31 Days of Halloween: Halloween Puke-tacular!

I did pretty well at work today running through several packages of candy. Sure, we didn't finish them - many of the Japanese staff members didn't even touch the stuff I shared! But I have a whole bunch to share with you below. And there's more. There's still so much more...
The above snack is very popular with the kids at my school. It used to be that every Friday evening between classes all the kids would have a different version of this snack and they'd share them all. I've seen at least a dozen types - mini potato chips like you see above, in all sorts of different flavors, cookies, crackers, you name it. And they're pretty cheap given the number of pieces inside. Then again, they're pretty small, a bit bigger than a quarter.

The above flavor is "Potewasa" (wasabi flavored potato chips). The wasabi is noticeable but not overwhelming. My coworker and I ate the entire package by the end of the day. Well, almost the entire package. I really would like to try a full spread of flavors sometime!
Dried ramen is back. This is mini chicken ramen, and like the other ramen package I had before, it looks and tastes just like you'd expect ramen noodles to taste. Except they're crunchy and dry. A great little snack, though like a bag full of broken potato chips or pretzels, they can get messy.
I've been waiting a long time to try these. Dorachoco is their name, as you can see if you look closely at the yellow edges of the package, or if you can read kana.
They're two small pancake sandwiches with chocolate "cream" inside. The texture and such was great, but the chocolate seemed a bit off. Then again, they did expire a week ago. Maybe they're better fresh.
Here is more chewing candy, this time in soda flavor. I can't remember the candy these are similar to in the US, given their size. I suppose you could say they're like giant Skittles, and I love Skittles.
The mini packages come with five pieces of only one flavor. Each candy is about the size of a couple Starburst candies. As promised, they are chewy, again like Skittles. The "soda" flavor you see here tastes more like the generic bubble gum that I've sampled lately than a cola or other common soda. They're good, but I'd like to find larger bags of these with multiple flavors (and at a better price).
Here is a candy jewel. That's what the kanji on the front translates to. It's as big as a larger gumball you'd find in the States, individually wrapped.
This one is cola flavored, and despite the strange coating on the outside it isn't sour or super-sweet. It's just like a jawbreaker, with a tart cola flavor (more like Coca-Cola than Pepsi). This was pretty good and lasted quite a long time!
Moving back to the snacks from the sweets, here is Tamanegi-san, or Mr. Onion. These little puff balls are just like cheese puff snacks in the US, but with an onion flavor. It's certainly noticeable, and they're pretty tasty, though I'd suggest not eating these before going on a date.
Remember those squid things I couldn't stand a few days ago? Well, as I mentioned, there is a variety of different flavors and styles. This is the "ethnic flavor" dried cod. Or at least that's what I was told at work - it is fish, though I'm not sure what fish it is.
Unlike the other Yotchan product I tried, this one is not overwhelming when it comes to flavor. It's like a fish jerky, and it's not that bad-tasting. On the other hand, I'm not so sure the processed fish parts used to make it is healthy. I had a few of these chewy pieces today, and since nobody else seemed interested in trying them I'll end up having a few more tomorrow.

Despite eating so many kinds of junk food today, I didn't eat much of any particular item, just sampling a few of them. So I didn't OD on Halloween treats. And there are more snacks to come.
Until next time...

31 Days of Halloween: Good News, Everyone!

So, remember that big problem I was talking about before? It finally cleared up, three weeks later, Wednesday evening. Needless to say, I'm in a much better place now!
I'm still busy preparing for next week, and I'm about to Skype my mom (hopefully my computer will cooperate this time). So time is short. But I have some sweet candies to go with the sweet news on All Hallows Eve Eve.
These are Konpeito/konpeitou. It's named after the Portuguese candy confeito, a type of sugar candy. According to Wikipedia, which is always super-trustworthy, it used to be a very rare and expensive candy in Japan, because of the difficulty in obtaining refined sugar. Apparently it takes over a week to make them, due to the slow process of coating them.
This little package is quite tasty, though. I've had them before, so I knew I was in for a treat. It's similar to American rock candy or other semi-hard/crunchy sugar candies. If I was handing out trick-or-treat candy, I'd probably choose these to go with some chocolate!
Speaking of chocolate, this style of candy should look familiar, as I had a similar package of chocolate balls earlier this month. Each candy is supposed to represent some form of good luck. Where the previous package had chocolate balls, this has ramune-flavored candies. Ramune is essentially another sugar product, with the original flavor being lemon-lime. These little balls didn't have any specific notable flavors, but they were pretty good too! There are other ramune candies out there, but I haven't picked any up yet.

