From nato (fermented soy beans) to ika ikizukuri (live squid) to basashi (horse tartare), Japanese cuisine is extremely adventurous when it comes to experimenting with new flavors and textures, a sense of culinary derring-do that carries over into their snacks and candy. Why taste the rainbow when you can taste adventure itself? Thanks to Japanese snack subscription service OyatsuBox, you can send your taste buds on a journey to Japan from the relative comfort and safety of your own home. This monthly mystery box-styled service comes from the same people manning the virtual candy counter of Oyatsu Cafe, a Japanese export store operating out of Chiba, Japan. I’ve ordered hard to find snacks from Oyatsu Cafe before, and have always been super happy with their selection and service. So, I felt more excitement than trepidation when it came to trusting them with choosing what actually went into the box this time.
For $25 per month, OyatsuBox will send you over a pound of snacks, candy and merchandise shipped straight from the Land of the Rising Sun. Unlike most other snack-scription services, they also offer a Gachapon – a Japanese capsule toy – in each month’s box at no extra charge. But like most other snack-scription services, they could stand to make their outsides look as appealing as their insides. Any more deliveries of aggressively non-nondescript brown cardboard boxes and my mailman if going to get ideas. Even though the packaging is bland – there’s no colorful branding, no glossy contents card – it doesn’t get more authentic than this, as the numerous Japanese-language stickers and customs stamps adorning this brown cardboard cornucopia of deliciousness would readily attest. My OyatsuBox came to me through the Port of Kawasaki, Tokyo’s gateway to the Pacific Ocean and my mouth’s gateway to several never before tried treats.
Calbee Hot Chilli Potato Chips
I can see why these were recently voted the most popular potato chip in Japan; the dusting of hot chili flavoring provides just the right amount of zing, not too hot or too spicy. My only complaint is that the chip itself is so light and flaky that more than half the bag was reduced to potato powder during its overseas voyage. Didn’t stop me from licking the bag, though.
Poifull Fruit Jelly Beans
I wasn’t particularly excited about trying these jelly beans as I am never particularly excited about trying jelly beans, but seeing they’re made by Meiji, the Japanese equivalent of Nestle, I knew they would at least be good. But these mouth watering candies are better than good. In the words of a certain frosted flake loving apex predator, “They’re grrrreat!” Japan really knows how to pack a flavor filled punch into their gummy candies, and these jelly beans are no exception; the raspberry, apple, lemon and grape are all super intense, in a good way. As far as how they compare in consistency to American jelly beans, the candy coating is a little grainier and the gummy center a little chewier. I am definitely going to have to hide these from my sister, who made “yum yum” noises throughout the taste testing process.
Lifeguard Soft Candy
I’ve never tried Lifeguard, which is the Japanese equivalent of Monster, but I still could have pegged this as the candy-fied version of an energy drink. It has that super intense, almost chemically citrus taste on the front of the palette with an slightly bubblegum aftertaste. I enjoyed the sour/sweet flavor of this chewy rope candy, despite the slightly grainy texture.
OH. MY. GOD. It’s like they infused a Barry White song into a piece of chocolate. It’s silky. It’s smooth. And women go nuts for it. For the past couple of decades, Meiji has released these for only a few weeks during the winter because, like a precious snowflake, they would melt in weather where you don’t need a sweater. I almost wish the world would be plunged into perpetual winter, so these would be available year round. Sure, most of us would die in “The Great Freeze,” but the sorrow of those who survived would be, quite literally, sweet. And chocolatey. And delicious. And (sorry friends and family who have been turned into popsicles) totally worth it.
Mikan Orange Hi-Chew
Despite what the packaging would have you believe, these are not sour. You won’t scream. You won’t cry. You won’t frantically wave your arms about as you fall to one knee. This is a reaction very specific to, let’s call him “Bob.” Bob has a really strong affection for, some might say unhealthy obsession with Mikan oranges. Bob is not well. Bob is also actually a character called Chicchai ossan or “Small middle aged man,” who can currently be seen all over Japan and even has his own game in the App Store. But back to the candy, which is is a Japan-only version of Hi-Chew made with the flavor of Mikan oranges. It definitely has that crisp, citrus flavor (almost like a tangerine) combined with the dense, taffy texture of a Hi-Chew. I liked it, just not as much Bob.
