Japanese junk food is becoming more well-known around the world: these days you can frequently find Asian supermarkets in the west that have mochi ice cream, and Japanese restaurants in the US and elsewhere will always serve anko (red bean) flavored items on the dessert menu. Apart from that, and much more interesting than your garden variety commercial snacks at convenience stores, are the sweets available at local dagashiya. These are the Japanese equivalent of penny candy shops, where you can buy a snack for as little as ¥10 or ¥20.
The shop selection includes more traditional flavors, like umeboshi (pickled plums) ika senbei (squid flavored crackers) or kinako dango (roasted soybean-flavored dumplings on a stick). There are also things more familiar to westerners, such as chips, chocolate, gummies and jerkies of all kinds – even mini-donuts! Other items are geared toward kids: toys and novelty items such as candy cigarettes, stamps and stickers.
The simple packaging and old fashioned atmosphere in the shops seem like a callback to a bygone era. Dagashiya originated in the Meiji period, and in some ways have changed little since. However, in the modern age, with stiff competition from supermarkets and conbini, some stores have chosen to innovate while still being easy on the wallet. Here are five of the most interesting dagashiya around Tokyo…
Daiba Itchome Shotengai
Though dagashiya may have been humble in origin, the Itchome Shotengai in Odaiba is anything but. This is actually a collection of dagashiya shops, which take up the entire fourth floor of the DECKS Seaside Mall. There is a festive atmosphere in the building with both tourists and locals coming and going from the craft stores, arcades, and trick art museums, eating candy all the while. The shops in the area sell their candy packaged or in open tubs you can take from and pay by weight. Imported sweets, such as Wonka bars and Kit Kats of every imaginable flavor can also be purchased here. Many of the shops are English-friendly, and some are even tax free. This is a great first stop on your treat tour, but shouldn’t be only one!
For Daiba Itchome Shotengai map and contact details, see our Concierge listing.
Komachi, more so than just about any dagashiya I’ve seen, represents the best of what the traditional type of Japanese candy store has to offer. The shop, located in Koganei, has been around for less than 10 years, but it’s become a hit with locals due to the efforts of the owner, Mr. Tojiro Nakayama. Nakayama originally lived in rural Akita Prefecture, and has brought something of his hometown to Tokyo. Komachi boasts handmade toys, cheap snacks, and local Akita specialties such as chirinashi yakisoba and fresh butter mochi. Nakayama is a firm believer in “kokoro no yutaka” – basically being rich in terms of heart, not money. Besides the goods on sale, Komachi is also a sort of community center with old fashioned neighborly values, where you can leisurely sit around sipping tea and snacking with the locals.
For Komachi map and contact details, see our Concierge listing.
Itabashi Dagashiya Game Museum
You wouldn’t think it, but traditional Japanese candy and games go hand in hand. Instead of an entrance fee to this museum, you put a mere ¥200 yen into the vending machine by the front door and get a token. This is redeemed at the front desk for a cupful of medals used to play the 30 to 40 arcade machines inside (others can be played for a mere ¥10 to ¥30), most of which are about 50 years old. Akihabara this is not: instead it is a fun, laid back hangout for local kids and adults alike, as well as some adventurous tourists. Your winnings can be redeemed for prizes, which are – what else – candy! Those who aren’t so skilled can also purchase some, and munch away as you play.
For Itabashi Dagashiya Game Museum map and contact details, see our Concierge listing.
Looking to send a big candy care package to a loved one, or just planning on buying enough to last your entire stay in Japan? You can stock up on all matter of sweet things at Ewatari Wholesale Shop in Kinshicho. Located in the Umaibo Building (from the candy of the same name), this shop has two floors full of goodies. Foods range from the more typical Pocky and Pretz to the bizarre, such as uni (sea urchin) flavored crisps. The second floor also functions as a wholesaler for local dagashiya in the area, or someone with a sweet tooth who likes to buy in bulk.
For Ewatari map and contact details, see our Concierge listing.
Dagashi Bar Ebisu
Tired after a long day of sweet shopping? Why not kick back with a beer … and more candy! Dagashi bars are an up-and-coming chain of drinking establishments focused on cool nostalgia, old music, a good beer, and all-you-can-eat sweets. The only rules are that you must buy at least one drink, and you cannot take snacks home. The Ebisu location is very English friendly, and the bar is popular with tourists. The food menu is typical bar fare, with the option of candy mixed in. For example, Caesar salad with a crunchy umaibo topping, or grilled cheese and ika senbei. Dagashi bars are popping up all over the Tokyo area, so look out for the one nearest you!
For more information about Dagashi Bar Ebisu, visit our Concierge listing.
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