While there are countless different shapes, sizes, and textures of candy available in Japan, the sheer variety of flavors you can find, from gummy candies to Kit Kats, is one of the main reasons Japanese candy is so well-known across the globe.
When it comes to chocolate, Japanese Kit Kat flavors are famous the world over. More than 100 flavors of this chocolate-covered wafer bar have launched in Japan alone, ranging from Chocolate Orange and Strawberry to Matcha (Japanese green tea) and Wholewheat Biscuit. The flavor offering doesn’t just include limited-edition options, but extends to regional variations too.
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Current limited-edition flavors include Mint, Maple, and Pudding. Regional specialties and seasonal ingredients are celebrated with flavors like Red Bean & Strawberry (Hokkaido), Shinshu Apple (Shinshu), Amaou Strawberry (Kyushu), Itohkyuemon Uji Matcha (Kyoto), Summer Ice Cream (summer), and Sweet Potato (fall). Japanese Kit Kats also include exciting releases like the special Mount Fuji-shaped Strawberry Cheesecake pack and their range of sake-infused Kit Kats for adults.
The experiential Kit Kat Chocolatory stores take the flavor options even further with the brand’s own line of exclusive, limited-edition releases. One example is ‘Whisky Barrel Aged’, which combines Ghanaian cacao with whisky from Islay, Scotland. In fact, the cacao was aged in a whisky barrel for 180 days!
As with Kit Kat, which first came to Japan in 1973, many Japanese candy brands have been around for decades, and some are over 100 years old. Meiji, a famous Japanese chocolate brand well-known for its wide range of almost 130 chocolate treats, released its first chocolate in 1918.
This was followed by the launch of the ever-popular Meiji Milk Chocolate in 1926 which now holds 24.7% market share in Japan, according to Meiji’s website. This renowned bar is so good that the recipe and production process has hardly changed at all since its initial release 95 years ago.
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Another steadfast candy is Morinaga’s Milk Caramels, which were first brought out in 1913. After 108 years on the market, it’s no surprise that this nostalgic candy is the best-selling caramel in Japan.
Morinaga also produces Hi-Chew, a chewy, fruity candy comprised of two layers, and available in more than 50 flavors around the world. The popularity of this technology-driven candy is undeniable. In 2020, Forbes reported that almost 1 billion pieces of Hi-Chew are eaten in the United States per year.
On top of deliciously flavored candies and iconic confectionary brands, variety is another reason why Japanese candy is so good. One example is bite-sized mochi (Japanese rice cake) candy. Like the glutinous texture of traditional mochi rice cakes, this treat is known for its soft, chewy quality. If you love chewy candy, the variety of gummies available is extensive.
Bourbon’s award-winning Fettuccine Gummi’s are just one of the many options available on the Japanese market. Shaped like traditional Italian fettuccine pasta and made using real fruit juice, there are loads of fruit flavors, both sweet and sour, to choose from. Flavors include Kiwi, Peach, Italian Grape, Pineapple, and Amaou Strawberry. The range also extends to a soda-flavored variety, with flavors like Mixed Fruit Soda, Watermelon Soda, and White Soda.
Apart from its vast chocolate selection, Meiji also produces fruit-flavored gummy candy. Meiji Kajyu Gummies are made with raw fruit juice in flavors like Mandarin, Grape, Strawberry, Lemon Peel, Peach, Salty Lychee, and Muscat, as well as a new limited-edition Dark Cherry flavor.
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Fettuccine’s Lemon and Sour Plum gummies are great examples of Japanese sour candies, of which there are many available. Sour candies were originally made (and still are!) using umeboshi (salted, pickled Japanese plums). Many candy brands offer different combinations of sour plum options, and the variety of super sour flavors available also includes Kanro Puré’s Tangy Fruits Gummies, Nobel Jewel Sours’ Ruby Grapefruit Gummies, Yaokin’s Sweet & Sour Soda Paper Candy, and Kuroya’s Shoten Deluxe Sour Candy, which come in cute mini cartons.
Candy in Japan extends well beyond ready-made, on-the-go treats. Ever tried crafting your own candy creations? Manufacturer Kracie is behind the popular Popin’ Cookin’ DIY candy kits, which allow you to make your very own candy by simply mixing water with the provided ingredients. Each kit encourages you to use your imagination, whether it means turning your hand-made treats into sushi, pizza, a ramen feast, or recreating a bento box.
Kracie is also behind DIY candy brand Nerunerunerune, which comes with fun toppings you can add once you’ve mixed the provided powder with water. It is available in a wide range of flavors, including Grape, Cola, Watermelon, Green Apple & Pineapple, and Soda.
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Looking for healthier candy options? Kinosei candies are candies that claim to have health benefits, from helping clear up a sore throat to giving one radiant skin. Some candies come with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and collagen, like Kasugai Beauty Candy. Others have lactic acid bacteria or vitamin C, like UHA e-ma Throat Candy.
The endless variety of high-quality candy available, combined with the vast range of flavors and fun packaging, are just some of the reasons why Japanese candy is so good. Which Japanese candy is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
Lindi is an editor and writer from Cape Town, South Africa who has worked in online publishing for more than 10 years. Lindi loves to travel, explore, and discover new things. Her top travel destination is Tokyo, where she most enjoys spending time walking along the river in Nakameguro and visiting her favorite Harajuku record store.
Gummy candy is a kind of soft candy combining gelatin, sweeteners, and natural or artificial flavors. They can be molded into many different shapes, making it one of the most versatile confections ever made.
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