16/06/2021

Japanese Food: Popular Sweets and Snacks Edition

When talking about Japanese food, there’s no way we can skip on Japanese sweets and snacks. From traditional Japanese sweets to western inspired creations, there’s no limit to the delicacies just waiting to be tasted. Let’s check out some popular ones that you can add to your food list when visiting Japan.


Table of Contents

  1. Popular Japanese Desserts
  2. Popular Japanese Sweets
  3. Popular Japanese Snacks
  4. Japanese Regional Snacks
  5. Summary

Popular Japanese Desserts

Got a sweet tooth? Try out these unique Japanese desserts:

Japanese Fluffy Pancakes

Or soufflé pancakes are a lighter and airy version of a traditional pancake. Japan brought these pancakes onto a different level, perfecting the art that is fluffy pancakes and making it go viral on social media. The best places to get Japanese pancakes are:

Cafe Accueil

Aside from their regular pancake menu, they also serve soufflé pancakes topped with seasonal ingredients. 

Access: 4-mins walk from Ebisu Station / 6-mins walk from Daikan-Yama Station

Happy Pancake

One of the most popular pancake shops in Japan, it has branches all over Japan. Their bestseller is their classic Happy Pancake (Shiawase no Pancake 幸せのパンケーキ) priced at 1,100 yen. They also have savoury pancakes served with omelette or salmon avocado which makes for a great brunch. 

Access: List of Shops

FLIPPER’S

Happy Pancake’s competitor, Flipper’s has several stores in Japan as well as overseas in New York City, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea. Their bestseller, the Miracle Pancake (Kiseki no Pancake 奇跡のパンケーキ) is said to have raised the bar for soufflé pancakes. 

Access: Shibuya, Shinjuku, Jiyugaoka, Shimokitazawa

TIP

For traditional pancakes, visit Ginza West Aoyama Garden for the most beautiful pancake in the world. Note that each diner has to order an item from the menu.

For affordable yet superb traditional pancakes, try Hoshino Coffee.

Cakes

Unlike some countries, cakes in Japan are sold in specialty cake stores and can be quite pricey. For more affordable cakes, try supermarket cakes or Cozy Corner. There are different kinds of cakes in Japan, and here are the more popular ones.

Baumkuchen 

Introduced by German Karl Joseph Wilhelm Juchheim, it is a popular cake and favourite choice of souvenir. It is cooked on a rotating spit whilst batter is added in layers giving it a unique appearance - thick donut shape with layers. Baumkuchen is so popular that it has been featured in media like the anime Kobato and manga Yumeiro Patissiere. Get baumkuchen at:

Strawberry Shortcake

A classic cake beloved in Japan. Although it looks simple with 2 to 3 layers of sponge cake, whipped cream, and strawberries, it is difficult to find a superb strawberry shortcake. It may be available all year round but this cake tastes the best in early spring or late winter when strawberries are at their best. It is especially popular during Christmas time as a Christmas cake.

Japanese Cheesecake and Cheese Tart

There’s no need to explain this one, everybody knows that Japanese cheese desserts are the best. Try some of these:

Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecakes

First launched in Japan, Uncle Tetsu has since taken over the world with his soft jiggly Japanese cheesecakes.

Pablo

Just as famous as Uncle Tetsu is Pablo’s rich and delicious cheese tarts. It is famous for their unique cheese tarts that are gooey but definitely tasty.

Johann Homemade Cheesecake

Operating since 1978, this cheesecake has taken up the challenge against time and won. You can’t get any more traditional than the cheesecakes served here.

Castella

Last but not least, we have the Japanese Castella, a favorite tea time snack introduced by the Portugese and gradually transformed to suit local taste. Castella is the city of Nagasaki’s local specialty, so if you visit Nagasaki you can try limited edition flavours of castella. You can try these Japanese castellas at:

Bunmeido

First established in Nagasaki, they can now be found in department stores around Tokyo. Though more than 100 years have passed since business started, they still retain the traditional method of preparing castellas.

