one to recommend to you.
It is generally sticky, chewy, soft, and can come with fillings, coatings, or flavorings.
Although we cannot suggest just one type of mochi, we will recommend you to try at least a few kinds while you are in Japan as it is an indispensable part of Japanese cuisine and traditions.
Fun Fact: Kobara ( 小腹)
The literal translation of the word means “small tummy” and “Kobara ga suita” in Japanese translates to “My small tummy is hungry”. This expression is used to say that you are not starving but hungry just enough to munch on something. A perfect excuse to binge on your favorite Japanese snacks.
If you want a sweet snack that is truly Japanese, you cannot miss out on Yokan.
Yokan falls under the “wagashi" category, which is traditional Japanese sweet confections and is often enjoyed with Japanese green tea.
They are made of red bean or white kidney bean paste, agar, sugar, and other ingredients such as chestnut, sesame seeds, green tea, plum, etc. and are sold in blocks so if you buy one block you can cut it into elegant-looking slices and enjoy with your family and friends.
Buy Yōkan with Worldwide Shipping here!
Japanese snacks for when you are feeling daring and adventurous
The snacks that we introduced to you above are the most popular must-have Japanese snacks.
However, some Japanese snacks are classic favorites to Japanese people, yet it is not popularly known outside Japan because they are an acquired taste or have unique and strong Japanese flavors, or have ingredients that might not be appealing to everyone.
If you have already tried the more popular Japanese snacks and want to explore deeper into the Japanese snack world with your Samurai spirit, be our guest and read on!
14. Saki Ika (Dried Shredded Squid)
This snack might not have fancy packaging but if you look around it is not so difficult to find. It is available in most convenience stores and supermarkets.
It is packaged dried squid meat shredded into what looks like thin strands of white rope.
You can eat it straight out of the package but the best way to enjoy this snack (a well-kept secret among Saki-Ika’s true fans) is to heat it a bit on the stovetop and have it with a mayonnaise and paprika dip.
When you first put it in your mouth, it might seem dry but the trick is to chew on it for a good few seconds to let the juice and flavors spread pleasantly inside your mouth.
15. Tako(Octopus)/ Ika(squid)/ Ebi (Prawn) Senbei
Remember we talked about Osenbei, Japanese rice crackers, at the beginning of the article?
Yes. These are Osenbei with seafood such as prawn, squid, or octopus in it.
These rice crackers are usually bigger and flatter than the others and the interesting (or maybe scary for some) thing is that you can see the flattened parts of the seafood inside the rice cracker.
If you love seafood then these snacks would be your dream-come-true.
Fun Fact: Otsumami(おつまみ)
In Japan, food has a very close relationship with drinking. Some snacks are popular as Otsumami snacks which means they are great to munch on while you are drinking, especially when drinking beers while socializing. Most of the Otsumami snacks are salty, crunchy, have a good bite, and might also be a little spicy.
16. Wasabi Nori Taro
This snack is a flattened sheet containing dried fish paste and seaweed powder, seasoned with a strong wasabi flavor.
If you love wasabi (Japanese horseradish) we suggest you give this classic yet quirky Japanese snack a try.
17. Super Sour Gummy Shigekikkusu
“Shigekikkusu" means "Shock and Kicks" and that's exactly what this shockingly sour gummy will do inside your mouth.
Although they are super sour, they also have nice fruity flavors such as lemon or grapes and are the perfect snack if you trying to pull out an all-nighter or to freshen up your palette after a heavy meal.
Buy Shigekikkusu with Worldwide Shipping here!
Fun Fact: Ame/candy/Choco (あめ、キャンディー、チョコ)
Ame (The "me" part is pronounced as in "medal") or Candy in Japanese are used to referring to candies (the hard sweets). The word "choco” is a Japanese word used for chocolates.
18. Su-konbu (Dried Kelp Seasoned With Vinegar And Salt)
“Su” in Japanese means vinegar and “Konbu" means kelp.
It is dried kelp rolled into sheets and then seasoned to give it a salty-sour taste, then cut into thin strips.
It has been around for many generations in Japan and nowadays it is regaining popularity as a low-calorie, healthy snack.
Although it might taste strange when you try it for the first time you might find yourself irreversibly addicted to this snack as many adults have themselves to be.
Where To Buy Your Japanese Snacks In Japan?
If it is your first trip to Japan, you might be wondering where is the best place to start looking for your snacks.
The simplest yet most confusing answer would be "Everywhere!" which is true as snacks are so intertwined to the Japanese daily life that you can find some kind of snacks almost everywhere:
- small kiosks
- gift shops
- convenience stores
...and even at some temples especially if they are popular tourist sites!
