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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Japan: assorted snacks and sweets, mostly mochi

Here are some random snacks and sweets from our trip to Japan last year.

I'll start with the mochi and mochi type items - because I loved the mochi in Japan. It was all so fresh and delicious!

Best daifuku ever

I’ll start with some of the best. When we were in Takayama, there was a sweets shop down the road from our ryokan. I wish I had taken a photo of the shop now - they had glass fronted cabinets lined with what must have been rows of 20 different flavours of individually wrapped daifuku (mochi with a filling). It. Was. Wonderful. The daifuku from there was the best I have ever eaten! The mochi had the usual characteristic chewiness, but it was really fresh and soft, and seemed to melt in the mouth.

Just before we left Takayama for our next stop, I purchased three flavours to eat on the train – green tea, chocolate and the purple one was a purple Japanese fruit that we had seen at the markets, which I believe is called akebi. My favourite was the green tea with chestnut filling. The sweetness of the chestnut filling was perfect against the bitterness of the green tea. Sigh. I still remember that daifuku very fondly and wish we could get ones as good here in Australia.

Purple fruit

This is the purple fruit that I think is called akebi. We never tried the actual fruit, but the daifuku didn't really have a distinctive taste. It wasn't memorable at all, and all I can recall of it is the red bean filling.


We came across these in a market in Osaka - they are like an inverted daifuku with the red bean paste wrapped around plain mochi.


In this version, the green colour of the mochi wasn't green tea, as I assumed. I'm pretty sure that I was told it's due to mugwort, a herb that grows wild in Japan. It gives the mochi an earthy taste. I preferred the plain version, although this one was interesting to try.


This sweet was part of a lunch set we ate on the top floor of a department store in Kyoto. I believe this is called warabimochi, and it’s not a proper mochi. Mochi is made from pounded glutinous rice, while warabimochi is made from bracken starch. It has a chewy, jelly like texture. We had a couple of pieces with green tea powder and some with kinako (toasted soy bean flour). It may not have been proper mochi but I loved it. It wasn't too sweet, and I really enjoyed the texture.


When we were in Koyasan, we rather quickly ran out of sights to see and things to do. We ended up killing time by hanging out in a sweets shop, eating sweets and drinking tea. We tried three varieties - this one was a warabimochi with kinako covering.


I think these ones were a type of manju (fukashi manju?), a steamed rice cake with a red bean filling.


This was the third item from the sweets shop, and I will have to be honest and tell you I have no idea what it's called! It's on top of a paper bag because I bought it for the train ride to Osaka and it got a bit flattened in transit.

Nama Yatsuhashi

These triangle shaped sweets are big in Kyoto and are called nama yatsuhashi. The soft, mochi-like skin is made from rice flour, flavoured with cinnamon, and comes with different fillings inside, such as red bean, black sesame, or fruit flavours. The skin can also come in a variety of different flavours. These were some of my favourite Japanese sweets – I loved the faint cinnamon flavour, and of course, the soft chewy skins. I did try a fruit version (strawberry) but I preferred the ones that were green tea, black sesame or red bean.

They were almost as good as the daifuku from Takayama.

Nama Yatsuhashi

Here you can see all different varieties boxed up for sale. They can also be baked into cookies called yatsuhashi, but we didn’t try the baked versions.

By the way, I have read that a piece of mochi that is around match-box sized has the same amount of calories as a bowl of rice. Gulp! Perhaps if I had known that I wouldn’t have stuffed my gob with so much mochi.... Nah, who am I kidding! It wouldn’t have stopped me!

Buying a sweet

Now moving away from the mochi, and back to Takayama. This stall at the morning market sold sweets that were like cubes of marshmallow, covered in egg and honey and then grilled.


The cubes were super sweet, soft and eggy. So so sweet! I had a hard time eating a whole one.

Kit kat

Everyone knows that Japan is the land of crazy Kit Kat flavours - we came across an apple and carrot version. Sadly, it was horrible and tasted rather like bodywash!

Chocolate covered ice cream balls

Alastair bought this box of chocolate covered ice cream balls from a vending machine. When he opened it up, we found that each ball was individually wrapped!


This is vanilla ice cream in a squeezy pack – called Coolish – and yes, we did buy it because of the name! How could we have passed it up? Alastair only ate half before it was stolen off him! Okay, not really stolen - a teenage boy with Down’s Syndrome came up to him, said hello, and grabbed the Coolish. Alastair let him have it, although he said wistfully later, “I was really enjoying that ice cream.” Awww!

Green tea ice cream

This was a green tea ice cream we ate in Tokyo and the reason it's up here? LOOK AT THE CONE! It catches any ice cream drips! Isn’t that just genius?

Mitsuya cider

And now on to drinks – Mitsuya Cider was one of our favourites. There are other flavours, but the basic flavour sort of resembles Sprite, although not quite as sweet. There are also Mitsuya Cider hard candies, which fizz in the mouth as they dissolve. I loved the candies and made sure we purchased several bags to bring home.


We are big fans of Calpis. Big fans. I love all those fermented milk type drinks. This flavour is a "more nutritious" yoghurt version, and was fantastic.


If you're still with me - yay you! Only a few more snacks to go. I had to take a photo of these potato chips because I was rather amused that the chips were encased in a bag inside the tube.

Sweet potato chips

Not being able to read Japanese, I purchased these chips expecting them to be salty. I was rather surprised when I ate one and discovered that they were sweet potato and therefore, sweet! After I got over my initial surprise, I quite liked them.


And how about some crunchy sticks of unhealthy, fried, processed carbs? Yes please!


And to finish off, here’s a photo of taiyaki, a Japanese fish shaped cake. We ate these in Tokyo, where there were numerous little shops selling freshly cooked ones. The outside is like a pancake/waffle, and inside the most common filling is red bean, although we also tried custard.

We ate many, many more snacks in Japan, but fortunately I didn't take photos of everything otherwise we would be here all night. If you want more Japan eats, previous Japan posts can be found here.

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