This tastes like it smells, and it smells delicious! It has a very artificial strawberry taste, and yet it is still scrumptious, like a strawberry-flavored sherbert. You can tell it’s made by Glico, famous for their pocky, because it has the same smooth, creamy texture as the chocolate coating on their pocky. Unlike the popular biscuit sticks, this chocolate is aerated. Both layers had air bubbles, to give that melt-in-your-mouth texture, but the strawberry layer had more making it even fluffier, foamier, and in my humble opinion yummier. If they made a candy that was just the strawberry part, I’d be on a plane to Japan tonight.
Do you like cola? Do you like chalk? Then you’re going to luuuuurv these JOO-C Cola candies from Kabaya, which are hard, round, chalky Tums-esque wafers. They even have calcium. Just like Tums! But unlike the popular antacid, they’re strongly cola flavored. I’m not a huge fan of tablet type candies, like Neca Wafers, but I did enjoy the flavor if not the consistency. These seemed edible in the way that fruit scented markers or candy scented candles seem edible, right up until the moment you put them in your mouth. The difference being that consuming these won’t get you on an episode on TLC’s My Strange Addiction.
Gochi Ramune Gummies
Happy! Refreshing! Bursting! Fun to chew! proclaims the packaging, and this is some serious truth in advertising. These large, extra chewy gochi gummies are meant to taste like ramune, my favorite beverage on God’s green earth, excluding alcohol. Like most ramune-flavored candies, there’s a delightful sourness to these, which is meant to approximate the fizziness of the popular summertime soda.
Taiko Drum Gummies
These are gummy candies made for the hit game, Taiko Drum Master, which can be found in every arcade in Japan. The game, not the gummies. They come in orange. They come in grape. Both are mediocre. If you’ve packed a middle schooler’s lunch box, or stolen a middle schooler’s lunch box (sorry kid, but times are tough for a middle class office drones), you’ve tasted these candies.
Kracie Takoyaki Candy Kit
When I stirred up the octopus slurry, I wasn’t worried. When I rehydrated the powdered dough, I still wasn’t worried. But when I started mixing the mayonnaise, I grew…concerned. By the time I was working on the gravy, my sinuses became congested in what I think was my body’s self preservation instinct finally kicking in. Belatedly, because I had already caught a whiff of the gravy and knew this was going to be neither pretty nor palatable. As bad as I thought it would be, it was worse. My gag reflex engaged immediately. I couldn’t spit this out fast enough – and I mean literally, as the gravy glued to the roof of my mouth. The injustice is that they made me invest this much effort into making something this disgusting; just look at all these steps! As my brother so aptly said, “putting that much care into making a souffle is one thing, but making you go through that many steps with this as the end result is just mean.” No Matthew, it’s just Japanese.
Every OyatsuBox comes with an authentic Japanese gachapon. “Gachapon” is an onomatopoeia composed of two sounds: “gacha” for the sound of the crank on a toy vending machine, and “pon” for the sound of the toy capsule dropping into the tray. Think of the coin-operated machines outside of grocery stores here in the states, except instead of cheap, low-quality garbage, Japan’s capsule toys are closer to blind boxed vinyl collectibles. They are usually made from quality PVC plastic and intricately molded and painted. They are also occasionally wonderfully weird, like the gachapon I received here – a lovingly detailed pigeon. This photo does not do his beady-eyed beauty justice.
I would recommend OyatsuBox just for the gachapon, but thankfully the edibles were equally delightful. Several of the candies in this box can’t be found outside of a certain season, let alone outside of Japan, which really sets this apart from similar services. What also sets it apart, and not good way, is the saint-like patience you’re going to need waiting for the first box – keep in mind, this is coming Japan Post! But if you stick with the service for more than one month, getting into the proverbial groove, the time between deliveries should seem less interminable. You’re going to want to ration those Meltykiss-es just in case.
The real deal stright from Japan
If you’re willing to wait for Japan Post, OyatsuBox will make it worth your while with an impressive variety of unique, hard to find Japan-only snack and candy offerings and an authentic collectible capsule toy.