But we don’t want you to wander around aimlessly and waste your time so below are some of the places that offer the widest varieties of Japanese snacks so that you can complete your snack-haul without any hassle.
Known as “Konbini (コンビニ)” in Japan, these convenience stores are the perfect places to start looking out for your Japanese munchies.
They sell dried, frozen, and freshly made snacks. In Japan, the major operators are:
- Seven Eleven
- Daily Yamazaki
Competition is very high which pushes them to constantly make innovative and original snacks, while keeping the prices reasonable.
100-Yen shop (Hyaku-yen shoppu 百円ショップ) in Japan are similar to dollar or euro shops, as you might have already guessed, and they are very popular and common in Japan.
You can find cheap yet interesting Japanese snacks in these shops.
Some of the major 100-Yen shops that you will find in any Japanese city are Daiso, Seria, Watts, etc.
Don Quijote (pronounced Don ki ho-te ドンキホーテ) is one of Japan’s biggest discount stores and they have stores all over Japan.
They usually have big stores and sections dedicated only to snacks where you can find a very good variety of Japanese snacks with prices that are difficult to find elsewhere.
However, the stores in touristy locations can be very crowded and if you have been to one you will realize how popular they are to foreigners just by the number of different languages the in-store announcements are made in.
So if you are not scared of squeezing your way through tight crowds within the store and standing in very long check-out queues, make sure to pay a visit to one of their shops.
Oh! Also, a big plus point of Don Quijote is that most of their stores offer Tax-free purchases.
Drugstores (Especially Matsumoto Kiyoshi)
Drugstores in Japan, especially Matsumoto Kiyoshi, not only sell medicines in Japan but also sell different kinds of products, including snacks.
It is a great place to look for snacks if you are looking for healthier snacks.
Big Train Stations
Train stations are not limited to transport and travel purposes in Japan.
Major train stations in Japan have lots of business establishments within and surrounding them. Within the train station, there can be several floors full of small stores selling snacks and other food-related products.
What makes the train stations a special place to shop for snacks is that they have snack shops selling specialized local snacks.
So if you are looking to buy snacks that represent a certain region in Japan, you have a very good chance of finding them here.
these are traditional Japanese snack shops that are rare to come by these days but have been an important part of the Japanese culture since the Edo period.
If you have the chance to visit one, make sure you don’t miss out.
It will surely make you feel nostalgic and you will find traditional Japanese snacks with fun, colorful wrapping, hand-written price cards, and many of the snacks also come with a bonus toy.
Things to keep in mind when Japanese snack-hunting
After reading about all these Japanese snacks you might be ready to put on your shoes and go out to buy your Japanese snacks but before you do that we suggest you give this part a quick read so that you are well-equipped with all the insider tips for your Japanese snack buying adventure.
The Concept of Omiyage
“Omiyage” in Japanese means gift or presents.
If you have friends or families in Japan, or if you are visiting someone in Japan, it is common practice to bring them an Omiyage. Most of the time, it is a snack from a place you have visited in Japan.
For example, if you go to visit a place in Japan, it is nice to buy a snack from that locality to bring to your friends when you go home.
Be Respectful of the Shop’s Privacy
When we visit a new place, for example, a snack shop it is very understandable that you would be super-excited and be eager to take as many pictures as you can.
However, be aware that many Japanese shops and staffs are not comfortable being taken pictures of.
Even if you are at a supermarket or a convenience store, it is always best to ask for permission if you want to take photos before you do so.
If you have any kind of dietary restrictions or food allergies, it is best to check the packaging of the snacks.
Sometimes, it might be difficult to find out about the exact ingredients if the contents of the snack are only written in Japanese.
In that case, it is best to ask the staff or a friend who can read Japanese to get a complete idea of what the snack contains.
Silica Gel Desiccants
Inside the packaging of many Japanese snacks, you will find a small white packet.
This is not a part of the snack but is a preservative to keep the snacks fresh and is completely inedible.
Make sure to keep it away from children and to discard it once the snack is finished.
So that’s it! Now that you have a comprehensive idea of Japanese snacks that can only be found in Japan, you can confidently start trying out some of the snacks that have appealed to you the most and share your amazing experience with other snack lovers!
There are many Japanese snacks out there in the world, and it's hard to keep track of them all.
We want you to be able to try every flavor that Japan has to offer! That is why we have created a subscription box service for our favorite treats from Japan.
Every month, your ZenPop Sweets Pack will bring you an assortment of everything from popular treats like KitKat, Pocky, and gummies - to new trends such as Dorayaki pancakes or Matcha flavored candies. Every month we handpick an amazing variety of sweet snacks that are hard to find outside Japan so that every month is a surprise!