Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Bizarre

While browsing through the shops in Japan you are sure to hear fellow customers utter the following word at times: ショッキング!(Shocking!)
If you love innovation and uniqueness, Japan is the best place to be in the world for new products and selection.

This definitely holds true for candy products too. Please let me introduce you to a handful of my favorite 'Shocking' confectionery goods...

In Hokkaido, northern Japan, one of the most popular dishes for tourists is Genghis Khan (Mongolian Lamb BBQ). The lamb meat is marinated in a tangy/sweet sauce and it is served with vegetables such as onion and bean sprouts. The customer cooks their own food at their own pace while taking in the lively and busy atmosphere of the shop.

So obviously who wouldn't want to take a piece of this dining experience home with them, in their pocket? Genghis Khan Caramels are guaranteed to be a conversation piece with whoever you share them with. 18 individually wrapped 'sweet-meat' flavored caramels are in each pack. Can you get through them all? If not, you can always give them to your enemy. Buy them HERE at napaJapan.

What do people drink with Genghis Khan? These beer flavored caramels do contain 0.1% alcohol but you won't get the same type of refreshment you do with a real mug of brew. Instead your tongue will be tantalized by the fusion of sweet hops and chewy caramel. This is a definite must for any beer collector as these are sold only in one region of Japan. Are you the daring type?

Other strange caramel flavors that we carry at napajapan include Lavender, Soup Curry, and Corn. These make wonderful gift ideas for anytime of the year. Best-before dates are usually beyond 6 months too, so plenty fresh!

In Japan there are many fish flavored snack products and most have Japanese packaging the typical tourist will not recognize. Now, slap on the DORITOS name and it becomes the first snack to stand out in the local convenience store. Investigate a little further and here you find a Tuna and Mayonnaise flavored coated corn chip just brimming with fragrance and taste. I will let you do the review. I don't want to be a spoiler.

There are usually 6-10 different Doritos flavors released each year in Japan with half of them quite adventurous including Wasabi and Crab Cream! Best-before dates are about 6 months from time of production so they are fresh and ship quite well in sturdy boxes.

Do you remember Popeye Cigarettes? The name and packaging had to be changed in most countries because they apparently promoted smoking to children. Good old Japan still has their version of candy cigarettes with pictures of children puffing away. (Note to self: maybe I should list those too.)

Anyhow, Japan manufacturer's take it one step further with Kodomo no Nomimono (Kid's Drink) which actually is advertised as Kid's Beer. The neat thing about this product is that it pours like a real beer. Same color, same foamy head. Fortunately the flavor is more palatable for children. I would call it a fizzy apple and ginger ale mix taste. When Japanese families gather for special dinner occasions it is common for everyone to raise their glass and shout カンパイ(Kanpai) or as we know: Cheers! Now the children can mimic their elders right down to the beverage appearance.
napaJapan has very limited stock left of this product available HERE.

Please let me know of some bizarre products you have seen or eaten. Feel free to leave a comment. 

Expect new blogs from napaJapan every 7-10 days. You can get updates on new products from our Facebook page or by signing up to our RSS feed found on our homepage.

Happy candy hunting!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stick Snacks

One thing that really stands out in the candy aisle in Japan is how many 'stick-type' products there are. Most of them are cookie or cracker based with chocolate or seasonings on them. It is common for the general public to call them all Pocky regardless of the maker. There are some significant differences in them and that is what I want to cover today.

Pocky is made by Glico and is named so because of the sound each chocolate covered cookie stick makes when it is snapped: Pokkin!
Pocky has been around for 45 years and since then it has come in a variety of flavors and formats. There are usually a dozen different flavors available at one time (see what is available NOW). Chocolate covers 80% of the white cookie stick. Sometimes fruit or nut bits are embedded into the chocolate giving them more texture and a more beautiful appearance. You can find sticks from 8 cm all the way up to 30 cm! Different regions of Japan offer unique flavors too. Pocky is the most recognized 'stick-type' snack throughout the world, however it may not be the best...

 Fran - 3 Cheese

Fran differs from Pocky in a couple ways. First, the stick is a chocolate cookie which has a lot more flavor and is slightly thicker, though more airy. Secondly, Fran has two layers of chocolate: a white chocolate base with the main flavor generously covering it. Meiji is the manufacturer of Fran and in my opinion, they make the best mainstream chocolate in the land of the rising sun. I always look forward to their new releases. Check out the current Fran line HERE.

 Toppo - Cheesecake

Toppo is an inside-out Pocky which is available in 8-10 different flavors each year. With the slightly salty cookie surrounding the chocolate filled centers, you need not worry about getting your hands messy, even on a hot day. Another benefit is that a Toppo box contains more product than its competitors (usually 10-20% more volume!) Personally, I find that the flavors are not as accurate as the competitors but they are very tasty and addictive. This product is made by Lotte, a huge South Korean confectionery company, that operates in Japan and has a wide range of products including chewing gum and chocolate bars.

