The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

you are awesome + yeah, still talking about Japanese snacks

Damn, your comments on the previous entry keep piling in! (And you can contine the piling if you want. If you haven't checked the entry after you left a comment, you may want to look at it again to see other people's answers.) Thank you for helping me out. If I could, I'd throw you all a huge "Japanese Snack" themed party. I suppose I'll just have to eat all this stuff by myself. Allll by myself.

Sakusaku Panda
I'll keep your attention with photos of food. IT'S DANCING DRUNK PANDA TIME!

So while you are all obviously awesome, I am not. Why? Well. As I'm writing this paper (you know, the day before my presentation, although the paper isn't due until Friday), I realized that I'm only going to focus on sweet Japanese snacks because those are the ones that usually fall into the realm of "cute" and "kawaii" and "OMG I NEED THAT!" Whether or not you like cute things, it's more likely that you'd notice a box with smiling animals romping through a brightly colored field, either because you think "AHH, KAWAII!" or "AH, IT RAPES MY EYES!", instead of a relatively plain bag of rice crackers. It didn't occur to me that so many people prefered these kinds of snacks (you know me and my insane sweet tooth) and I probably should've pointed out that my paper doesn't make much reference to them, except that these more traditional snacks most likely do not possess any kawaii style packaging or flavors, as cute flavors are characterized by sweetness. Don't get me wrong; I do like rice crackers, but not enough to actually buy them. You may have noticed that I don't buy any savory snacks, like chips, pretzels, and whatnot, whether Japanese or not, but that's because any craving for something savory can be satiated with A LOAF OF DELICIOUS FRESHLY BAKED BREAD, perhaps dipped in olive oil and pepper, an all too easily found commodity in NYC.

cute grape dudes dancing with milk dude?
The grapes, they frolic! INTO YOUR MOUTH!

Remember how I said I needed a thesis for my paper? Well, it's about 10 pages long right now (gonna cut out a bunch of crap that isn't relevant; I probably talk way too much about the Japanese "need" for an escape from adulthood, the rebellion of kawaii culture, etc) and I've come to the conclusion that Japanese snacks don't have a deep meaning. Why would they? It's not like "Bread in this part of Italy signifies the region's economic turmoil and lack of prosperity due to the takeover of large corporations" or something (that actually has to do with something I had to read in "Food and Society"). I wanted to find what the appeal of cute Japanese snacks was and it's quite obvious; they're cute, most of them taste good, and they have interesting flavors.

cafe stick
Cafe in stick form

When I say a snack is cute, I don't mean it just has bright colors and smiling mascots. I consider Cafe Stick to be kawaii because it adapts foreign influence (French, in this case), although it is Japanese because they eat it. In a way. Just agree with me on this one.

(A sidenote: Are there Japanese products with all-encompassing descriptions like "French flavored" or "European flavored" in the way that some products in American are labeled as "Asian flavored", whatever thatmeans? Yes, there are Asian flavor principles, but Asia's kinda, like...huge, with a gazillion countries that have developed their own cuisines, even if they stem from Chinese cuisine. It does make some sense, of course, as something Asian flavored doesn't taste like a hamburger. But anyway. Know what I mean? Okay.)

black sesame pocky
Black Seame Pocky = crack

Black sesame Pocky is officially my favorite Pocky. That is, until I eat something I like better, which is possible since I haven't tried that many Pocky flavors in my life. In a paper all about cute, sweet, Japanese snacks, Pocky didn't come up very often since it's not flamingly cute. However, I think it's inarguably the most well known Japanese snack in Japan and outside Japan, so at the end of my essay I'm currently writing something about Pocky. I don't think it's obviously cute, but it does have cute qualities. It's sweet, for one, and it's small (except for Giant Pocky, duh). The name isn't foreign or Japanese, but rather it's derived from the sound it makes when you eat it. However, it's written in English and the original name, Chocoteck, is English. You could argue against me (I'm sure I've written a lot of stupid things in this blog entry so far that could be blasted by anyone who knows more about Japanese snacks and culture than I do) but I think Pocky does count as a "cute" snack, even though the tastiness factor is what usually draws people to it.

Cafe Latte Kit Kat
Cafe Latte Kit Kat

Not really related to my paper, but you may have noticed that Japanese snacks come in a gazillion flavors, sometimes specific to a certain season or region. Non-Japanese companies have responded to this and Nestle is probably most well known for churning out all kinds of flavors for the Japanese market. (There's also a Japanese Ritz cracker sandwich with a vanilla cream center.) However, even Canada gets more flavors than American. What's up? Kit Kats in America are made by Hershey while the rest of the world's are made by Nestle. I think Hershey also makes "Cadbury" chocolates in America, which just doesn't make sense to me. Anyway, we're totally jipped, that's all.

Oh, I'm doomed. Back to my paper. Doom doom doom doom doom. I'm doubly doomed because I DO have a paper due tomorrow for my film class, for which I'm writing about the role of food in Spirited Away. It', bad. You don't want to read it.

Oh, thesis! Thesis? Huh? How about, the cuteness of Japanese snacks doesn't necessarily serve any deep purpose besides marketing and eating the snacks doesn't have a motive other than eating something tasty and cute, such as acting childish or feeling comforted with childhood food in order to cope with the rigors of adulthood. Or something. WHATEVER. Methinks I'm not into this "paper writing" thing.


Amy / December 11, 2005 8:43 PM

How about "The cuteness or the kawaii-ness of the packaging and actual form of sweet Japanese snacks, try to invoke feelings of nostalgia, a sense of childhood. These snacks are not just about satiating one's hunger in Japanese culture, but also about feeling like a kid again. It's another way to escape adult responsibilities at least until you finish eating. You could act like a kid again, without really acting childish. Holding a packet of cute Japanese snacks and eating them is enough to fulfill the need to let the inner child out. "

Jason Truesdell / December 12, 2005 1:23 AM

Another factor in the success in Japanese snacks is that the manufacturers constantly churn their product line so that you always hope for something a little better... Then, after you've caved in and bought the snack, you either appreciate it or you're disappointed, but the variety you buy is often not available for long enough that you remember being disappointed by it the last time... so you keep trying new little variations.

This factor is more pronounced in Japan than in the exported items, but you can often find off-season or discontinued items in the U.S. which are usually dumped on the US market around the time the snack is discontinued for the year in Japan.

mike king / December 12, 2005 2:56 PM

Haven't tried black sesame, but the choc-coconut Pocky are my fave. Tastes like Samoas (the girl scout cookies). Also, green tea Pocky are pretty tasty. Bahn Mi So 1 has the best flavor selection I've yet seen.

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