After years of being asked by her stateside-dwelling friends to bring them Japanese candies and snacks they couldn’t get locally, Ayumi Chikamoto started TokyoTreats, one of the newest subscription-based services that promises to send you a box full of treats from the heart of your favorite island nation. And when they say full, they damn well mean it. This box was packed to the absolute brim with candy, so much so that I had to call in my sister and mother to either help me eat it or call for an ambulance should I slip – willingly and happily – into a diabetic coma.
TokyoTreat offers full-sized candies and snacks shipped you you each month straight from Japan. There are three subscription tiers: the 1-pound Small box is $14.99 for 5-7 snacks and candies, the 1.5 pound Regular box is $24.99 for 8-12 snacks and candies (1 DIY kit), and the box reviewed here, the massive 2.5 pound Premium is $34.99 for 13-17 snacks and candies (2 DIY kits and 1 special item). For all of the boxes, shipping is free worldwide and you can cancel anytime. But mom doesn’t care about any of that, just let her at that candy!
This Coconut Pocky is a limited edition flavor, only available in the summer. A classic Pocky biscuit stick is dipped in creamy milk chocolate with real chunks of coconut. It’s a testament to how delicious these were that I loved them, even though I hate coconut. The ratio of coconut to chocolate is just right – enough to give it that distinctive coconut flavor, but not so much that the fibrous texture overwhelms. You get fewer sticks than your run-of-the-mill Pocky, but the Coconut Pocky are twice as thick and thanks to the fancier packaging – two separate clear plastic bags full of biscuity goodness – were all unbroken. This was a Pocky miracle.
Caramel Corn Tanabata
In Japan, July 7 is the Tanabata Festival, where people write a special wish on a strip of colorful paper, knot it around a bamboo tree and pray to the star deities “Orihime” and “Hikoboshi” to make their dreams come true. I’ve had Caramel Corn Tanabata before, but this limited edition packaging includes a special strip of decorated paper on which you can write a wish. There’s no picture because I didn’t realize there was anything in the bag other than sweet, sweet crispy, crunchy corn puffs until I’d already trashed the packaging, but I can tell you I would have wished for another bag. Mom thought these tasted like “sugar covered packing peanuts” (she’s a tough critic) but they actually taste like a fluffier, caramel-ier Corn Pops cereal.
Chocobi Chocolate Flavor!
If you watch the anime Crayon Shin Chan, you’ll recognize Chocobi as the fictional chocolate star-shape snack brand favored by Shin. Think about it – this is a snack so popular in the fictional world of Crayon Shin Chan, it crossed over into our reality! Chocobi tasted like Cocoa Puffs cereal, with a creamier chocolate aftertaste. Even mom showered them with praise, saying, “I’d rather eat chocolate packing peanuts than sugar covered packing peanuts.” Like the fictional Chocobi, every box has a surprise inside – in this case one of 25 different Shin-chan stickers – a la Cracker Jack.
According to Tokyo Treat, this ramune candy has been a best seller for more than 50 years in Japan. Heavy emphasis on in Japan. You have to dig deep into the dark corners of the interwebs to find this exact candy. The inclusion of products that are hard to get (or that you straight up can’t get) outside of Japan are the mark of a good Japanese candy subscription service. In addition to being really hard to find, they taste really good. These Zhu-C Cider candies have a great ramune flavor. Embedded in the fizzy meltaway tablet are green and blue chewy chunks that add some extra textural interest to what would otherwise be a tasty, but one-note, wafer candy.
Nom-Nom Jelly Cola
This jelly candy tastes like a congealed, flat coke. It sounds a lot worse than it tastes. I probably should have put it in the fridge, not the freezer, as the jelly got just a little too firm; still, I think it’s better to ere on the side of “too cold” when it comes to Nom-Nom Jelly Cola. It you tried it room temp, it really would taste too much like a can of soda you left out overnight.
Sawabee Vinegar Chips
These are more mild than American salt and vinegar chips. They’re tangy, yet there’s a slight sweetness. You could power through a bag of these easy. Mom sure did.
Tabekko Aquarium Biscuits
Each box of Tabekko Aquarium Biscuits contains a mystery mix of 47 potential sea animals, not a single one you will be able to identify. Okay, maybe the starfish but that’s it. These are what you’d get if you distilled the essence of the crusty edges of a brownie into a cracker. The crazy thing is that even though it looks, feels and tastes like a cracker on the outside, there’s a super thin layer of chocolate cream on the inside that makes the whole thing just melt in your mouth. As soon as she bit into it, my sister Lauren exclaimed, “This is witchcraft!” To which I say, “Well played, witches. Well played.”