Pretz is another Glico product that is similar in shape to the others but has a completely different flavor profile. These cracker-like sticks are about the same size as the others however there is NO chocolate to be found on them. They come in about 10 flavors per year and most of them are usually non-sweet, though the cracker stick does have sugar in it. The seasonings are usually vegetable, meat, fish, or herb based. Pretz is best enjoyed with a beverage such as beer, wine, or soda. Take a look at the cool Pretz varieties available today!

 Ta Pasta - Peperoncino

Ta Pasta is the newest release that joins the fold! Glico is the "stick snack" pioneer and there is no slowing them down. The first two releases of 2010 were Squid Ink and Peperoncino. Please do not be turned off by the flavors. They are both very flavorful, VERY thin dry pasta-like sticks with heavy seasonings including garlic! Much more crunchier than Pretz and definitely a more adult taste. The squid ink is salty with seafood flavor overtones while the peperoncino has more garlic, spice and tomato based flavor.

Kari Poli - Grape & Lemon

I also need to mention Kari Poli which is a hard candy based fizzy stick. These are much shorter than the above products but they are quite unique. The short sticks are hard, but brittle, and easy to chew. There are two fruity flavors in each box and sometimes a mystery flavor is even included. Kabaya is the manufacturer and although they do not advertise so much in Japan they always seem to carry a few eye-opening products each year.

On your next visit to napajapan please try out some of these wonderful "stick snack" products!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The Pringles logo is one of the most recognized food brands in the world. The bushy mustache of "Julius Pringles" stands out in the aisles of every supermarket in almost every country.
In Japan, these potato crisps fly off the shelves especially when limited edition flavors are introduced. And that happens often! On average a new Pringles flavor is introduced to the Japanese market every 4 weeks! Guess who carries them all? You are right! napaJapan

You will find three can sizes in Japan (mini, stout, and tall):

 From top to bottom: Cheese Fries, Spareribs, Mayonnaise Cheese

Pringles are made in America by Proctor and Gamble. They ship surprisingly well and it is rare to find more than a handful of broken chips in a can. Luckily they have a 1 year shelf life so that they can stay fresh throughout their voyages overseas. These lengthy best-before dates also allow us to compile a good selection so that you can mix-and-match when placing an order.

"Once You Pop, You Can't Stop!" has got to be one of the most accurate statements ever made by a company regarding their product. Pringles are addictive! Why is this so? I want to hear your opinion...Please take time to offer your two cents worth below.
For me, I think it is the Pringles shape. Each crisp fits perfectly on your tongue allowing you to savor all the seasonings before crunching them to bits. Packaging is also very attractive. The food looks organized, stacked upon each other making them easy to dispense with little oil residue on your fingers. You can pick up each chip by the edge and eat them in a more sophisticated way (not that I do.)

New 2010 Standard Release - Pringles Texas BBQ

And finally, collecting Pringles cans has become a very popular hobby around the globe. napaJapan can keep you up-to-date with the limited edition releases and maybe even find that hard-to-get Japanese edition can you have been searching so long for. Drop us a line anytime! We would love to hear from you.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Choose Hi-Chu ( ハイチュウ) for Flavor Fun!

A small sample of the Hi-Chu variety you will find at napaJapan!

Hi-Chu (aka Hi-Chew) has one of those names that makes you wonder. Was the maker, Morinaga, aiming to create an image of a candy that takes a lot of chewing? If so, would that be a desirable thought? I believe that the 'Hi' probably stands for the high concentration of flavor that these chewy candies deliver. Heavy chewing is not required. These soft candies are actually quite gentle on your teeth and can be enjoyed just melting away as you take in the full taste profile.

Hi-Chu first appeared in Japanese stores in 1975 in very basic flavors such as strawberry and grape. Since then there have been hundreds of limited and regional edition flavors released. Currently, at napaJapan, we carry 18 unique flavors. Some of the more popular ones are Hokkaido Yubari Melon, Cola, and Peach. In 2010 Morinaga has expanded their Hi-Chu line to include Nobi Nobi (Stretch Sticks) and Hi-Chu Jr. (smaller packs of fruity flavors). Expect these to all be listed soon at our site. In 2009 there were two flavors that even had yummy bits of caramelized sugar embedded throughout each candy piece. We still have fresh stock of these unique flavors here: Cotton Candy and Candied Apple.

A standard pack of Hi-Chu is 55 grams and contains 12 rectangular pieces. The smaller packs are 33 grams and contain 7 pieces. The colorful wrappers are very attractive and are fun to collect. Each piece is individually wrapped in foil paper so that they don't stick together.

Grapefruit - The first new flavor for 2010

The candy itself is usually white on the exterior with a colored center. The texture is the same throughout and can best be described as a very soft caramel combined with a piece of bubble gum. Hi-Chu are much creamier than American Starburst and the pieces are about triple the size. Flavors are usually very accurate and intense. People of all ages in Japan enjoy Hi-Chu to give their mouths a refreshing and sweet lift.

On your next candy order I recommend that you try Hi-Chu and see for yourself why it is so popular in the land of the rising sun.
Until next time, Happy J-Snacking!