Fukusaya

First established in Nagasaki in the early 1600s, the uniqueness of their handmade castella is its crunchy sugary bottom.

Iwanaga Baijuken

Only available in Nagasaki. Castella at this shop is always fresh as it is made to order. Make sure to reserve well in advance to make the cut as they have a daily production quota to maintain excellent quality.

Japanese Parfait

Based on the American parfait, generally Japanese parfaits consist of ice cream, whipped cream, a sweet sauce, and topping ingredients served in a tall clear glass. Common parfait flavours include chocolate banana, green tea red bean, and strawberry. Parfaits are easily available at any family restaurant but for a special treat try a parfait specialty shop:

Milky Way Cafe in Ikebukuro
Takano Fruit Parlour
Ito Kyuemon Uji Main Store Cafe in Kyoto
Kurashiki Momoko in Okayama Prefecture

Fruit Sandwich

Fruit Sando is a popular dessert in Japan. It is basically a fruit cake with its cake replaced by bread. It is an enjoyable snack to have on a hot day and way more affordable than cake. You can get fruit sandwiches from konbini or supermarkets, but for really good ones try these places: 

  • The Tokyo Fruits in Setagaya City serves the best quality fruit sandwiches using fresh fruits and freshly-baked bread. They also serve parfaits.

  • Futsu ni Fruits in Shimokitazawa, established by Bread and Espresso, serves chunky fruit sandwiches.

  • Hotcake Tsurubamisha in Setagaya City. Although as their name implies hotcakes are their house specialty, their fruit sandwiches have become equally popular as the hotcakes, so why not come down and try them both.

  • Da Cafe Ebisu in Ebisu, Shibuya. Premium fruit sandwiches made with fresh fruits from a fruit store, the prices are on the high side but it is worth it with generous amounts of fruit practically bulging from the sandwiches. They also do delivery so you can have your fruit sandwiches delivered right to your doorstep.

Popular Japanese Sweets

Try these Japanese sweets as a snack or to satisfy sugar cravings:

Dorayaki

Dorayaki are two small pancakes sandwiched together with fillings like red bean paste (anko) and matcha paste.. Dorayaki is Doraemon’s favourite snack. Dorayaki can be easily bought from supermarkets and konbini, but for freshly made dorayaki try these places: 

  • Usagiya in Ueno is said to serve the best dorayaki in all of Japan.With a history of over 80 years selling this traditional sweet we can see why. They also sell other traditional sweets like Rabbit Manjyu, Red Bean Bun (Anpan), and more!

  • Tokiya in Shinjuku is a great R&R spot when exploring the area. Aside from dorayaki, they also serve proper meals, drinks, and other traditional Japanese sweets.They have been operating since 1948 which is reflected by their Showa-style interior. 

  • Seijuken in Chuonear Ningyo-cho (人形町) Station and Mitsukoshimae (三越前) Station is famous for their Dorayaki stuffed with heaps of fillings; it’s practically bursting!

Imagawayaki

First made during the Edo period, Imagawayaki is considered as a wagashi or a traditional sweet. It is very similar to Taiyaki (fish-shaped) and Dorayaki (separated). Imagawayaki has many names depending on which region of Japan it is in, for example in Osaka they call it Obanyaki, whilst in Hokkaido it is called Oyaki.

Imagawayaki are not as easily found as its cousins so here are some places to get them:

TIP

Imagawayaki is best eaten hot and freshly made, but you can also find them frozen in supermarkets and all you have to do is microwave or toast them!

Japanese Crepes

The famous Japanese Crepes are best found in Crepe Town Harajuku. There are many long-standing creperies all over Harajuku, including new shops bringing their own flavours of crepe to the mix. Here are some of the stores you should try: 

  • Marion Crepes who revolutionized Japanese crepes started its business as a food truck until opening their very own physical store on Takeshita-dori where it remains till today. They also have around 80 other shops all around Japan. 

