Japanese food is one of the many reasons why I will never be able to leave this country. The flavors, textures and variety are something sorely lacking in my own country. However, you don’t have to pay a fortune for a delicious treat. There are many snacks to be found for under 50 yen; something to be grateful for if you are on a tight budget. I would like to tell you about a few of my favorites.
Number 6: いかそーめん (ikasōmen) 31 yen
“Ika” means squid and “sōmen” are wheat noodles. This delightful snack is basically thin strips of dried squid cut to resemble noodles.
They are pleasantly chewy and go extremely well with a beer, or on a long car ride. Squid does have quite an aroma so it is one of those love it or hate it things. If you do like it, as I do, then I heartily recommend these. Once opened, don’t leave it in your bag as the smell can spread.
Number 5: うまい棒 (umaibō) 10 yen
Umaibō literally translates as “umai” delicious, “bō” stick, and I don’t think a more apt name for a product has ever been thought of. It is a puffed corn snack and is most similar to a giant cheeto.
These come in a broad range of flavors and are absolutely wonderful. The powder clings to your fingers and the snack dissolves and sticks to the roof of your mouth in just the way you dream about. If you feel like a bit of a game, go to the shop and choose ten random ones. You will not be disappointed. The only problem with these is, because they are so cheap, you might easily find yourself eating a hundred of them. (I’m not joking – not one of my prouder moments.)
Number 4: 焼肉さん太郎 (yakinikusan tarō) 10 yen
“Yakiniku” is the barbecued meat that Japan is so famous for and “Tarō is a common first name for men. This snack can be translated as Mr. Tarō Yakiniku and, if I ever have a boy, a great name for a child.
This snack is dried squid coated in a sweet, sticky, yakiniku sauce. As with umaibō, this company also produces a large variety of flavors. If you cannot read the Japanese, have no fear, as they are all delicious. This is another snack that goes well with beer, or if you just need something to tie yourself over until dinner.
Number 3: Strawberry Jelly 21 yen
There is not much hidden by this name. You get exactly what it says on the label. But, the name doesn’t do it justice. Trust me, if you have one of these, you will want the whole box.
It is a small cube. The bottom half is milk chocolate and the top half is strawberry chocolate. Many people would be satisfied with that and stop there, but not this company. Oh no. They went and put a soft, strawberry flavored gummy candy in the middle! Heaven. Sweet chocolate and something to keep chewing on once it’s gone. A must in anybody’s pocket.
Number 2: ベビースターラーメン (Baby Star Ramen) 31 yen
This is another company that fields a large variety of flavors. I happen to think the chicken ramen flavor is the best but each to their own. This is a bag of fried and flavored pieces of ramen noodles. Firstly, it’s ramen and secondly, it’s fried. That should sell you on it right there.
They are a crunchy and salty snack. Another good accompaniment for beer or, if you have one, an excellent topping for a salad. I’m quite partial to them on top of a curry, but that might be just me.
Number 1: ウメトラ兄弟 ( Umetora kyōdai) 31 yen
These might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I absolutely adore them. “Ume” is plum, “tora” comes from Ultraman (Urutoraman in Japanese) and “kyōdai” means brothers. So, this snack is literally the ultra plum brothers. If you have never tried pickled plums in Japan then you are in for a treat.
Japanese pickled plums come in a variety of sizes and textures; some are soft and some are firm. One thing they all have in common, though, is their kick. They are all sour. And that is what I love about them.
These particular ones are very crunchy. Take a bite and feel it. It’ll make you wince, but then you’ll come back for more! Be careful because they still have the stone in the middle. I find these also make good presents to take home for friends.
Number 0: ビッグサンダー (Big Thunder) 48 yen
And a bonus for you. One of those things I treat myself to on a Friday afternoon. This might be a little more expensive than the others but, trust me, you won’t regret it. As it says on the packet: “Choco covered cookie”, and I can honestly say that that is what you get.
The bar is large but not very thick. When you bite through it you get crunchy cookie which blends perfectly with the rich chocolate coating. This bar might cost less than fifty yen but I would certainly buy it at two or three times the price. Don’t believe me? Try it.
There are many snacks in Japan. There are also many that are surprisingly cheap. I appreciate you reading this far and I hope you try some of my suggestions but, the best way you can find what you like, is to go out to the nearest supermarket and just buy a bunch of random things. Good luck. You won’t regret it.