By Peter and Naoko
Everybody gripes that Japan is an expensive place. Okay, so itfs true – but itfs not like there arenft still a lot of cheap things to be had here. Check out the convenience stores – gJapan is so expensive boo hooh gripers just need to stoop down to the low shelves in the convenience stores to discover what every kid with a 50 yen coin burning a hole in their pocket knows: therefs plenty of stuff to be bought for 10 or 20 yen! Unheard of in Japan, you say? The cheap items in question are Japanese kids snacks, called dagashi (after the term damay and okashi, which mean gDONfTh and gsnacks,h i.e. gforbidden snacksh) because they are disgusting and unhealthy. Remember all the cheap candy you used to scarf down as a kid? This is the Japanese equivalent. But how does it taste? We took 200 yen from our allowance, pigged out, and this is what we have to tell!
Wasabi Nori Taro – claims to be wasabi flavored seaweed – 10\ Tastes like softened cardboard, but pretty chewy and seafood-like. No nori seaweed to be seen, but wasabi flavor is pretty strong and will creep down your throat and out your nose after it has coated your tongue. Will give you a sudden craving for white wine! Creepy, freaky stuff. Contains nori and squid flavor. Similar snacks in the taro series offer a variety of taste and quality to increase your desire to experiment with sulfate-laden food substitute. Just call it Soylent yellow. Buy fifty for the same price as the average beer in a pub (500\) and pig out.
Kabayaki San Taro – claims to be grilled eel – 10\ Also tastes like softened cardboard or shoe leather, this time with salty sticky stuff covering it. Kaboyaki is grilled eel, but this tastes nothing eel-like. Contains nori powder and squid flavor, no eel of course. Small particles of preservative will stay on your tongue and zap you with electricity. Keep a bunch at home and feed them to unwelcome guests who come over unannounced.
Sudako San Taro – claims to be vinegared octopus – 10\ Very sour wash cloth-like stuff is kind of good if you like biting into fresh lemons. Soft and covered with slimy sauce, the texture is quite disgusting. Basic ingredients similar to above, meaning that it actually has no real octopus ingredients.
Yakiniku San Taro – claims to be beef jerky – 10\ Hard, leathery strip of vinyl flooring tastes just like the Kabayaki San Taro snack, except with a bit more spice to it. Contains no beef, but has some squid flavor in it. Has this company ever been sued for false advertising? So far none of their products contain any of what they say on the packaging.
Big Katsu – breaded jerky – 30\ We were so curious what this big hunk of meat would taste like we splurged and spent a whole 30 yen on it. The packaging shows a delicious piece of breaded ton katsu (Japanese wiener schnitzel), and through a clear plastic window a bit of the flat, dark, saucy breaded object. Tasting it we find a juicy piece of yummy old newspaper soaked in oil and curry flavor. Would probably go well with beer. Made by the same company as the San Taro snacks, but much tastier and worth the added investment in quantity and flavor. Still could get 15 of them for the price of a beer in a pub. Buy a few and eat them with a bowl of rice if you are broke, or keep a bunch handy for guests who come over.
Umai Bo – corn snack (corn potage flavor) – 10\ Yummy corn stick that really tastes like corn potage. Bravo – nothing misleading on the packaging and it has a good flavor. The popular series of Umai Bo snacks comes in fourteen flavors and a few sizes.
Umai Bo – corn snack (shrimp and mayo flavor) – 10\ Shrimp and mayo might seem like an outlandish combination, but there is plenty of it in Japan. Tastes like regular corn puffs, but makes good value at only ten yen – ten of these probably has more volume than a 100 yen bag of regular corn snacks. Tastes mayonnaise-like, but has no shrimp flavor at all. Cool packaging shows a nasty cat (like Tom from Tom and Jerry) who has broken out of a computer screen squirting a tsunami of mayo on a frightened breaded shrimp who is saying ghelp,h as he hovers over a plate. A Tojo-looking creature is squirting more mayonnaise bukkake-like into a Hitler-looking creature. The packaging claims that umai-bo fans who checked their website requested the company add a shrimp mayo flavor to their product line, hence the weird pic. The fans who hoped for some actual shrimp taste must be disappointed, but the mayo fans wonft. Check it all out at www.yaokin.com, with a nice sentimental dagashi natsukashii movie too.
Potato Fry – potato chip crackers (fried chicken flavor) – 30\ Greasy yummy potato crackers, crispy and delicious. Maybe not worth 30 yen, since you only get four per pack (how much is a tube of Pringles?) but still better than some of the other crap we had to sample for this article.
Taratara Shiten Janeyo – fish crackers gethnic flavorh – 20\ Chewy papery chili-flavored dried fish squares are pretty good, and the pack is just full of them. Could probably munch away for it some time, especially if you eat them one by one. Crazy picture of a big hair X-Japan-type guitarist with a foot on a space heater (or monitor?), onstage, screaming out at an audience of marshmallow men (?!). Contains yummy Chinese tobanjiang, tara fish paste, and other goodies, all making this a pretty good little snack. Goes well with a big mug of beer.
Poohfs Ichigo Choco Marshmallow – 10\ Not very interesting, just a marshmallow snack, but sweet and yummy. I wonder what percentage of the revenue kicks back to Winnie the Pooh himself.
Chiroru Chocolate – strawberry chocolate – 20\ White chocolate with strawberry jelly inside. Quite yummy, but you eat it too quickly for it to be worth a whole 20 yen. We liked the cute strawberry mascot, so donft forget to save the wrapper to give to a loved one.
Check out the internet home of dagashi otaku: www.tnc.ne.jp/hiroba/alfa/ck0205/konbini1.htm