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.
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.
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.