Japan’s Small Time Candy Shops: Delicious, Cheap, and Cute

Japanese candies are famous worldwide, so when I first came to Japan I thought that I knew a lot about Japan’s various snacks. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I learned about 駄菓子屋, pronounced dagashi-ya–which are small-time retro candy stores carrying a variety of cheap snacks and goods, similar to penny candies in America. These candy shops were famous in Japan before the age of convenience stores and vending machines, but even today there are still many dagashi-ya around the country. Cheap dagashi snacks can also be found in convenience stores and supermarkets around Japan. So next time you find yourself in Japan, in addition to visiting a dagashi-ya, check out any convenience store and you will surely find a small section in the snack and candy isle with treats between 10-150 yen.

Outside the dagashi-ya in Fukuyama City, located in the eastern area of Hiroshima prefecture
A close-up of the entrance – on the left side of the door it reads “Full of candy, full of dreams. Welcome to Okashi-Honpo”; in the middle “Be careful of heat stroke. Take action against it”; and on the right “There are many candies for all occasions such as children’s parties, sports day, festivals, and picnics”.
Cute small sweets which only cost 9 yen (about 8 cents in America).
From left to right: whistle toys, fishing sets, and kites for children

For many older Japanese people, these stores provide a sense of nostalgia and comfort since most of the available goods were snacks and toys that they grew up with. For young Japanese children, these stores are a place where they can go crazy and buy all kinds of goods without their parents complaining about the price. For foreigners visiting Japan (especially families with young children), these stores are a fun place to try new snacks and goods for an incredibly low price, and the cute packaging makes for the perfect souvenir as well! For those interested in anime and manga there is also a series called “Dagashi-Kashi” which centers around a young boy from a family that has run a dagashi-ya for many generations.

Popular dried squid stick snack
Cute animal chocolates in adorably vibrant packaging
The backside of the cute animals called “poo chocolates”–it is eaten by opening the butt of the animal. Kids around the world will love it!
Rows of chips–flavors include salt, seaweed, consommé, Kyushu soy sauce, and cheddar cheese

One of the things that I love most about Japan is the juxtaposition of traditional and modern within each city. Walking down the street you can see fancy office buildings and department stores next to old temples and small family-owned shops that have been around for generations. Unfortunately many societies around the world tend to place more value on new and modern advancements over anything old and traditional, but when I explore places like Japan I feel that we need to change the way that we view and place value on time. The past, present, and future can co-exist side by side in a beautiful, exciting, and delicious representation of culture and life.

Traditional Japanese candies - the hard sugar candy called kompeito in the bottom right corner is a particular favorite among Japanese. Originally from the Portuguese traders that came to Japan around 400 years ago.
Stacks of cheap gummy candies that are available in a variety of flavors - ラムネ (ramune, the blue candies in the bottom right corner) is a popular flavor for candies and drinks that is often associated with the summer season
Peach and grape gummies
Umaibo and Tirol chocolate–two of the most famous and recognizable cheap snacks in Japan

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