So, tomorrow is Halloween! Hopefully I can get together a good post to finish off the treats, and the other tricks I picked up to try!

31 Days of Halloween: Taffy that isn't Laffy

I've been on the hunt for American flavor lately. I just picked up a bag of Butterfinger candies and a box of Mac and Cheese, I enjoyed plenty of pretzels at the Halloween party, I had pizza for dinner last night, and I have some chips and salsa now (thank you - you know who you are!).

Sitting in my candy basket, unbeknownst to me, were a couple pieces of candy much like American taffy.
On top, in the black bag, is Colorful Gaburi Chew. The bottom bag is just normal Gaburi Chew. I don't know what Gaburi means, other than Gabriel, which might be the character you see on the package.
The brown log came from the white bag, and is cola flavored. It's very taffy-like, though unlike good taffy in America it isn't very stretchy or gooey - it's a bit more firm. This makes it much easier to eat, though. The flavor is spot on cola, though, there's no denying that!
The black package has a mystery flavor. And it still is a mystery. Seriously, I have no idea what it was. It was kind of Sprite-like - lemon-lime-ish. But it was pretty good.

These were good treats! I might have to buy some more of these soon.

31 Days of Halloween: Strike One - Squid Snacks

We had our Halloween party at work Saturday night. All next week, I'll be changing into my costume during kids classes, and back into my shirt and tie for the adult classes. I'm going to be like a female pop star, going through so many wardrobe changes so fast!

Unlike female pop stars, I can enjoy snacks without having to worry about remaining super-skinny. And I'm not using makeup or wearing skirts.

Today's two tiny treats aren't sweets. but they're still just the right size for Halloween packages. Actually, at the party yesterday we had tiny packages of pretzels for giving out on Halloween. And I suppose these might be the traditional Japanese equivalents.
Mochi. That's the only word I can make out on the front of this package. The picture at the bottom shows part of the process of mochi making, and I'm going to assume that whatever these are called, they are made from mochi. However, my experience with mochi has been as a sweet, sticky, soft snack, usually filled with something like red bean paste or actual strawberries!
These look similar to rice cracker snacks I've talked about in the past. They're pretty small, and lightly covered with some grainy crystal similar to salt or sugar. They have a hint of sweetness, so the flavor on the outside could be sugar. It's highly possible that it's made from fried mochi. The taste is very mild, and is just a crunchy snack.
The second snack is quite exotic. This is White Cut Yocchan. It's made with seafood (mostly squid) and fish jelly. There are other styles, all containing dry seafood products, most with added fish jelly.
The pieces inside are small, thin squares. The squid gives it a crunch or chewiness that isn't so bad, but they're soaked in vinegar that gives it an aroma and a taste that you won't forget. If you like vinegar with your fish, give this a try. But I don't, and for that reason I couldn't eat more than one.

Oddly enough, this is the first snack I've had this month that I didn't like. But then again, I've been avoiding some of the scarier snacks until now. I guess that's the horror of Halloween... and Halloween trick or treat bags!

31 Days of Halloween: It's Black, and White

The overwhelming majority of Japanese sweets and candies come in small packages. I guess that has its good points - with small packages, you can eat everything and not feel too guilty. There's nothing to store and spill and it won't go bad. But that smaller piece in an individual package means you pay more per ounce, or gram, or liter, or however you want to measure it. A chocolate piece twice as voluminous as one you see below wouldn't (or at least shouldn't) cost twice as much, because many of the manufacturing costs wouldn't increase at the same rate - payroll costs to man the machines wouldn't really increase, for example. The machines wouldn't necessarily need to be doubled in size or quantity, depending on how the company churns out its goods. But I guess that digs into their profit margin.

I like bigger candies and snacks because I feel like I get more for my money - and in America, that's how things work. Here, though, there is no "bulk" discount for many things.

Anyway, size complaints aside, here are a couple small packages to sweeten my tooth just that much more.
Here is Sakupan Black. That's one evil looking panda. The package pictures one of the various designs you can find.
And here's the piece itself. It's about 1.5" in diameter, and about 1/4" thick. There's a cookie of sorts inside the chocolate coating, which makes this an inverted oreo cookie of sorts. It could have been white to match the panda, but it's black and semi-sweet. A tasty candy!
Chibi Thunder is half white chocolate, and half white chocolate mixed with a cookie-like crunchy biscuit. It's a cousin of Black Thunder, a similar snack that uses regular chocolate.
The white chocolate gives the bottom a strange color. I like white chocolate, but I'm not sure this works so well.There was another Black Thunder snack in a blue wrapper which was delicious, but I haven't seen it since. The original Black Thunder is very good too!

