Deliciousness overload is a real thing in Japan. Everywhere you look, literally everything looks appetizing and you’ll want to try it all. Thing is, you quickly learn two things. 1) Nothing is labelled in English so you don’t know what it is or what’s good and 2) There’s so much that looks good, it’s hard to tell if it’s actually good. This applies especially to the snacks and the food souvenirs that you’ll be tempted to bring home.
On my latest trip to Tokyo that was all about food, I picked out a bunch of items to bring home that are either favourites of mine or are traveller top picks so you have a better idea of what to pick up on your last few days to maximize whatever suitcase space you still have left.
#1 All the Kit Kats
If you’ve ever had a friend go to Japan, the #1 souvenir that’s handed out are all the unique Kit Kat flavours that you can only find in Japan.
There are LOTS of flavours and I’m not even exaggerating.
When it comes to unique flavours, my pick is the wasabi one that’s typically packaged in a nicer box like you see here. It’s not as bad as it sounds and is sure to give you and anyone you give this to a surprise reaction to your first taste of it. Honestly it’s not as strong as you think it’ll be. It’s more of a hint of wasabi but you should really try it yourself.
The other flavour that you pretty much have to get is the Uji Matcha Green Tea flavour. It’s my favourite one and I made sure I brought a bunch back 🙂
The one thing you’ll find in Japan is that all of these special flavours that they have come in the mini size. The flavours that you see will also be somewhat seasonal. When we were in Japan, it was during the time of Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) and so there was a special Sakura flavour available.
#2 Chocolat Blanc/Shiroi Koibito
I can’t remember who let me sample one of these way back but ever since, these have been a must-buy every time I go to Japan because they are so good. In Japan they’re known as Shiroi Koibito but I just affectionately call these Hokkaido white chocolate cookies.
These are white chocolate squares sandwiched between freshly baked langue de chat biscuits. I’ve never heard of langue de chat before either but it’s a French baked cookie with a light butter texture that easily melts in your mouth. I love them because you get the light crisp of the cookies and the richness of the white chocolate that balances it out.
A big part of why they’re so good is that they’re made in Northern Japan and in the Hokkaido region. They’re best known for their fresh cream and milk. As Japanese do, they’ve created the obsessively perfect process to create the delicious cookies and chocolate.
White chocolate is sandwiched between the freshly baked langue de chat biscuits.
I’ve only been able to find these at airport duty free shops.
#3 Tokyo Banana
This one is a bit new to me but it became quite obvious that this was possibly one of the most popular snacks especially for tourists. Every store I went to you could find giant displays of these and in a variety of flavours. They also had mash up products with Kit Kat.
What this is, is basically a fluffy cake with banana custard inside and in the cute shape of a banana. Think super cute Twinky but all banana.
Like I said, while we were there, it was Sakura season so they had a special edition one at the airport that we snagged before we got on our flight back home.
I’ve never tried it before and wanted to give it a shot to see if it lived up to the hype.
My take on it is that it has too much of that artificial banana flavour in it that it reminds me too much of cough medicine. That said, I was impressed with the super fluffy cake.
To each’s own I think. We talked to other people that absolutely love Tokyo Banana. Buy a box and see what you think! Then you can decide whether you want to share or not 😉
#4 ROYCE’ Chocolate
If you haven’t had ROYCE’ yet, you’re seriously missing out. There’s nothing like it out there even if you’ve had the finest Belgian truffles or artisanal chocolate from some award winning chocolatier. I’m telling you, their Nama chocolate is THAT GOOD.
ROYCE’ is a chocolate maker from, you guessed it, the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido in Japan. They’ve been around since 1983 and like everything in Japan, follow strict quality control systems to create the most incredible chocolate I’ve ever had. The Hokkaido region is reich in agriculture and dairy products which make it the perfect place for confectionery ingredients.
So what’s different about ROYCE’? It’s not like any of the milk chocolate that we see in every type of chocolate that we’re used to. ROYCE’s Nama chocolate is a ganache type of chocolate that has a velvety smooth texture that literally melts in your mouth. It texture almost doesn’t resemble what you expect in chocolate and is an indulgence like no other.
It’s that balance of Hokkaido cream, chocolate, and liqueur that creates the bite-sized magic.
My personal favourite is the Maccha flavour that blends in the bitterness of green tea leaves with their white chocolate.
One thing you have to keep in mind is that the chocolate does need to stay refrigerated so if you buy it, you’ll need to keep it in a cold bag (which they sell) in order for it to make the long ride back home.
#5 Instant Matcha Green Tea
If there’s a place in the world to get green tea matcha, it’s Japan right?
I really didn’t know what to look for when we were in Japan but we found a few varieties that we brought home that we were very happy with. I’m normally not that into instant drink mixes back at home but sometimes you have a matcha latte craving and so these are great for a quick fix. All you have to do is add hot water and voila!
