Whether you found yourself drooling over anime food or came across an Instagram post, Japan continuously leaves us wondering what these edibles taste like. It’s not surprising that when I moved to Japan, the only gift requests I received were for Japanese food and snacks. Through trial and (very funny) error, I have discovered that these gifts have received the best reactions while being inexpensive, light and suitcase friendly.
1. Mini Kewpie mayo
Japanese mayonnaise (pictured above right) has gained popularity around the world due to its unique sweet flavor. Kewpie’s travel-sized mayo bottles are easy to pack and make a great gift for that trendy foodie friend. (Oh, and if you’re not a huge fan of mayo, you can also buy other mini versions of Japanese sauces at most convenience stores.)
2. Cup noodles
Another convenience store favorite. This college dorm staple originally hails from the land of the rising sun. As a result, unique flavors such as cheese curry or tomato are just as readily available as the original flavors. This lightweight product packs well and piques even the pickiest eater’s interest.
3. Diet candies
This paradox of a treat is a lot easier to find in Japan compared to most countries. What makes it better is that many of these candies are actually delicious. Konnyaku (devil’s tongue, a taro-like root vegetable) jellies and gummies are low in calories and easily absorb flavors, common in many Japanese diet foods.
4. Kracie kits
With simple step-by-step instructions (written in Japanese), you can make anything from a miniature sushi set to a hamburger-and-French fries combo out of candy. All you need is some water and a microwave. Kracie DIY candy kits have been a popular subject on YouTube, so if your friends can’t read Japanese, all they have to do search the set they have and follow the video. Or, have a little fun with Google Translate!
5. Mini KitKats
Since 2000, there have been over 300 different limited-edition Japanese flavors of this American favorite. Miso soup, sake, wasabi and mugi cha (barley tea) are just a few of the many tastes that have found a spot on convenience store shelves here. Though the flavors are always changing, you can always count on finding an eyebrow raising item like wasabi. Don’t fret, however, for Japanese KitKats also come in more traditional variations such as matcha (green tea).
One of Japan’s more famous traditional products is matcha, or green tea. Matcha is usually prepared with hot water but can also be added to ice cream, various desserts and even smoothies. Prices and flavor vary based on the grade of the matcha powder. It can be picked up at the airport before you leave or any local grocery store.
7. Squid jerky
This snack is reserved for the adventurous friend. Squid jerky, or saki ika, is a popular drinking snack in Japan and many Asian countries. The squid is dried and then seasoned. It’s a great source of protein, goes well with beer and is considered a very healthy snack. Be sure to double check with your country’s customs policies before taking this pungent snack home.
8. Fettucini Gummies
Though they are not fettuccini flavored, per se, these noodle-shaped sour gummies come in appetizing flavors such as soda, cola and peach. This al dente gummy is a popular candy in Japan and can be found almost anywhere. The best part? A package sells for just ¥100 and can be found at most Daiso or ¥100 shops.
All of these snacks can be found at most (if not all) Japanese convenience and grocery stores. Shopping for gifts for friends shouldn’t be stressful — it should be fun, easy, deliciousand definitely shouldn’t empty your wallet.
What’s your favorite go-to gift for friends and family back home? Let us know in the comments below!