  • Santa Monica Crepes is located at one end of Takeshita-dori

  • Sweet Box has 2 shops, both of which are located along Takeshita-dori to accommodate the crowds.

  • PARLA serves premium gourmet crepes with unique flavours like pina colada, truffle, caviar, blue cheese, and more.

  • Cafe Crepe has history as long as Marion Crepes. They have stores in Takeshita-dori, Roppongi Hills, and other places.

TIP

IKEA Harajuku in sticking to Harajuku traditions serves tunnbröd, a Swedish flatbread whose appearance resembles a crepe.

Soft Serve Ice Cream

Soft serve is extremely popular in Japan, especially those containing Hokkaido cream. When visiting Japan make sure to get some, try the classic flavours like vanilla, chocolate, and green tea and also unique flavours you can only get in Japan:

Sweet Potato Flavour

Asakusa Mangando, Oimoyasan Koshin at Asakusa on Denbouin Street, Imoyoashi Daibutsu at Kamakura

Wasabi Flavour

Daio Wasabi Farm at Azumino Nagano, 

Soy Sauce Flavour

Yamato Soysauce & Miso Company at Kanazawa, Soy Sauce Village on Shodoshima in Kagawa, shops around Ise-Jingu (Ise Shrine)

Try also other interesting flavours like ramune (Japanese soda), lavender, melon, watermelon, tofu, sakura, and more.

Pudding

Called “Purin” in Japan is a staple dessert or sweet snack. There are many brands of pudding you can buy at any supermarket and konbini.

Wagashi

Japanese traditional sweets are best enjoyed with hot Japanese green tea. Try some of these classic wagashi: 

Dango

Made from rice flour, dango should not be mistaken with mochi, another wagashi made by pounding cooked rice. Dango is usually skewered whereas mochi is not. 

Various ways to prepare dango include:

  • Sanshoku or Hanami Dango - Skewered 3 coloured dango.

  • Goma Dango or Sesame Seed Balls - With anko filling inside, non-skewered dango is covered with sesame seeds and deep fried. It is actually a Cyuuka (中華) food.

  • Azukian Dango or Anko Dango - Skewered dango topped with red bean pasteMitarashi Dango - Skewered dango topped with sweet soy sauce.

Youkan

A typical summertime wagashi, youkan has an agarlike texture. 

Yatsuhashi

A regional product of Kyoto, this triangular shaped wagashi is a popular choice of souvenir. It can be easily found in souvenir shops at the airport and around Kyoto. 

Daifuku

Daifuku means “great luck”. It is a mochi ball with fillings such as anko (red bean paste), strawberries, and even ice cream. Try Lotte’s Yukimi Daifuku and its seasonal variations.  

Oshiruko

Also called zenzai is hot red bean soup with mochi or glutinous rice dumplings. It is usually eaten in cold seasons like winter and especially over the New Year’s as dessert after osechi. During winter time, vending machines will stock hot red bean soup. It is very similar, perhaps the same, as the Chinese hong dou tang (red bean soup).

Popular Japanese Snacks

If you're not much of a dessert person, then these Japanese snacks might suit you better (and what’s great is, you can find most of them at the convenience store!):

Senbei

Japanese rice crackers is a Japanese staple snack available in stores all over Japan. Try the different types of senbei like classic soy sauce, seaweed, spicy sweet, sesame, seafood, black beans, and more. For unique senbei, try Tako Senbei (octopus rice cracker) at Enoshima.

Potato Chips

Chips range from classic flavours to other flavours unique to Japan. Try these out: 

Calbee

The most popular brand of potato chips in Japan. Calbee also sells Jagarico and Jagabee which are potato sticks (crunchy french fries). They also have Kappa Ebisen, seafood flavoured potato sticks. Interesting flavours from Calbee’s include salted seaweed, consomme, pizza, soy sauce mayo, takoyaki, mentaiko, wasabi, salad, and more.