Uranai-kko Bubble Gum
These mildly cola-flavored bubble gum are like edible Omikuji sticks! You can get Omikuji at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan; for a small fee (cause shrines and temples gotta make money too) you shake a box until a numbered stick comes out, match the number to a drawer, and receive a paper fortune. This candy recreates that experience in edible form, allowing you to shake out a fortune one at a time to see if you get a good, bad or moderate daily fortune. Of course, unless you…
I gotta interrupt myself here, ’cause half way through taste testing this gum, we collectively realized the Tabekko Aquarium Biscuits had left a weird aftertaste. “It’s part of the spell so you’ll keep eating them forever,” said Lauren. “I told you this was witchcraft! I told you!” Lingering mild bitterness aside, I’d totally kill another box of these in a heartbeat.
…can read kanji, you won’t know what your fortune is. But you will still enjoy a good gum; it has the softer texture and stronger flavor typical of Japanese gum.
Lotte Pie No Mi Blueberry
These Lotte Pie No Mi Blueberry had a strong blueberry smell, but surprisingly mild blueberry flavor. Still, despite the taste and texture not at all matching up with the packaging’s blueberry cheesecake promises, these were absolutely awesome. They were light, flaky and layered, like a croissant. A delicious miniature croissant.
Japan makes the best gummies. These weren’t the tastiest, being generic citrus flavored (Japan rocks a muscat flavored gummy), but were still hands down better than American gummies. They had a great consistency, the perfect amount of firmness, that made up for the flavors sorta blending together.
Real-Grape Vine Gummy DIY Kit
Muscat? Yaaass! This Real-Grape Vine Gummy DIY Kit lets you build your own “grapes” by spinning a plastic branch alternatively in muscat-flavored liquid and powder to build-up your “grapes.” This was more fun to make, in a Tom-Sawyer-paint-the-fence kinda way, than it was to eat. Even though the flavor was good – MUSCAT! – the consistency was not; these weren’t gummies, they were muscat-flavored snot balls finished with with tart, fizzy sprinkles. I ended up eating the sprinkles on their own.
Animal Bread Cakes DIY Kit
This Animal Bread Cakes DIY Kit lets you make your own pancake art. As art, it’s pretty cute. As a pancake, it’s pretty terrible. It was super cool that a pure white powder could, with a pinch of water, become a flour-like “batter.” The pink smelled like strawberry and the yellow like cake mix. Very yummy, based on olfactory-only observation. A spin through the microwave changed it on a molecular level. The final product was heavy, the density of a white dwarf star. It sat like a rock in my belly. If you liked to eat paste as a child, this will be comfort food. I’m ashamed to admit that I tried paste as a child – my parents must not have been giving me the right multivitamins. On a side note, the dogs went nuts for it.
Spicy Curry Ramune
Oh god, it burns! If it weren’t carbonated, I could totally see slow cooking this Spicy Curry Ramune, making a reduction and serving it with chicken and sticky white rice to the delight of my dinner guests. But it is carbonated, making it a savory, spicy, tummy-twisting nightmare of a soda. This is what happens at the ramune soda factory’s annual flavor planning meeting when they don’t ask if they should, but rather if they could.
TokyoTreat is a bit pricier than the other Japanese snack-scription services I’ve tried, but when you consider the quality of both the product and packaging, and that it’s coming direct from the heart of Tokyo, the cost seems pretty reasonable. Especially since they circumvent one of my biggest complaints with Japan Post shipped packages – the crazy long wait time – by shipping boxes twice a month; place your order before the 15th for the first shipment and before the 31st for the second shipment. Anything that gets candy into my belly more expediently is appreciated.
Now, I know I throw around a lot of stars when reviewing Japanese candy. And yes, a small part of the reason is that I’m still riding an intense sugar high when I start writing. But the larger part is that Japanese candy is just plain awesome. It’s tasty. It’s fun. And it’s always evolving; Japan’s confectionery mad scientists are constantly inventing new products for the candy-crazed masses. So, what sets the different Japanese candy subscription services apart is the quality of their service (i.e. communication with customers) and selection (i.e. inclusion of hard-to-find items). TokyoTreats knocks it out of the proverbial park on both counts. Check it out for yourself.
Tokyo Treat is one of the most highly polished Japanese candy subscription services I’ve reviewed; the website is clean and easy to navigate, the shipping is surprisingly speedy, and the boxes are branded with cute graphics on the outside and a slick content-describing card on the inside.