Usually, the term “weird Japan” refers to out-of-context and lost-in-translation fragments of wacky television commercials, variety shows, and live events that leave foreigners scratching their heads. But of course, we here at TokyoTreat derive particular enjoyment from the thoroughly taste-tested and verging on absurd world of weird Japanese snacks and drinks!
We admit that weirdness is completely subjective, and we pass no judgment on traditional Japanese foods that might use ingredients that some Westerners may find unappetizing, but when it comes to modern Japanese snack foods there are some truly unconventional products that either delight us from sheer shock value or induce side-splitting laughter from childish hilarity.
There is no way to make an exhaustive list of all the bizarre flavors and concepts of Japanese candy and snacks, so what you will find here is a light-hearted list of some of the heavy hitters.
A great place to start for weird Japanese snack foods is with basashi aisu, which is – you guessed it – horse meat ice cream. This is not even “essence of horse meat” or “horse meat extract,” but literal chucks of horse sashimi blended into vanilla ice cream resulting in a strange product to say the least. This is by no means a stereotypical flavor for Japanese sweets, but actually a novelty item in Ikebukuro’s Ice Cream City, and a weird one at that.
Coca-Cola has nothing on this. You’ve heard of wasabi flavored soda or perhaps the peculiar products from Pepsi Japan like Salty Watermelon, but have you heard of Eel soda? If Godzilla is King of the Monsters, then Eel Soda is surely King of weird soft drinks. Enough said.
Cream Collon – let us just say, it's no white chocolate Kit Kat. This Glico product is, in fact, just a cookie tube filled with cream, but I guess the guy in charge of doing a once-over on the English copy was out sick the day these munchies were approved for production. It's not always the flavor that gets a product on a list of weird Japanese snacks.
When traveling to Japan, some of the major cities not named Tokyo can get overlooked. If you stop by Sendai, a city in the north of Japan where beef tongue is famous, be sure to try a chilled bottle of Beef Tongue Cider (Gyutan saidā). This unique drink is not something you will find in a typical Japanese convenience store or supermarket, but in Sendai, they ham up their local beef tongue delicacy so much that you shouldn't be surprised to find this product among regional retailers offering you a weird memory of their beef tongue obsessed city.
By far the weirdest Japanese candy is the Moko Moko Mokolet (モコモコモコレット). Manufactured by Heart K.K., this little plastic toilet is designed to froth with effervescent (mokomoko) rock candy suds, emulating a clogged toilet but made for children to plunge a small straw into and slurp up the sweet substance. Since this product was first released in Japan, the manufacturer is on their 8th limited edition box set, offering select flavors and collectible “toilet characters” that kids can design with the included stickers which allow them to create facial expressions and veritable personalities for their sweet members of the lavatory family.
It's nice to note that many Japanese people find these snacks just as playfully odd as we do, but there is also no doubt many see this entire subject the complete opposite way around. For all our gawking and wincing, everything listed here is thoroughly enjoyed by a Japanese consumer somewhere who likely also finds some Western snack concoctions downright bonkers. You can easily find many Japanese YouTubers showcasing their wonder or even disgust with some weird candy from around the world, proving that we are all in this weird world together – even though it is undeniable that Japan takes the cake on this one by a long shot.
Dave is a freelance writer and journalist living in Tokyo, Japan. In his spare time, he enjoys playing guitar, cooking, and exploring the city with his friends.
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