Japanese sweets are America’s future

Japanese Kit Kats, Hello Kitty candies and other snacks

Photo: Pakpoom Phummee (Shutterstock)

If you, like me, have passed the dawn 2000s feeding an insatiable hunger for any snack product with a single katakana letter (one of the three Japanese writing systems) printed on the bagthen you know that the research required a trek with a Japanese or asian grocery store As Sunrise Mart Where Mitsuwa Market. This tripmuch like watching anime and reading manga, felt like a delicious celebration of my own nervousness.

These days, however, Japanese snacks are now standard fare in the United States.and long gone are the days when the fascination for all japanese was considered strictly the domain of nerds and so-called otaku. Jhe gets up from foodie culture collided with a burgeoning love for all things Japanese, as fPersonalities like David Chang and Anthony Bourdain have celebrated the work of Japanese chefs and helped inaugurate the kitchen in North America main stream.

“It’s pretty cool to like Japanese things [now]said Danny Taing, co-founder of Japanese to taste subscription service Bokksu.

It probably doesn’t hurt that we’re all obsessed with Japanese kit kat now, and that Japanese snack brands like pockyHello Panda and Hi-Chew are available in US version grocery stores and chain stores for years. Pocky in particular hit the shelves of the Stop & Shop supermarket chain as early as 2011, a Stop & Shop representative confirmed.. And Teruhiro Kawabe, President and CEO of Morinaga America, recounts The takeaway that Morinaga is popular hi-chew Candy has been available at stores like CVS and Walgreens since 2015.

Customers want more Japanese flavors

For many customers, the rise of Pocky and Hi-Chew has sparked an interest in sampling more Japanese sweets and snacks.

“There was a time when people asked questions like ‘what is yuzu? or ‘what is matcha?’ “said Takuya Yoshida, who, with his father, Tony, is co-owner of Japan Village, a Japanese market and food court in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. It was around the beginning of the 2010s, he recalls. Now, says Yoshida, “most people already know what [those are].”

In a 2021 enjoy your food article on BokksuMacKenzie Chung Fegan introduced herself as a “sophisticated Japanese snacker “whose tastes had surpassed Pocky and Kasugai gummies—products that still hold a place in his heart, she added. This is precisely the demographic of snackers who flock to a service like Bokksu.

“Usually the Bokksu customer is someone who is kind of an advanced beginner, so to speak, about Japanese culture,” Taing explained. “Either they studied it, or they went there, or they already tasted it, and they want to dig deeper.

Taing sees it as a sort of trickle-down effect, he said. As the growing popularity of Japanese cuisine and culture in the States isn’t exactly news, the growing ubiquity of mass-produced snacks like Pocky has helped lay the groundwork for a more nuanced appreciation of Japanese flavors.

“The first exposure is really important,” Taing explained.. This exposure could come from eating Japanese food in a restaurant or “trying out a mass-produced snack they can easily access from an H-Mart on Long Island,” for example.

NOTJapanese cultural exports have also helped introduce Japanese food and snacks to the masses.

“Even the rise of K-Pop helped,” Taing explained. “They discover K-Pop and KOrean cuisine, culture and fashion, and now they are curious about other types of Ahis things.

These consumers often begin to research the types of specialty products offered by Bokksu. These range from senbei (rice crackers) produced by Senbei Laboratory in Saitama Prefecture to handmade candies in flavors like Yuzu Sake and Sakura from the Kyoto-based candy store Daimonji Ame Honpo. Bokksu’s snack makers are all independent and often family-owned businesses.

Where to buy Japanese sweets and snacks

In a country as vast as the United States, where access to grocery stores and Japanese restaurants is widely concentrated in places like New York, Seattle and Los Angeles—places with important asian populations—it’s good know that a suburban kid who wants to experience Japan through their snacks can now easily order these snacks online via websites like Umamicart and napaJapan. If you are lucky enough to live near a Mitsuwa, you can attend events like the annual Hokkaido Fair specially snacks imported from different regions of Japan.

Bokksu’s products are not otherwise available for sale in the United Statesexplained Taing. IIt took Taing years to develop partnerships with its creators in Japan, an approach that some united states companies would be able to fight back. However, although we are unable to purchase single flavor senbei anywhere other than Bokksu right now, maybe the allure of rare or hard-to-find Japanese sweets is that you might just have to visit Japan to taste their.

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