31 Days of Halloween: Pass (on) the Cheese, Please

I'm a meat man. When I list my favorite foods, animals top the list: burgers, chicken wings, hot dogs. Really, if it's made with chicken, I'm interested. Beef and pork is certainly welcome too!

Yes, I do love corn, peas, and carrots. Broccoli is tasty, and white Japanese radishes are a tasty snack. But rarely do I have a meal without a piece of meat. I just haven't found something appealing enough. Sure, breakfast might be a bowl of cereal or a stack of pancakes, but usually it's a tuna, ham, or egg sandwich.

So a meat snack has gotta end up in this food post marathon. Beef jerky is available here, and given the cost in the US it's not much more expensive here. But it looks like these little sticks of meat are much more popular. That's probably due to their size and packaging - they're quick snacks with a wrapper that also holds the rest of the snack until the last bite, keeping hands off the food.

Below is a longer-sized version of pencil calpas. It's a little thicker than a pencil, and a bit shorter. There are short versions (about 2 inches long) that sell for about 8-10 cents each. Also available is cheese, both in the longer length seen below and shorter lengths to go along with the sausage.

Calpas is a Russian-style sausage, usually lightly juicy with lots of pepper or other spices to give it a bunch of flavor. There are larger versions found in convenience stores and supermarkets. One online poster mentioned that some of them are covered in a second plastic skin, so be aware of that.
The smaller calpas snacks like the one above are decent, though the larger sticks are better for adults. The cheese has never been that good. You can see the dates of expiration or sell-by dates - they aren't meant to last a long time - but even fresh the cheese tastes a little dry and like other Japanese cheeses doesn't have much flavor.

The tiny meat sticks are great if you're craving some meat flavor but want just something small to cut that craving. But avoid the cheese. Or give them to kids at Halloween...

31 Days of Halloween: Potato Cheeseburger?

As far as starches go, rice is still number one in Japan. But even this country knows rice cakes just aren't that tasty of a snack. Sure, you can have senbei, which are similar to rice cakes (but oh so much better) but if you want flavor that involves something more than soy sauce you have to leave the traditional snacks aisle and find the massive potato chip section.

Sure, you can find the usual salty, oily potato chips just like Lay's makes back in the States. But it's the random flavors that really stand out. If you look back through my posts, you'll see some interesting Doritos flavors, and I've seen plenty of other chips with really exotic flavors - at least for my tastes. Most chips are potato here - there are a few corn snacks but I think corn is fairly expensive to import. The cheapest bags of tortilla chips are about $3-4 each, a sad truth for someone who loves salsa and nachos.

But that's for another day. Let's look at a couple small packages with "Potato Fry" snacks!
Yes, potato fry. French fries are called fried potatoes here, and switching the words around means you end up with something that's almost a potato chip. You see butter flavor on the left, and cheeseburger on the right.
Which one is which? Inside each package are four large round chips. They're just a little thicker than potato chips, and much larger. I'd say they're about four inches in diameter.

The flavors for both are noticeable, and pretty accurate. The butter flavored chips taste like a baked potato. The cheeseburger flavor tastes like a cheeseburger - meat, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and even some spice that tastes like a burger sauce.

At about 30 yen each, they're an inexpensive way to have a snack. You won't fill yourself up on one or even three or four, but for kids it's a nice way to tide them over until dinner. And at this price, they're an easy thing to toss into a trick-or-treat bag!

31 Days of Halloween: You can even eat the package!

Sticking with the tropical fruit theme from yesterday, today's two packages contain something modern and something traditional. Let's start in the future. Or present.
Mango is BIG here. Seriously, you'd think it was ambrosia. It might just be popular this year, because I don't remember seeing so much before this summer. Anyway, this is "Chewing Candy" in mango flavor.
They're like giant Skittles. No, seriously - the shape, the chewiness, and the thin candy shell are all like Skittles.The flavor is pretty strong too, with the citrusy tang you'd expect plus the unique flavor mango fruit provides. Now I'm craving a smoothie...
This is a box of "Bontan Ame" (Bontan Rice Candy), a traditional Japanese snack. The design of the box harkens back to an earlier time, and I'm all about nostalgic and vintage style.
Inside the box are five soft cubes which you might be able to see are wrapped in a clear plastic-like paper. That paper is actually edible (oblaat - a Dutch creation, to be specific), and dissolves when you put it in your mouth!
The wrapper isn't exactly tasty, to be honest with you. It's almost tasteless, not exactly the perfect way to start a piece of candy that you want to be sweet. Actually, oblaat is used to coat capsule medicines as well, which is a horrible correlation for your tongue to make.

