Do you remember what your favorite snack was back in your childhood days? In Japan, there are many kinds of snacks that children here can buy for a reasonable price. The snacks are known as “Dagashi”, which literally translates to “cheap snacks”.
Japanese food and desserts have always been complimented by both Japanese people and visitors. It is not only about the taste, you can appreciate the physical beauty of each menu. Japanese confectionery have received a high reputation worldwide from confectionery contests continuously. However when Japanese people are asked what kind of snacks are they familiar with, they are likely to respond to you “it’s not only the usual Japanese sweets that you see around. If you know more about “Dagashi”, you will be willing to try it!”
In this article, we will introduce you to some places where you can feel free to taste Dagashi snacks around Ebisu area in Tokyo.
The nostalgic taste of childhood
As a kid, you don’t earn a lot of money just yet. In a typical Japanese family, children from 6-10 years old are given a few hundred yen for their pocket money. Bottled drinks and canned drinks cost around 100 yen so if you buy a bottle of juice, you’ll use up most of your savings. Dagashi snacks are a child’s best friend since the kids can afford plenty of them within their budget.
Dagashi snacks come in many varieties. Sweet, spicy and sour- even though you could say that these flavors are simple but for the kids, they are always looking forward to what Dagashi snacks they would find. Believe it or not, there are more than 600 kinds of Dagashi that you can try!
Compared to the old days, Dagashi snacks might not be as popular. However recently, Dagashi snacks are re-introduced in mangas and is now gaining back its popularity. When someone talks about Japanese food, now you can mention about Dagashi!
Not just for kids, Dagashi and sake makes a perfect combination
Perhaps you would think only the little kids are the ones who favor Dagashi. Yes – since there are lots of sweet-flavored treats but that’s not it. There are actually lots of salty and spicy snacks that goes well with sake (Japanese alcohol drink).
The typical sweet-flavored snacks are the chocolates and jellies. In addition, there’s usually a lottery or a fortune reading that comes with the package. If you win lottery, you can get a free Dagashi snack from the shop. Dagashi snacks will keep you looking forward to what you will discover inside the package – it will never make you bored.
When drinking sake, do you feel like eating salty snacks of peanuts at the same time? There are salty and spicy Dagashi snacks that come in consomme soup flavor and soy sauce flavor. Other than that, vinegar-based and sour Dagashi snacks are also popular.These snacks are affordable, especially for kids but at the same time Dagashis are gaining an enormous popularity in adults when they go drinking. In fact, if you go to an izakaya (kind of traditional Japanese restaurant) in Japan, some places offer ramen-flavored Dagashi snacks when you order alcohol. Dagashis and alcohol, they are inseparable.
Dagashi snacks can grant you a full course meal within a hundred yen
There are so many Dagashi snacks so we can’t introduce them all to you. Some of the Dagashi snacks even come in more than one flavor!
Capturing the hearts of Japanese people for more than 30 years, “Umaibo” is listed as one of the best-selling Dagashi snacks. They are famous for the variety of flavors being sold. Corn pottage, pizza, salad and chocolate flavor, grab Umaibos and you can taste a full course from appetizers to desserts. Moreover, one Umaibo costs 10 yen, this is enough to grab a bottled drink and complete your full course meal.
Take this chance to trick your friends!
The favorable taste of Dagashi snacks is not the only reason why kids love eating them. You can have fun playing with them too.
For example, there are cigarette-shaped Dagashi snacks. Most of the boys who saw the hero blowing the cigarette in movies and dramas might have admired the action. Instead of blowing the real cigarette, children can imitate the hero with a Dagashi-cigarette instead.
Here comes our true hero, “Cigarette (Shigaretto)”. Cigarette also comes in different flavors, such as chocolate and orange. Little kids might fall for the taste for the Cigarette and forget the idea of wanting to try smoking a real cigarette in the future.
Besides Cigarette, there are other Dagashi snacks that you can use to trick your friends. There is a chocolate drink that comes in a beer-labelled package. When you add water to the chocolate, bubbles actually appear just you’re drinking real beer!
They are unique…
Rather than opening up a sweet and finishing it just like that, you can enjoy playing with the Dagashi snacks itself while eating them!
Let us tell you about the “Cho Himo Q”. “Cho Himo” means “super string”. Don’t you underestimate this cola and soda-flavored gummy candy, it might be one of the longest candy you could ever find! Even though once you open up the package, you’ll find the gummy in the shape of a coil. You will be surprised once you expand the gummy and realize it is longer that 1 meter!
Back in the days where Dagashi shops were known as "department stores" to the kids
30 years ago during the Showa period, there were specialized Dagashi shops along streets but today, even in the urban areas, they are hardly found. What you will find in Dagashi shops would be of course, candies and snacks but recently the shops have started selling Japanese traditional toys, such as “Kendama” which is gaining popularity overseas. If you appear to find Dagashi shops in Japan, you will also find lots of energetic children around too.
If you are traveling around Japan, it might be difficult for you to find a traditional Dagashi shop during your trip. However, if you want to taste Dagashi snacks, you can find them in supermarkets and convenience stores. If you want to experience a Showa period-like atmosphere, visit Kawagoe which is near Saitama prefecture. In Kawagoe, there is a “candy alley”, which is a small shopping district that sells traditional Japanese sweets and candies. Feel like visiting Kawagoe? Check out our article on Little Edo “Kawagoe,” a traditional but colorful trip.
Tight on schedule but want to taste Dagashi snacks? Visit Ebisu!
Want to try Dagashi snacks and don’t want to travel out of Tokyo? Stop by Ebisu. In this article, “A grownup’s day off at Ebisu and Daikanyama” introduces the area as a luxurious city for adults to spend their day at, there is a place in Ebisu where you can taste Dagashi sweets as much as you want. If your schedule is very tight and don’t have enough time to visit Kawagoe, take this as your back up plan.
Extremely cheap! Spend only 500 yen on a Dagashi all-you-can-eat buffet!
At the “Ebisu Dagashi Bar,” for 500 yen you can enjoy a buffet of more than 100 kinds of Dagashi snacks. You must order at least one drink, for example, a beer here would be 550 yen, and all together you will have to pay around 1,000 yen. In addition to all-you-can eat Dagashi snacks, the bar offers food arranged with Dagashi snacks at a reasonable price.
The interior of Ebisu Dagashi Bar is designed to resemble an old Showa bakery shop introduced in the era. This gives everyone a nostalgic feeling when you walk into the bar. Even those are not familiar with what the Showa period was like will be warmly welcomed inside because they are surrounded by the warm colors of lighting and wood color as they stepped inside.
Find your favorite Dagashi shop!
The Ebisu Dagashi Bar is only a 3-minute walk up the hill from Ebisu station. It takes 20 minutes from Tokyo station (a 40-minute bus ride from Haneda airport) to get to Ebisu. Since Ebisu and Shibuya is just one station away from each other, why don’t you take a visit to the Dagashi bar?
To everyone who love cheap snacks and confectionery
Japanese people have a deep relationship to their Dagashi snacks. They are cheap, as well as light and small which is convenient to carry around. Bring back unique souvenir to your loved ones! DeNA TRAVEL offers LCC flight tickets – book your flight and get ready to explore the land of Japanese sweets!