Favorite Omiyage Snack Finds From My Japanese Hometown
Now that Japan is finally opening up to tourists in October, keep your eyes peeled for seasonal and regional omiyage finds.
Balling on a budget in Japan is absolutely possible thanks to konbini, or convenience stores. Konbinis are your one-stop shop for everything affordable, delicious and even kawaii! 7-Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart—they’re on practically every corner, including in Kurashiki, the city in Okayama Prefecture where I grew up. I spent my recent family vacation here and not in the mega-cities that most tourists go to, which meant selections were more limited. But even in Okayama, konbini came to my rescue, and I was able to stock up on oishii omiyage to tickle my friends’ taste buds.
These milk chocolate-covered potato chips might be the pineapple pizza of chips. Some will love it, others will hate it—but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. When I first came across these chips at a konbini with my father a couple of years ago, immediately I said, “Ew, that looks gross.” My dad, who lived in Japan at the time, said that chocolate-covered chips were all the craze, so I tried one, anticipating a chocolate-sogged chip. To my surprise, it was crunchy (although not as crunchy as Ruffles). As for the taste, think sea salt flavored chocolate. Anyway, even if your friends don’t love the taste, how many people can say they’ve tried chocolate-covered chips?
Okinawan Sweet Potato Cookies
Trend alert! Japan is the master of coming out with fun and tasty flavors. This fall’s hit flavor: Okinawan sweet potato. With their festive colors, these cookies caught my eye while I was browsing the cookie aisle. I was weirded out at how spot-on the flavor is—this cookie tastes exactly like roasted sweet potatoes, a popular autumn snack in Japan. Its texture is like a thin Oreo cookie. Overall, it’s a fun cookie that showcases a popular Japanese flavor. Nothing wrong with a classic!
Rilakkuma Strawberry Gummies
Sanrio and San-X have made their way here to Hawai’i and all over the mainland. A simple TikTok search will turn up thousands of Sanrio and San-X fanatics boasting collections of character stuffed animals, stationery and even food. San-X’s Rilakkuma and his friends are everyone’s favorite kawaii strawberry-obsessed bears, so of course these gummies taste like strawberry and condensed milk.
Premium Ghana Dark Matcha Chocolate
Lotte is one of Japan’s largest candy companies, and its Ghana chocolates are a staple in many Japanese families’ refrigerators, including my grandma’s. These individually wrapped chocolates have a thin top layer of matcha chocolate and a bottom layer that’s a rich blend of dark chocolate. When in Japan, you can’t go wrong with matcha, especially since this matcha blend is from Nishio, a city in Aichi Prefecture known for its high-quality blend.
Koume Plum Candy
Koume (“small ume” or salted plum) candy has been around since my mother was a child and is now a staple in Japan. Unlike other ume candies, which tend to be almost as sweet as they are sour, this one greets your taste buds with a fresh and sour ume flavor. I bite right in because in the middle is a chewy candy, which adds a lot texturally. My favorite thing about Koume is that each package comes with two larger candies. My mother and I always rush to get the larger ones first.
Food-Themed Phone Charms
I was not lying when I said you could find kawaii items at a konbini. Japan is famous for its regional souvenirs, which you can typically only find in that part of the country. You most likely won’t find phone charms like this at your average konbini, but you’ll have better luck at a train station konbini where they can be bought by travelers looking for special omiyage. My Hello Kitty takoyaki chaim is from Osaka, where takoyaki was born, and my peach one is from Okayama, which is famous for its peaches. These are the best gift I got myself because I can take a little piece of Japan with me wherever I go.
These socks remind me of Pokémon because I really “gotta catch ‘em all.” Socks are one of those things you never want to buy for yourself, but they make the perfect gift. Much like the keychains, these themed socks can be found at train station konbinis. Every time I go somewhere I must take off my shoes, I wear these kawaii socks and get a flood of compliments.