But you get to the bontan pretty quickly. Bontan (or buntan) is a grapefruit-like citrus fruit, except it's much larger. I see them from time to time in the supermarket. The flavor isn't very citrusy, but I noticed it. I'm not a big fan of grapefruit, but the flavor here is milder and sweeter - possibly due to manufacturing, or due to the fruit itself being sweeter.

Note that this shouldn't be confused with Botan Ame, another candy that comes from Japan.

31 Days of Halloween: The Placebo Effect

So, I've been gone for over a week. I had a financial emergency that still hasn't resolved itself - hopefully things will be relatively normal in the next couple of days. That brought on an immense amount of stress and even some depression. I'm still not 100%, but I am feeling much better now. Once the situation clears up I'm sure I'll be fine.

With the stress and accompanying exhaustion, plus a lot of stuff going on at work, I just had no desire to write. I didn't feel like doing much at all, really, and my apartment is still a bit of a mess!

Again, I am feeling much better now. It's time to sweeten things up again and get back to the big pile of candy that I haven't touched in almost two weeks.
Perhaps I should have ate these last week. These "pills" are supposed to help you in various areas, depending on which one you choose. They are "プチプチいらない" which translates as "Bubble Wrap Divination" though I think it's just a wish for good luck. Some notable benefits are in popularity, health, sports, friends, love, shopping, travel, and the future.
There are red, yellow, green, and orange balls. I'm not sure if the colors actually correspond to anything, and I didn't notice if the other packages of this candy had the same colors in the same spots. There are five of each ball, except for yellow which only has three. Luck of the draw? Anyway, these are just like MnMs - candy coating with a chocolate inside. Pretty tasty, though the shell is kind of hard.

If, somehow, everything turns around wonderfully for me tomorrow, I'll let you know. Otherwise, these are just another novelty. (Duh.)

I love chewy and gummy candies, so I was looking forward to trying this little package. It's called Fruit Tree (フルーツの森) and the picture on the front implies a lot of different flavors.
There are three flavors inside - pink, yellow, and green. I couldn't tell any difference between them. The toothpick is there so you can stab them and eat them one by one without touching the candy. I guess if you're a germaphobe or had been playing in the dirt this would be fine, but they're pretty hard and handling with fingers wouldn't cause a mess. The flavor was unique, but I'm not sure if it's really that good - there are plenty of soft gummy candies in Japan that are excellent.

So, now that I'm back to the blog, let's see if I can be consistent with posts this week!

31 Days of Halloween: Tiny Bits of Big Flavor

This is Mini Cola. You can't drink it, though. The container is about the is meter of a quarter and looks suspiciously like an Atlanta-based soft drink can. And the top even has a pull-tab to open it!
Inside are a bunch of tiny tablets which are like Cola-flavored Smarties. I don't know how else to describe them. I think the novelty of the container is better than the candy, in the end. 
The other candy today is Puchi Chocolate. The multi-colored balls are about the same size as the Cola candy, but instead taste like MnMs. Actually, there's more candy shell than chocolate here due to the small overall size so they're sweeter and less chocolatey than MnMs. I don't remember the name, but there is a similar candy in the US. 

Both have neat containers that can be repurposed to hold beads or tiny pebbles if you're a kid! The chocolate box lid is also a small whistle, to irritate others around you! And they are each under 40 yen, so they're pretty cheap for trick or treating!

31 Days of Halloween: Trains and Animals

Today's treats come with a bonus. You see, each pack has something extra besides the edible goodies inside.
The first pack is called Train Card. If you couldn't tell. What does this have to do with candy? Well, these packs are found in the candy section, and do have something sugary inside.
Each pack has two cards plus one pack of gum. There are several "food products" that exist solely to offer collectible goods. In addition to cards, there are small posters, figurines, and toys. The gum isn't special but it's enjoyable. The train cards are neat and I might just have to try to collect all 20 cards.
And here is Pokemon Wafer Choco. What do you think's inside?
Why yes, it's a pokemon sticker and a chocolate cream wafer. Many small food releases are issued this way, mainly centered around anime. The sticker I have uses a refractive coating, but I'm not sure if it's special or they all come that way. And frankly, I don't care enough to try to find out.

How's the wafer? It's edible. There are better ones that I got packaged with other cards, but I think these taste just about as good as the ones I remember having as a child from the grocery stores in America.

And that gum? It still has some flavor left after writing out this entire post, so give it a bonus point for that!