Written by Ross Locksley on 04 May 2023
The crate business has been in full swing for years now, with just about every taste, hobby or enthusiasm catered for. I've enjoyed the odd crate myself from time to time, probably the most profitable experience being a Turtle Loot Crate that came with a Spirit Splinter, a figure so rare it fetched £300 on Ebay when I moved it on (opened no less!).
But while that was a sweet experience, it's as nothing compared to the sweet experiences I've been enjoying lately with Japan Crate, a Japanese candy crate delivered (for free) to the office last month for us to try. It's been the topic of many a conversation around coffee as various visitors have been picking something decidedly unusual and giving it a try. It's certainly made meetings more interesting!
So, within the crate are 16 assorted snack items that are listed in an enclosed booklet, written in a story format that take you on a tour of Japan. It's a charming way to introduce the snacks, but we're mostly here for the candy and it fast became the most popular pamphlet in the office - second only to that little card you get with Quality Street to remind you what everything is (and to help you avoid the Rose flavoured nonsense they insist on keeping).
Behold the snacks!
Having spent a lot of time in Japan over the years, I pride myself in remaining utterly ignorant on Japanese sweets, shy of Royce chocolate and certain gummy products that I'd often snack on in my hotel room as I caught up on work. There's a ton of variety and, like the Americans, the Japanese have a very distinctive style of candy that make it uniquely their own. I like to randomly try things in Japan as they have such lovely packaging, which very rarely has any English explanation for the contents, meaning that every new snack is a complete surprise.
Take the mochi for example - I do love mochi, but it's not entirely clear that the contents in the box -small mochi wrapped in plastic - is supposed to be eaten with the wrapper on. The wrapper looks like it should come off, much like a Starburst (or Opal Fruit for the truly cultured) but it just falls apart when trying and yet it will happily dissolve in your mouth, releasing a pleasingly sweetened mochi flavour. It's not really clear in the translated description either, so I've either just figured that out myself or made a potentially fatal mistake...
Possibly the last snack I'll ever eat...
No such problem with Crunky chocolate (with nuts) - you don't need to tell me how to devour nutty chocolate, and subsequently it was the first thing to be nommed while I admired the packaging on the Gundam Aerial Rich Cheddar Cheese Snack, featuring Guel (Bob) Jeturk, a character that's having something of a major comeback in season 2 of The Witch From Mercury. I expect Bob will be selling a lot of these puffy cheese snacks at the moment, such is his tremendous popularity right now - he's currently the #1 male on Anime Trending at the time of writing.
The rest of the selection is equally adventurous - the Chocolate Ball Pillow, Big Marshmallow (my daughter pinched this!), Choco Flakes and Milky Picola Sticks all make for snack-sized sweet treats, and all of them were shared from the box in short order.
I saved the Koalas March snacks for my three year-old daughter, who positively squealed when she saw the cute bear-shaped biscuits with their animal prints and chocolate centres, the little packet making a perfect snack for a little girl who loves animals (she's on an Octonauts kick at the moment).
The enclosed Dydo Milkshake is also rather pleasant. Not too sweet, but smooth and satisfying. It's certainly something I'd consider if I needed a boost from a vending machine in Tokyo.
However, Japan likes its savories too, so a number of items were reserved for teas and coffees. Aside from the aforementioned Gundam cheese snack, there's a lovely Camembert and Gorgonzola snack that's a lot stronger than you first expect. It's just the right side of pungent for a cheese fan like me, and I'll happily keep an eye out for those on my next trip.
My Japan Crate Favourites
The absolute winner though was the Anchovy Bonito Shutou Chips. Now hear me out, I know anchovies have a bad rap, and goodness knows you can't find them on pizzas in the UK any more (I have a jar in the fridge I add manually) but these rice-based snacks are powerful to a level I can only describe as "unholy". For the anchovy deprived like myself, these are an instant-win, though I confess that my wife threatened divorce if I tried to kiss her again after eating a packet of these wonderfully fishy snacks!
These are just my highlights of course - we haven't touched on the Traditional Heart Chocolate, Choco Flakes, Fusgashi Square Puff or Scary Story Chewing Gum, but that's largely because guests ran off with those. Since I've heard no complaints and many have since returned, sniffing around the office for more goodies, I'm assuming these went down well.
What is this... wonderfully squishy thing?
Still, this is Japan, so we need something bonkers to finish off. Nestled in the box is a gashapon ball containing a squidgy little fella who sits on a mat. I've no idea if it's based on anything, but it looks like an Easter Island statue in a bathing towel, and you can stretch and squash it to your heart's desire, a suitable little keepsake for a very Japanese adventure conducted entirely on your tastebuds.
If you want to try Japan Crate for yourself, you can visit the official Japan Crate Website and select your style.
Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.
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