By treats I mean those scrumptious and beautifully packaged confectionery. Japanese are known to be master creators of confectionery that marries exquisite Japanese flavours like matcha, with the richness of Western ingredients like butter. Not only are they popular with the locals, they are also a hit with tourists. I bet the number one souvenir from Japan is a food item.
Behold a table of delectables. Spot anything familiar? Thanks to websites like Tsunagu Japan and RocketNews24, friends’ recommendations and requests posted on Airfrov, I got to know all these brands of Japanese treats.
Let’s start with my 3Cs of Tokyo – Yoku Moku Cigare Cookies, Bunmeido Castella and Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory Cheese Cookies. All these can be found at Narita Airport Terminal 1, Level 3, Fa-So-La Tax Free Akihabara shop.
The cigare cookies are sweet and buttery, lovely with a cup of tea. There are 2 other flavours – chocolate (cigare au chocolat) and earl grey (cigare au the). Unfortunately, both were not available at the airport.
Castella, a sponge cake with Portuguese origins, is a specialty of Nagasaki in Kyushu Japan. Besides seaweed, this was one thing I looked forward to as a child whenever my dad’s Japanese friends visited us. I still remember their names – Maromo-san and Hirata-san. It was heavenly to eat a slice of sticky sweet Castella. Sometimes, when we received 2 boxes, my mom would use a few slices as the base for her English trifle. Even more heavenly. I got the Bunmeido brand this trip. But personally, I prefer Fukusaya Castella. It was what I ate when I was young and it still taste the best. It can be found at Takashimaya food hall in Shinjuku and Kyoto. Besides the original honey flavour, there is also matcha Castella.
Ranked #9 in Airfrov’s 2015 Top 10 Most Requested Items, this plain looking square piqued my curiosity. I hunted down Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory in Tokyo Skytree Solamachi, and tried samples of the three flavours – Salt & Camembert, Honey & Gorgonzola and Basil Tomato & Mozzarella. The first two were very good. The third was an acquired taste. No wonder so many Singaporeans request for travelers to bring back boxes of these cheese biscuits.
A trip to Tokyo is only complete if you bring home Tokyo Banana products. Instead of the usual banana shaped yellow sponge cake, I chose to get Tokyo Banana Gaufrette. It is banana cream sandwiched between two round wafers, original or chocolate. Japanese treats are normally dainty but this one is huge in comparison. I recommend sharing with another person so you will not feel jelak (tired of the taste). You can buy this from the ANA Duty & Tax Free Shop near departure gate 42, Level 3, Narita Airport Terminal 1.
Another treat I got from the same ANA shop was Tokyo Banana Baumkuchen. The salesgirl highly recommended it and said it was a bestseller. Lovers of kueh lapis (Indonesian version of the Dutch baumkuchen) will adore this Japanese version of banana flavoured rich layer-cake. I bought the individually packed ones so it was very easy to eat.
While I was there,the latest offering was a strawberry shaped sponge cake with a combination of strawberry and milk cream filling. I did not really fancy it but my older girl loved it.
Moving on to Osaka with its unique treats like Kuidaore Taro Pudding and Omoshiroi Koibito. These somehow did not appeal to me. What I went for were Glico’s Uji Matcha Collon, Hojicha KitKat and Glico’s Baton d’or.
The green tea cream in this collon biscuit tasted different from the normal ones. The matcha is more intense and less sweet. My friends loved it but not their kids. Definitely an adult treat. You should be able to get this from souvenir stores like Little Osaka along Dotonbori and in Donki.
Hojicha means green tea roasted over charcoal. I do not usually eat KitKat but the combination of the smoked flavour and the sweet chocolate was really good. I found this at a tidbit store in Kuromon Ichiba Market.
Baton d’or was one of the treats I planned to buy after reading these articles. My first attempt to get them failed when they were totally sold out at Hankyu Departmental store. Imagine my delight when I found them at Takashiyama Namba food hall. Five flavours were available at that time – Uji Matcha, Murasakiimo (purple sweet potato), Sugar Butter, Strawberry and Orange Bitter. I chose the first three and all three were good. Truly a must-buy souvenir from Osaka.
A half-hour train ride away from Osaka will take you to Kyoto. This place is a real treat paradise. To leave with only three treats was a great pity.
First up is rice crackers with beans from Nishiki Market’s Kyoto-Tsukimachian. My favourite is the one with peas, the middle pack. It is crunchy, salty and super addictive.
Next is Gateau Bubu Matcha and Hojicha Financiers from Gion Tsujiri. I have never eaten financiers but drawn by the packaging, I bought a box. It was one of my best impulsive buys. The cake was soft and chewy with a rich matcha and hojicha taste.
Another sandwich. This time it is white chocolate between two matcha cookies. Malebranche’s Cha no Ka was featured in “30 Must-Buy Food Souvenirs from Kyoto” and “10 Japanese Sweets that Come in Beautiful Containers“. I was not sure of its taste so I bought a small box of 10 to try. Once again, a wonderful balance of slightly bitter matcha with sweet chocolate.
The final two treats – Kobe Pudding and Frantz Strawberry Truffle. Being one of the cities to open for trade with the West, Kobe is home to many confectioneries. Although I did not get to visit due to wet weather conditions, I found many of its famous products at Osaka Itami Airport.
My sis loves Japanese pudding. When I saw this special box of 6 puddings – 2 original, 2 caramel and 2 special edition strawberry, I bought it right away. I was never into puddings but this one was not bad, although my favourite was the one I ate at Kuromon Ichiba Market.
Frantz Kobe Sweets never pop up in my research on Kobe. It was while paying for the Kobe Pudding, that a red My Melody box caught my eye. The salesgirl told me it contained whole strawberries covered with white chocolate. Well, it sounded delicious and since I love My Melody, I decided to get a box. Turn out the truffle was an award winning sweet. The taste? Tart and sweet at the same time. The silver packet is currently in my fridge. Every few days I will pop one in my mouth and savour the taste.
That concludes my post on Japanese treats. Can you guess my 3 favourites? How about yours?