The Matcha Au Lait in the green packaging was found at Don Quijote and they come in these small packages that are really easy to hand out as souvenirs or to use at home.
Daiso also had green tea mix that turned out to be another great souvenir for friends and family. Normally these are expensive and hard to find back home but here, they’re everywhere!
While not green tea, Royal Tea is another one worth mentioning as an excellent milk tea mix that rivals a lot of the stuff you can find in Taiwan. Make your own milk tea bubble tea (minus the tapioca) with one of these guys.
#6 Blendy Drip Coffee
Pour over coffee is all the rage right now. I use Chemex at home but sometimes you want something quick. I first discovered this in Taiwan and I think more and more companies are starting to create their own versions of this but I noticed that Japanese have really taken to making their own pour over drip coffee instead of the standard filter coffee.
Blendy is one of the brands that I found at Don Quijote that was super cheap to buy considering I had no idea how good it was.
They come individually packaged and are brilliantly designed where the paper part of the filter extends out like claws to clamp onto your coffee mug. You rip open the top which exposes the coffee grind and al you have to do is slowly pour hot water through the opening.
I personally try to follow my own make-shift Chemex process where I first wet the filter by dipping the whole thing in water beforehand and then I slowly pour water by using my own Hario gooseneck kettle and follow the same counterclockwise pouring technique.
You’re only going to get half a cup of coffee with one of these before the coffee starts tasting really watered down but I like this as an alternative to doing the full Chemex process where I feel like I need to make a larger batch each time.
#8 Japanese Toasted Sesame Salad Dressing
You’re going to be addicted to eating salad after you get this dressing. I’m not even joking because that’s exactly what happened to us.
We were introduced to this salad dressing from one of our Japanese friends in Toronto and ever since then we’ve been craving to have our own stash of this at home. Sure we could’ve gotten this at our neighbourhood J-Town but the mark-up is crazy.
That’s why we made sure to pick up many of these on our latest trip. You can find them at practically any grocery store and they come in different sizes too.
It’s unlike any sort of generic “Asian Sesame Dressing” because it’s that much more creamy but light at the same time, tangy, sweet, and with a hint of miso and garlic. It turns any ordinary salad into “Hot Dang!”
#9: Matcha Green Tea with Roasted Rice
Another item that you can easily find at home with their rise in popularity but you can find them for really great prices in Japan if you shop at a place like Don Quijote.
We just happened to be low on this tea so we made sure to pick up a box.
This is just a taste of some of the popular items that you should think about when planning what loot you want to bring back from Japan. There’s of course a TON more that you can buy so don’t be afraid to try a few of these when you’re there and decide what you like and don’t like.
So where can you get this stuff?
When planning your trip to Japan, I recommend that you buy all of your food souvenirs near the very end so you can do it all in one shot and not have to lug it around especially if you’re going to different parts of the country.
There are a few places that you want to make sure you hit up where you’ll be sure to find a haul of goodies for home:
- Daiso – The Japanese equivalent to a dollar store. It’s the 100 yen (and plus) store that seems to carry just about everything.
- Don Quijote – This is Japan’s largest discount store that sells everything from basic groceries to electronics to clothing. When you walk in, it’s a crazy carnival of aisles that all seem overloaded with goods.
- Your local grocery store – If you’re looking for everyday things, grocery stores are a great place to pick up things like salad dressing, toast spreads, instant noodles, and basic snacks.
- Duty free at the airport – ROYCE’ is going to be tough to find in the city unless you encounter one in a Depachika (department store basement) because there aren’t many dedicated stores. Your best bet will be at the duty free. Duty free will also be a good place to pick things up last minute as you’ll find all of the popular snacks like Kit Kat, Tokyo Banana, Chocolat Blanc, and all sorts of mochi.
A note about duty free
I haven’t touched on this topic yet but if you’re buying at big stores like Don Quijote and BIC Camera let’s say, as long as you make a purchase greater than 5,000 JPY, you’re eligible to buy the items tax-free. From my experience, every store is a little different.
At BIC Camera, you straight up don’t pay tax and they staple the receipt onto a passport page.
At Don Quijote, you pay at the cashier including tax and then you have to walk over to the tax-free area where they process everything, return the tax money in cash and then staple the receipt onto a passport page.
The process at the airport is pretty easy and I had a chance to go through it in Haneda. Essentially once you go past the security check (x-rays), there’s a desk for duty free and all they ask for is for you to take off the receipt from your passport and put it on a tray. They don’t check for the products at all and in my case it seemed like they didn’t even care to look at the receipt. It was just a matter of giving them the receipt and I was good to go. With that said, it’s probably still a good idea to have it with you in case.
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