Royce’s Potato Chip Chocolate

Try this blend of salty chips and sweet chocolate. It is a unique flavour that you’ll either love or hate. Available in 4 varieties of chocolate; milk chocolate, caramel chocolate, white chocolate, and semi-sweet chocolate. Enjoy these chocolate coated potato chips.

Chocolate Snacks

Famous Japanese chocolate brands in Japan include Meiji, Lotte, Glico, and Morinaga. Special shoutout to Nestle, though not a Japanese brand, their Kitkat is one of the most popular chocolate products in Japan.

  • Glico struck gold when they created the famous Pocky. Starting with chocolate coated sticks, available flavours now range from classic chocolate to matcha. Although not a chocolate snack, Pretz inspired from pretzels is another favourite Japanese snack. November 11 every year is Pocky & Pretz Day.  

  • Meiji produces the famous Kinoko no Yama (Mushroom Mountain) and Take no Ko (Bamboo Shoot). These two items are huge rivals and the topic of which one is better is a huge controversy in Japan. Other popular products include their classic chocolate bar, Apollo strawberry chocolate, and Chocobaby. Don’t forget their limited time winter only product, MeltyKiss

  • Lotte produces Pocky’s biggest rival, Toppo also known as reverse pocky or as some people call it, the optimized pocky. Other popular products include Crunky, Chocolate Pie (Pai no Mi パイの実), Nyusankin Chocolate, Koala March, ChocoPie, and more.

  • Honorary mentions of chocolate snacks are Alfort chocolate biscuitsShiroi Koibito, Black Thunder, Morinaga’s chocolate products and Kitkat.  

Other Snacks

Snacks that just don’t fit into the categories above but are a must-try:

  • Ottotto おっとっと - A crunchy thin salty snack in the shape of animals. Cheap,simple yet addicting.

  • Meiji Kajyu Fruit Gummies - It’s gummies, it tastes like fruits.

  • Umaibo - Translated as tasty stick is an extremely cheap puffy corn snack, and a great way to get rid of excess coins.

  • Fettuccine Gummy - Sweet flavoured gummy in the shape of fettuccine and coated with sour powder.

  • Ramune Soda Candy - Ramune (Japanese soda) flavoured candy.

  • Kaki-P or Kaki no Tane - A popular beer snack consisting of a mixture of peanuts and crescent shaped senbei pieces. 

Japanese Regional Snacks

Each region of Japan has their own specialties, whether it is a dish, agricultural product, or (to fit the topic of this article) a sweet/snack. Here are just some of the many prefectural delicacies available.

Hiroshima Specialty: Momiji Manjyu

This maple-shaped wagashi is a cross between manju and imagawayaki. First made during the Meiji period, it has been around for a century and continues to be a tasty snack and perfect souvenir with new varieties like cream cheese, custard, and matcha.

Hokkaido Specialty: Shiroi Koibito

It is based on Langue de chat, a biscuit from France.When visiting Sapporo in Hokkaido, you can also drop by the Shiroi Koibito Park and enjoy their many attractions.

Okinawa Specialty: Beniimo tarts and Chinsuko

Beniimo are purple sweet potatoes that are specially cultivated in Okinawa, it is made into an irresistible tart with rich custard. On the other hand, Chinsuko is known as a classic Okinawan sweet with lard as one of its main ingredients. It is very similar to shortbread.

Aomori Specialty: Apple Desserts

As the biggest producer of apples in Japan, not to mention their reputation of having the best apples in Japan. It is no surprise then that Aomori’s apple desserts are a level above the rest of the world. When visiting Aomori, make sure to have a taste of their apple pies, apple tarts, apple gelato or apple ice cream.

Summary

With all this information at your disposal, it looks like you’re ready to start snacking in Japan. Not ready to make a trip to Japan? No worries - there are services available where you can have an assortment of Japanese sweets delivered to your doorstep. It won’t be as good as freshly made desserts but it’s something to tie you over till you visit in the near future.

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